With so many great new worship songs out there, there’s a temptation to grab whatever is flashy and cool and throw it into your next worship set; but we must be much more intentional about the songs we choose and introduce to our congregation. We are the “Gatekeepers” of our church’s “worship vocabulary”. We put the words on their lips that shape their theology and view of God, so we must be very intentional. In this episode, I give 5 questions that you should ask before introducing that new song, as well as a few tips for the song curation and introduction process. Enjoy, and please share with anyone who may be helped by this episode!
There are many great songs. But that doesn’t automatically make them great congregational songs. -Tweet That!
We are the gatekeepers of our churches’ “worship vocabulary”. We must be intentional about the songs we put on their lips. -Tweet That!
Your church’s master song list should contain a “balanced diet” of theological themes. -Tweet That!
Before you introduce that song, ask: Is it Biblical, Is it clear, Is it singable, Is it God-centered, Is it necessary? -Tweet That!
Alex Enfiedjian 00:10 Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the worship team podcast. My name is Alex Enfiedjian, and I am your host. This podcast is designed to help you if you’re a worship team member or a worship leader, my desire is to help you and myself grow to be the best that we can be, in order to better bless our local church. So that’s what we’ve been doing for the last year and a half or so. And thanks for sticking around tuning in. If you’re a new listener, Hello, and welcome, hope you enjoy this episode. This episode is actually gonna be pretty short and sweet. And to the point, it’s just me today. And I thought it would be good to talk about five questions to ask before you introduce a new song to your church. We’re talking about five questions to ask before you introduce a new song to your church. So let’s jump right in and get into this topic.
Alex Enfiedjian 01:11 So with so many great new songs being written by Christian songwriters, and worship bands, there’s this temptation to immediately grab whatever is new and catchy and cool, and throw it into your next worship set. But I want to challenge that mindset. If that happens to be you. I want to challenge that because you if you’re the worship leader, or worship pastor or a music director, you are actually a gatekeeper of your church’s worship vocabulary. And when I say worship vocabulary, I mean that you are putting the words of worship on your people’s lips. And so you and I must be very intentional about what songs we allow into our repertoire. And Jenny Lee riddle said it very well, a while ago, she said, we have as worship leaders, the weighty responsibility of putting words on the lips of the most powerful force in the world,
Alex Enfiedjian 02:11 the church.
Alex Enfiedjian 02:12 So think about that. Next time you hear something real catchy and fun, and you’re just like, I need to put this in our rotation because it’ll get the people clapping. We have to be more intentional about it. Because the songs that we choose, are actually shaping our people’s theology, and their thoughts about God. So we got to ask several questions before deciding whether a new song should be added or not to our church’s worship vocabulary. And here are some questions that I think may be helpful in that endeavor. So the first question before you introduce a new song is, is it biblical? It seems obvious, but come on, we got to start there. Is the song biblical does it does it accurately represent what Scripture teaches about a given topic, it’s possible to have a great sounding song, and to have Christian sounding lyrics. But there can be subtle deception or just subtle things that are maybe a little bit misleading to the listener to the singer. So an example of something that might sound right, but actually is wrong is actually from an old hymn, and it has this line, it says, If I live a holy life, shun the wrong and do the right, I know my Lord will make a way for me. So that’s a, it sounds good, because this person is trying to be holy, but what it’s actually teaching is a works based salvation. And that’s actually from a popular old hymn. So whether or not the writer intended for this lyric to be self salvation, it comes across that way. And so we need to be really careful as the gatekeepers of our churches worship vocabulary to make sure that there’s nothing there that’s going to confuse them, there’s nothing there that’s going to be contrary to the Bible. And so just be very cautious about that. And and what I will say about this topic is a biblical, it means that you, as the worship leader, or music director or worship pastor, you need to have a strong understanding of Scripture, so that you can identify these little lines and lyrics that that are actually false. And I want to challenge all of our listeners to grow in this is for myself to grow in our understanding of the Bible, because I know a lot of churches put a lot of emphasis on musical talent and musical skill. And yes, those are absolutely important. But if you don’t know the Bible, and you’re standing in front of the church every Sunday as a leader, as a shepherd of the flock of God that has been entrusted to you, you should feel a little bit of weight and pressure to actually know the word well so so as much as you practice your guitar or piano or bow calls, practice the study of God’s word, set a daily time to dig in, saturate yourself in it so that you can ask this question and answer it. Is this song biblical? So that’s the first question is the song biblical? The second question that we should ask before we introduced a new song is, is it clear? Is the song clear? Meaning, does this song have a single central message that is easily understood? Can I listen to it just one time and understand the central theme? The main point of the song, because it’s possible that there are like, verses or choruses that, you know, say one thing and then the bridge says something kind of on a totally different topic, and it makes things confusing. What I like to say about songs is that songs are actually sermons, and sermons. If it’s a good sermon, it has one central point. And it’s clear, and it’s understandable. And so when you’re listening to a song, you got to ask the same question, is it saying something one thing? Well, so here, you know, the hymns are a great example of songs that make a very clear central point How great Thou art. Great is Thy faithfulness. Each verse describes an aspect of God’s faithfulness to us. Many of Matt Redmond songs have really clear central points, like, bless it be your name, you know, in the good in the bad, your name will be blessed Lord. So those are some examples of some very clear central theme songs. Here are a couple and I don’t want to get in trouble with those who wrote the songs because they’re very great songs. And they’re, you know, used all over the church. But
Alex Enfiedjian 06:47 I have, I have a couple issues with the songs like for example, mighty mighty to save, I love it. The chorus is great. The verse I’ve come to understand it a little bit better. It’s not super clear. But then the bridge, it gets into this part where says, Shine your light and let the whole world see, we’re singing for the glory of the Risen King Jesus. So shine your light, Who’s he talking to? is talking to Jesus, Jesus shine your light and let the whole world sing? Or is it talking to us, we should shine our light and let the whole world see. It’s just it’s confusing to me. And even if it was clear who it’s talking to, how does that fit into the theme of you are mighty to save. So that’s just a critique. Sorry, I know, it’s a great song. And sorry, to the songwriters, if you hear this, forgive me. But here’s another one. And this one is called forever rain, also written by a genius songwriter who has more hits than all of our listeners combined. But the song forever rain, the verses like you are good, you are good when there’s nothing good in me. And each line kind of describes a different aspect of God and who he is, which is fine. But then the chorus hits and it says, Oh, I’m running to your arms, I’m running to your arms, the riches of your love will always be enough. Nothing compares to you or embrace. The kind of all makes sense a little bit, although I’m not sure how it’s tied to the verse, and then Light of the world forever rain, I’m not sure how that fits with the rest of the chorus or the verses. So just ask yourself, you know, does this song Make sense? Is it clear all the way through? The reason this this question is important is because it’s, it’s important for us to make sure that our congregation knows what they’re singing, it’s important for us to make sure that they’re focusing in on one major aspect of God’s character per song. We’re going to sing about his grace. We’re going to sing about his love. We’re going to sing about his mercy. Make sure that they know what aspect of God’s character that they’re singing about. So that’s the second question. Is it clear? Is it biblical? Is it clear? Third question is, is it singable? Is it simple? If the song passes the lyrics test, the next test is, is it easy for them to sing, because the average church attender does not have incredible singing abilities. I mean, there, you got everyone from plumbers to accountants to, there’s not a whole room full of musicians there. And so for this reason, a song should have a predictable, simple and easy to sing melody, it should be something that’s easy to follow, and easy to remember. And you got to think about this too. As worship leaders and worship team members. We’re singing a song over and over, we hear it, we practice it. We’ve listened to it before practice, we play it at practice few times. And then we sing it on Sunday, but the church only hears it once every few weeks, if that. So it’s got to be easy for them to remember and easy for them to catch on. It shouldn’t be tricky or technical and It should fall within the average singers vocal range, meaning it shouldn’t be too high and it shouldn’t be too low. And a good rule of thumb for the singing range is if the highest note of the song is over the high E string of a guitar, or maybe the F, which is the first fret that’s too high for most people. And then it shouldn’t be on the A or the G of the low E string that’s too low for most people. So make sure it fits in that range. Just because you can sing real high doesn’t mean that they can. And the reason why is it singable is an important question is because your job
Alex Enfiedjian 10:41 as the worship leader, is to help your congregation sing. It is like not about us at all. We were never put on stage to show how great we can sing. All we are. And this is all we are is facilitators of helping the congregation to sing. And so make sure that the songs that you’re putting into your repertoire help facilitate that goal, and that they don’t get in the way of that goal, because that is our ultimate goal. How can I help my people sing to the Lord? Is it biblical? Is it clear? Is it singable? And then two more? Is it God centered? Is it God centered, people come to church to meet with God, right. But it’s hard to do that if a lot of the songs that we’re putting in our repertoire are me centered, like, I will follow, I lay my life down, I, you know, those are all i centered songs. And, hey, we need songs like that those songs need to be in our sets, because they are a response to the Lord, I’m so thankful for how you love me, I’m grateful for all the things you’ve done. Those are responses and they need to be there. But those shouldn’t be the bulk of our repertoire. Because the bulk of our repertoire should be made up of songs that are about God, reminding people of God’s attributes, they need a fresh revelation from God about God of his faithfulness of his power of his love of his forgiveness, of His grace that covers our failure. It’s only once we’ve sung those songs about God’s love and power and grace and mercy and holiness and wrath, that we can have a right response to him. And so we see and sing about his attributes, and then we can rightly respond in worship. And that’s that that point, you can throw an ayah centered song in because it’s an informed response. So the next question is, do we need to sing it? Do we need to sing it? So yeah, you got this song? It’s cool, it’s catchy. It’s biblical, it’s singable, but does your church need to sing that song. And there are a couple aspects to this, a congregation that might like Hillsong, young and free might not do well with a hymn and a congregation that loves hymns may not do well with young and free song, right. And so you’ve won, you’ve got to take into account your local body, if that song’s not going to help them sing to the Lord, if that song that you’re wanting to introduce is not going to help them connect with the Lord, then you don’t need to introduce it. So that’s one aspect of do they need to sing it? The second aspect of it is we need to be feeding our church, a healthy, balanced diet of theological content. So if all of our songs are about the love of God, but we have no songs about repentance, or the cross, then we have an unbalanced diet, and our people will be unhealthy. So if we have a ton of songs about the father, but none about Jesus, or none about the Holy Spirit, then we’re feeding our people and unbalanced diet. So you got to ask the question, what’s missing from my song selection set? Like if you’ve got a ton of songs about the cross to choose from, maybe you don’t need to introduce a new one. Maybe you just need to start rotating through some of those older ones about the cross. So do we need to sing it. So make sure that you have songs in your repertoire that cover all the major biblical themes, and that you’re allowing your people to sing them on a regular basis. You don’t have to sing a new song just because it’s out there. Alright, so those are the five questions you want to ask before you introduce a song to your congregation. Now one question to ask after you introduce it and that is did it connect did the song Connect once you have tried it out? played it a few weeks? Did it connected the people like it? Did they engage with it? Did the song meet them where they were at? Did it help them worship? You know you can tell I mean the first week obviously is going to be mostly people watching you and trying to like mouth hear the words, by the second week, you know, they might do a little better. But by the fourth or fifth time you play that song, you should know whether or not this song Connect. And I’ve had a few songs where I’m like, this song is amazing. I love this song. And then I brought it out to my church, and it just fell flat. And no matter how many times I tried to push it down their throats, they just couldn’t get into it. So you know what, I shouldn’t keep playing it because it’s about helping them sing. So really gauge their response. But if it didn’t connect,
Alex Enfiedjian 15:30 cut it or save it for like a special or something like that something you can do during the offertory. So those are the five questions you asked before? Is it biblical? Is it clear? Is it singable? Is it God centered? Do we need to sing it? And then once you sing it, did it connect. And I wanted to just give you a couple thoughts about introducing new songs. here’s, here’s how I do this whole process. I keep a running list of songs, I use Evernote, but you know, any note taking app would work, I just have a note called cool new worship songs. And every time I hear when I add it to the list, I’m like, Oh, that’s awesome. I hear it at a conference or I hear it on the radio, or I hear just I don’t know, at a friend’s church, I write it down, I keep it in that list. And I seriously I let it sit there for a few months. I know people are tempted to throw songs right into the rotation right away. But again, we should really think about that. So after a few months, I have a better idea of whether that song is actually as good as I thought it was when I first heard it. I also have chewed on the lyrics and stuff like that. And then I have a real sense Oh, yeah, that song wasn’t as cool as I thought it was it lost its shine. The best ones, though, will usually rise to the surface. And then from there, I can, I can introduce them to the congregation. And for introducing a song, I only typically will introduce one new song per month, it’s not ideal to introduce more than that, unless your church is super musical and can catch on to multiple new songs in a month. But what I usually do is I’ll introduce it during the offering time, I’ll play it again the following week. I’ll play it again one more time. And then I’ll give it a week off, and then play it a final time. And then hopefully by then, people have caught on. But you also have to remember there people aren’t at church every single week. So you got to play it, you know, four times before your whole congregation has had a chance to actually hear it. So if you introduce to any new songs at one time, you’ll actually keep your church from singing. And that ruins the whole purpose of why we do what we do so once a month. And then I wanted to say something about rejecting people’s recommendations. Because oftentimes, I’ll have people come up to me after the service and say, hey, there’s this great new song that I heard on the radio, and it’s really ministering to me, and you should introduce it, you should introduce it, or here’s a CD, you should listen to this and introduce this song. What I’ll usually tell them is, thanks so much for the recommendation. I haven’t heard that song yet. But I’ll definitely go check it out and see if it might work. And if it’ll fit into any of our upcoming services. And then I tell them, I just tell them, I have several filters that I run songs through to make sure that they’re a good fit for our church. And this lets them know one that I’m intentional about picking songs and how I pick songs. But it also lets them know that there’s no guarantee that their song will be in the set next week. So if it’s not a good fit, I’ll usually follow up with them and say, Hey, thanks for giving me that CD. I love that song. It was a great powerful song, but it’s not very congregationally friendly, or it’s not really God centered or it’s not, you know, whatever. And that actually creates like a teaching moment where they can begin thinking also more strategically about what qualifies a song to be a congregational songs. So hopefully this episode was helpful. The key is really just to be intentional. And to remember that we are the gatekeepers of our churches worship vocabulary. So take that seriously. And really make sure that your church is singing the songs that they need to be healthy, and to have a robust, Christ centered theology that covers all the bases. So God bless you as you pick songs. Remember, there are a lot of great songs out there, but that doesn’t automatically make them great congregational songs. So pick wisely, pick well and lead your people well this weekend and many weekends afterwards, and I’ll see you next month.