Worship Song Selection – 6 things to consider


In a week I’m headed to India to visit my wife, Ashlee, and will be gone for 3 Sundays in a row from The Open Door.  I haven’t been gone for more than three Sundays a year for the past four years, so this is a pretty amazing opportunity to step back, breathe, and refocus myself.  This week I got together with a really talented worship leader on our team who’s going to lead while I’m gone and we spent some time ironing out service details.  The dialogue and process provided an opportunity for me to re-examine exactly how it is that I go about selecting the music for worship each week.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, it seems like worship planning is a very holistic process that involves a lot of prayer, but, here are

6 things to prayerfully consider when planning worship:

  1. What is the Word the pastor will preach this week? – How do we move into a state of preparedness to hear the Word, how can the music be in harmony with that message, and afterwards, how can we respond to that Word faithfully with our worship?
  2. What is the story or journey our songs are leading us on? – And what is that moment of arrival just before the Word where we are ready to sit and to listen and to learn?  How do we support that moment and move towards it?
  3. Is there a good balance of passion/devotion songs verses songs about God? – David Santistevan has a GREAT article about this today on his blog.
  4. Is there an appropriate balance of old and new songs? – It can be difficult to let go and worship God if all of the songs you’re encountering are new.  It’s not like it’s impossible, but, I don’t think we want to create unnecessary road blocks or make it difficult for our community to let go and worship.
  5. How will these songs actually transition and flow between each other? – There’s the thematic side of this (which is probably covered by number 2 on the list), but, there’s also the practical music side.  Things like tempo, key, style – it can be jarring if we move from one mood into another without any preparation or set-up.
  6. Will the musicians on the platform be able to play these songs? – It may seem obvious, but, this is a very important question.  If the answer is ‘no’, then it’s time to go back and re-work things.


What do you think? I’m sure there are many more I’m forgetting or leaving out. What are they? ??


  1. One question that comes to mind when selecting songs is this…. Is it more important to sing a song in a key in which it was written…. Or one that the congregation can hit… And on that note..pardon the pun…. What is the best “congregationally friendly” chord…if there is such a thing? I find the worry of what if they can’t sing on this key very distracting…

    • Hi Fran!

      Thank you for your comment. Yeah – I think that’s a great question to consider. It’s very important people can physically sing what we’re inviting them to sing! Personally, I’m quick to change the key of a song. Usually it’s only by a whole step, but, there have been songs I’ve had to change by a whole major third in order to make it easier for the community to worship to. I try to do a couple things to make sure our community can sing as effortlessly as possible: 1) I check the range of the song and make sure it’s between about an A to a high C or Db…hymnals will often go to Eb, and some songs drop down as low as a low F#, but, that makes it pretty difficult to sing. 2) I try to make sure that the ‘meat’ of the song is in a very singable range. If there’s one occasional note that get up pretty high that’s okay, but most the melody needs to be in a range that’s very comfortable. 3) I try to have songs led by female vocalists and songs led by male vocalists in every worship set. That way, everyone should be songs that are completely comfortable for them. I don’t always get it right, but, those are a couple tricks that have helped… What do you think? Does that make any sense?

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