How To Construct And Maintain A High Quality Worship Song Base

Gangai VictorEditor’s Note: This is a guest post from our friend Gangai Victor. You can follow Gangai on Twitter at @votivepraise. Many thanks to Gangai for sharing this perspective on worship with us!

One of the key responsibilities of worship leaders is to maintain a master list of usable songs, from which songs for a specific set list can be selected. This needs diligence and discipline—diligence to evaluate if the song is worth including in the master list and discipline to ensure we don’t miss out on adding it.

I prefer to call this master list as my Song Base—a master list of possible songs for congregational worship.

While there are software programs out there that can make this maintenance an easy affair, you could make do with any spreadsheet application too (Like MS-Excel for e.g.).

List down the titles of the songs with helpful fields like theme, key, tempo, rhythm and any other that you find essential (a related scripture verse for e.g.). The spreadsheet would look something like this:

Song Theme Key Tempo Rhythm
Your Grace Is Enough opening, grace E, F, G 120 4/4
Everlasting God waiting, hope, praise A, Bb 105 4/4
Revive Us Again revival, mission E, F, G 56 6/8

What kind of songs should we include?

With the deluge of worship songs out there today, it’s tempting to add any and every song that catches our fancy, which would result in a bloated, low quality Song Base—here’s where diligence comes in.

Also, a good Song Base would not be a one trick pony containing the same type of songs—we need a variety of songs musically and thematically. Fast, medium, slow; 4/4, 6/8, 3/4; love, grace, mercy, justice, salvation, cross, Easter and so on…

This is what I look for when I check out new song material:

  • Are the lyrics fresh and not rehashed?
  • Is the melody singable from a congregation-friendliness perspective?
  • Is it easy to learn?
  • Is it within range of my worship team’s musical abilities?
  • Can it be played live and still sound good?
  • Would a stripped down arrangement with just a guitar / piano still sound good?
  • Does it add variety to my Song Base musically and/or thematically?

If yes, it makes it to my Song Base. Please be ruthless when deciding not to add a song as our church’s worship is at stake here! In fact, I probably add just one new song to my base on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

When should we delete a song?

Some worship leaders believe that a song can be discarded if it has been used a lot, its style is no longer relevant, and the worship team is tired of it and so on.

As for me, I never delete anything from my Song Base.

The only exception is when I’ve used a song in public worship and it didn’t work—when you just know in your gut that the song isn’t cut out for church worship for whatever reason.

Otherwise, I let every song to remain in my Song Base—you never know when you might need them.

For more reading material on pruning the Song Base, you could check out “The SongCycle: How to Simplify Worship Planning and Re-engage Your Church”, a book by Jon Nicol, which deals with this subject in great detail.

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