Song Selection

Song leaders face a difficult challenge in selecting songs for worship services. There are the ‘old standards’ that have been known and loved for many years and there are the newer songs preferred by many of our young people. What I favor is variety among scriptural songs.

When we sing only a few songs over and over again, they can become stale, and it is easy for us to simply mouth the words without thinking about them. So I try to make sure that the congregation where I am a member gets to use a variety of songs. Since several other song leaders are more comfortable with songs they have known for a long time, it's often my job to introduce some that are newer or less familiar. But one of my goals is enough variety that our minds remain occupied with the objective of worship, not overly confused by a wave of new & unknown things, and not lulled to sleep by endless repetition of a few familiar hymns.

Of the newer generation of songs, there are some that I will not lead because they seem to be written for their performance value rather than for edification. I am aware of a song in which the four vocal parts are singing four different sets of words at the same time, and it seems to me that this cannot lead to us edifying one another any more than (in the 1st Century) having four different prophets speaking at the same time rather than in turn (1 Cor. 14:29-30). I am aware of another song where the first verse is intended to be sung only by a few people, and those who sing soprano are invited to join only in the 4th verse, and I won't lead that one, either, because I don't think it's right for most of the audience to be sitting idle while 3 verses go by. I also think that the newer generation of songs tends to be more ‘emotional’. What I mean is that they seem to be written to express more awe than praise - to emphasize our own reaction to God, and that tends to lead many of them to focus more on us than on God. That's not always a bad thing in small doses, but a couple of songs are written with so much ‘mush’ that I literally cannot understand what they are expressing. If I don't understand the message, I don't lead the song.

Our objective is to worship. Scriptural content is the first goal, and the second is an atmosphere where the focus is worship. Too little variety and too much novelty are both distracting, as I said above. Furthermore, a song should be within the vocal capabilities of the people in the audience, or it will fall flat and disrupt the mood.

- by Erin Percell

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