Choosing Songs for Worship

Much debate exists as to who should be choosing songs for worship in a church service. I notice that pastors will often tell each other that they must choose all the songs in the morning service, and in fairness this is born out of a long history of the praise and worship leader stubbornly doing his own thing and not being teachable or correctable. By the same token, I have seen many a senior pastor get up at the end of worship and kill the Spirit of worship (shock, horror: yes, pastors are not always right!).

The first point to make is that WORSHIP IS NOT A SUPPORT ACT FOR THE MAIN EVENT, the teaching. Some people and indeed some pastors view it as just that. It is a “preliminary”, padding out the service while the late comers, who don’t like the style of music, arrive just in time to hear the Word of the Lord preached. Others think it helps us to “get the wriggles” out of us, ready for the preaching.

At the other end of things, many worship teams make worship into a marathon designed to exhaust you on your feet until you collapse in the seat ready to listen.

I believe that both of these views demean a gift God has given us to draw near to Him. Let me explain what I believe worship should do in a service:

 choosing songs for worship  

1. Open our hearts,

Turning our eyes away from the cares of the day and towards the Lord.

2. Fellowship with Him, intimately, and lose ourselves in worship to the Lord.

3. Prepare our hearts for the message to be preached. Worship and music can spearhead the gospel, and make our hearts more responsive to the Lord. It should settle our hearts and make us ready to reach out to God.

4. Provide corporate unity as we worship. Joining together with others in worship is a special experience which binds our hearts together in joy and fellowship.


Having been the worship leader for a major Evangelist, I know the power music has to unite, and also to divide. I also know that, as Bill gets up to preach, I can make it easy and flowing, or extremely difficult for him to bring the message, based on how I have behaved in the worship time.

As a praise andworsking together worship leader, you provide the same service for your Pastor. You are not the support act, and you are not the fill in. Yours is the awesome responsibility of preparing the hearts of the people to receive the Word of God, and you can make life easy or very hard for your Pastor.

So, if the morning goes well in worship, feel a sense of accomplishment. If it goes badly, be the first to apologize to the Pastor and accept responsibility. Then, do your level best to get it right the next time.

The success of a worship time can depend to a great degree on choosing songs for worship that facilitate worship, so the next area we will examine is how to choose the appropriate songs.

The big question is who should be choosing songs for worship? In my completely unbiased musician’s opinion, they should do it together, where the worship leader should choose the songs, but the pastor should have final say as to what is in and what is out. This is important because, ultimately, the responsibility for the service rests with him. However, the worship leader is the guy who should know how the songs will flow together, and he should be constantly making sure that the service is heading where the pastor wants it to go.

A Matter of Trust

P1010295 (FILEminimizer)The ideal situation is a trust that develops between the senior pastor and the worship leader. The worship leaders must, repeat MUST, be 100% subject to the pastor, because as we serve one another we serve the Lord (Mk 10:45). He has to ask the pastor what he wants, where he wants the service to go, what he is preaching on and, if the pastor senses a change in what God is doing, he is absolutely free to stand up and take over.

Pastors, your praise and worship leaders are like other leaders in the church. You cannot do everything, all the time (remember Moses). You need to train them to minister according to what the Lord wants in your church; otherwise you will have trouble on your hands. I have seen quite a few churches blown apart by unhappy music teams rebelling against an overbearing pastor. NONE OF THIS GLORIFIES GOD!

The ultimate situation is similar to the one that exist between Bill Newman and myself. After many years of ministering together, I kind of know what he is thinking, and he knows what I am thinking. Thus, with a minimum amount of consultation together, I tend to select exactly the songs that fit with his message for the day. Leaders, it is awesome when you reach this situation consistently, for you will see that the Lord really anoints such unity!

He trusts me enough to allow me to be the one choosing songs for worship, and I trust him enough to listen to every suggestion he makes!

If you are involved in church worship then chances are you are searching for some worship leading tips to help you do a better job.  While a few worship leading tips here and there will not replace a full worship training course.

The Top 5 Worship Leading Tips

5. Don’t Overcomplicate Arrangements- Some of the best and most loved songs of all time are simple, yet many modern praise and worship songs are so incredibly complex!  Try to keep your arrangements simple and you will find your musicians able to play them, and your congregation able to sing them!

4. Choose Songs that are Well Known- Your role is not to teach new songs.  This is one of the best worship leading tips you will hear: use songs that your congregation know and love.  Worship will be easier, more powerful (because they will not need to read the words) and you can still introduce new material, preferably slowly.

Worship Leading Tips3. Blend the Songs Together- You want the worship experience to be a continuous, wonderful experience, not a stop-start, clunking experience.

2. Go Up Keys to Go Up in Intensity- Modulating up a key in a song makes everyone stretch, sing louder and raises the intensity of the meeting, so do not be afraid to go up a key.  Of all the worship leading tips I am offering here, this one is the most practical for seeing an immediate effect in your worship leading.

1. Head Towards Higher Praise and Worship- I always try and start with songs about ourselves and our feelings, needs, desires, etc.  As I head through the worship time I try and culminate with a song focused on the Lord and solely on worshipping Him!

Worship Leading Tips Don’t Replace the Right Heart

Remember, these worship leading tips are not an alternative to having a right heart and a right attitude before the Lord.  They are techniques, yes, but they are most effective when coupled with a humble and serving heart.  As a leader you need to be open to not only the leading of the Holy Spirit, but also to correction from your pastor and great ideas from your team.  Use the worship leading tips but don’t forget to keep your heart right!

The King of All Worship Leading Tips

The ultimate of all of the worship leading tips I could share with you (along with keeping your walk right with the Lord) is to get some training, whether you are experienced or not.  I have been leading worship for years, yet I always try and remain open and humbly teachable so that my journey does not plateau or peter out but continues to grow in strength and power.

I am sure you want to become the very best praise and worship leader you can be.  Stay humble, stay open and stay close to the Lord.  Get some training as often as you can and apply  these worship leading tips to better your chosen and anointed gifting.

If you are involved in leading praise and worship in a non-westernized society, you may be facing the question of whether you should modify your worship style to fit your culture. Most of the styles of leading praise and worship are heavily influenced by the church in the developed nations, and if you are in an emerging nation it is important that you do not reproduce what you hear on worship CDs, but start leading praise and worship within your own culture.

Leading Praise and Worship is About the Lord

Contrary to what you might believe, leading praise and worship in a developing nation is not about westernizing your church! Admittedly, there are many wonderful praise and worship songs that have been beautifully produced by the Western Church, and it is tempting to play and sing the songs exactly the same way that you hear them in recordings, but I do not believe that this is what should be done.

Leading praise and worship in church is about pointing people towards the Lord, and I believe that the Lord wants to meet people where they are at and in their own culture to impact their lives. If we continue to use music as an excuse to introduce Western culture, and we are conveying to the people that the Lord commanded us to worship in an exclusive way, the way of the developed nations. If you are leading praise and worship, this is your opportunity to show people that God is relevant to them in their culture.

Leading Praise and WorshipLeading Praise and Worship is About the People

As I write this article I’m sitting in a room in northeast India, where these beautiful Indian people are singing songs that I recognize but in their own language. Some songs are in English, but many of them are in a language that the people understand best, and this is part of leading praise and worship in your own culture. This style of music and worship, however, would not be out of place in any American, English or Australian church, and this way I feel that those leading praise and worship are misled.

One of the great difficulties facing the early and medieval church was that much of the original writings were in Latin, a language which the common people did not speak! However wonderful a worship song is, if the people have no understanding of the meaning behind it is practically useless! If you are leading praise and worship and you want to make it relevant to your culture, one of the first steps is to translate the words into a language that your people will understand.

Leading Praise and Worship is About Expressing Your Culture

However, leading praise and worship in your own culture needs to go beyond simply the words. Most cultures have a specific way of expressing themselves musically, and I believe it brings great joy to the heart of God when he hears people worshiping using their own cultural instruments in their own cultural style. For some strange reason, those leading praise and worship seem to always want to make the sound more Western, rather than embracing the music and style of their own culture. Perhaps there is a mystique to Western culture, but when you are leading praise and worship you have an incredible opportunity to blend the Western sound with your own cultural instruments and style!

So if you are leading praise and worship in your church, and if you live in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, India and South America, please try and express your own culture in your worship. This will bring much joy to the heart of God, and also to your people and your country. Western music is attractive, especially to young people, I would suggest the two blamed on the styles of your own culture with Western music to create a unique expression of worship the Lord.

If you are leading praise and worship, you are in the perfect position to blend words and music styles to create a form of worship unique to your culture.