One of the changes we’ve made in our worship ministry at the start of the new year is shifting how our worship leaders choose songs for our services.
I’m always paying attention to the size of our library when it comes to worship songs. I believe having a repertoire of songs that are familiar to our congregation and to our worship team helps in lots of ways.
Specifically, it helps our congregation learn the songs so they can sing with greater passion.
Also it helps our musicians so they can play with greater excellency.
In our context at C4 Church, worship leaders choose the songs from our library. Typically we sing five songs each Sunday and we use Planning Center as our home base for those songs. We store and track lots of content for those songs – chord charts, videos, mp3’s, how often we sing the songs, what keys we sing them in, etc etc etc.
Whenever we have new songs that worship leaders would like to introduce we use Planning Center to do that as well and we have all of our worship leaders agree on new songs that we’ll add to our library.
For the first few years I was here on staff this was pretty manageable. Until mid-2015 we were one service in one location with three or four worship leaders and the whole process was pretty contained. Our worship song library was full of very familiar songs for both our musicians and our congregation. Even with different worship leader personalities and preferences, it was still pretty easy to keep everyone and everything moving in the same direction from Sunday to Sunday.
As of January 2018 we are four services in three locations and we have about a dozen worship leaders who are either leading services or being apprenticed to do that, it gets way more complicated and much harder to manage.
Earlier this year we looked at how many songs we had been singing in our church and over the course of 18 months at C4 we had sung 151 different songs. This included older familiar songs we’ve done once or twice in those 18 months, also included Christmas songs but from January 2016 to July 2017 we had included 151 different songs over those 18 months in our worship services for people to sing.
Obviously.. too many songs.
But it was hilarious to hear from worship leaders how many songs they thought we had sung in that same time period. They way underestimated the real number. Usually they were guessing that we had sung about 50-60 different songs, which is still a pretty big library if we’re expecting people to sing loud and passionately as they worship Jesus in our services.
So over the last little while help been moving towards a new model for choosing songs for our worship services.
The heart behind this is that we would sing the same number of songs in our worship services but over time we would sing fewer songs, more often. By doing this we can serve our congregation to really help them grow in their worship as they become familiar with the songs. We can serve our worship teams by not asking them to learn a library of 150+ songs to play excellently in our worship services. And we can serve God by narrowing the focus of our worship songs to some of the most important things we want people to sing about in our services when we are together.
This month we began rolling out our “Top 40” model. The short explanation is that every week our worship leaders will choose 4 of the 5 songs for the worship service they’re leading from an agreed library of 40 worship songs. These are songs that our worship leaders have had input in developing and that we’ve chosen together as the 40 songs that we’ll focus on in this season.
The 5th song for each worship service can be any song from our existing worship library so we still allow for individual worship leader’s personality and preference to come in to play which is definitely a hallmark of our worship services at C4.
A few times a year we’ll revisit our “Top 40” list and we’ll make some changes. We’ll add some new songs that we believe need to be introduced to our services at C4. We’ll also add some songs that we’re writing and recording. For example, all 4 of the songs from the C4 Worship “Hallelujah EP” are in our first Top 40 list. We’ll also remove some songs from our regular Top 40 rotation but keep them in our library so once a song has had a season at C4, we can still include it occasionally but we will make room for newer songs to be introduced.
I’m excited about this. I’m excited about our congregation getting even more engaged with the songs we’re singing because we will have more repetition of fewer songs over time in our worship services. I’m excited about our worship teams focusing more of their attention on fewer songs to help them develop as musicians and play better together as a team. I’m also excited about what God is going to do among us in our worship services as we celebrate Jesus together this way.