Worship Matters is an excellent book I read a few years ago. Written by a long-established Christian musician, Bob Kauflin, it shows the proper place music has within the much broader subject of worship, and it also contains some very useful, down-to-earth advice.
At our meeting to choose songs last Sunday evening, I borrowed and adapted his ten points about how to plan the music in church. Summarising briefly, they are as follows:
Plan selectively. Not every song is a good one! Some should never be sung, some are best sung in private, some could be sung by the whole church, and there are the some the whole church really ought to learn! At St Michael’s, it’s important we recognise this when we are ploughing through all 2200 in Songs of Fellowship as the quality does vary, sometimes quite alarmingly.
Plan in peace. It is God who’s in charge, and he blesses old as well as new songs. So whatever we choose, He can use (but see above).
Plan prayerfully. We need the help of the Holy Spirit in all our planning, and to be frank, the music is never about us.
Plan with others. Everyone has different gifts, different experience, different ministries and we need the wisdom of the whole group in planning the music. It’s also important to be on the look out for other people with gifts, and encourage them to develop their musical ministry.
Plan thematically. There should be a connection between the music and the word of God. Usually this will involve relating the music to this week’s passage. But sometimes we might want to reinforce last week’s message or bring out something from our personal devotion. We need the discernment of the Holy Spirit in our choice (see above).
Plan in context. As with every ministry, we have to consider the needs of the church, and its members. What songs are appropriate for these people in this particular situation?
Plan progressively. The best worship is worship that flows and gives a structure to the service. My preference for four songs at St Michael’s is that they enable us to engage, to praise, to reflect and to witness. As our children’s ministry develops, so we also need to consider how to select songs which they can access and learn.
Plan creatively. But make sure whatever you do is to the praise of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. Novelty is never for novelty’s sake!
Plan realistically. Be aware of the constraints of time. We may not be able to sing as much as we would like within the time the service allows!
Plan for the long haul. Review songs you have chosen and try and see any helpful or unhelpful patterns emerging. That is one important reason why songs are best chosen in a group.
Bob Kauflin finishes his chapter in this book by asking the question – if someone grew up in your church, what would they learn of God from the music they had sung during the first twenty years of their lives? That was a question that certainly challenged us as a group, as we began to realise just how many songs we still remembered from our childhood.
So with all these points in mind, the group began to plan. We would love to have your feedback on the songs we have chosen, and suggestions are always welcome.
By the way, if you have the opportunity, also look at Bob Kauflin’s blog also called Worship Matters – well work a look.