Choosing what we sing in Church: Choosing Songs – order (Part 8 of 9)

By David Shead

The song choosing process

It’s time to actually choose the songs! How do we go about doing it? It involves planning, preparation and order.

Let’s look at order.


It’s a good idea to begin with the song that will most closely connect to the sermon, as the congregation’s response to it. In my context, this would most typically be the third song we sing. In one sense, this is the most critical song choice. What you choose for songs 1 and 2 can usually be much more generic, so those choices are normally easier. I tentatively choose my “song 3” options for every week in the current block before I choose any other songs.

I would choose the “song 4” options next. “Song 4” will often have some connection to the sermon theme, however that connection may be looser than with “song 3”. What you most need to pay attention to with “song 4” is how it will help connect the congregation to the next thing (which will normally be conversations over morning tea or supper in the short term, and the rest of their week in the longer term). You need to pay attention both to the words (what encouragement or challenge they will be left with) and to the mood (what tone their post-gathering conversations might most helpfully take). Normally, this song will be at the more “uplifting” end of the scale. However, if you’ve spent the whole service reflecting on our struggles with temptation, or our experience of suffering, then you might want to finish with something a bit more subdued and reflective.

After that comes the “song 1” choices. Here, if there’s a connection to the sermon theme, that’s a bonus. The main thing you’re looking to do is to set up the whole corporate worship event. (If you normally begin with 2 or more songs, choose them all here, but as you choose think about why you have more than one song, and what each song will contribute to the setting up of the corporate worship event.)

Last of all are the “song 2s”. As you come to make these choices, it’s a good idea to first step back and look at the balance of your songs 1, 3 and 4 for each week to make sure, most importantly, that they’re not all just variations on the one song. This applies both to the content of the words and the musical style and feel. If you’ve chosen three songs which all recount the story of salvation in Jesus, and which are all upbeat and joyful, or large and dramatic, then you need to go back and rethink some of your earlier selections. There’s nothing worse for service leaders, when they come to putting the right song in the right place, to discover that they have no thematic or emotional variety to work with. If you find that there is some variety in songs 1, 3 and 4, but not a whole lot, then make sure your “song 2” selection is very different.

Done! You have picked the songs.

Then pray, giving thanks to God for his work through you.

Two observations

If you follow the process above, you will discover that it’s never quite as neat and orderly as I have described. When you’re looking for your “song 3” choices, for example, you will notice something that would be perfect as a “song 1” for week 3. That’s great! Note it down immediately, and that will make it easier for you when you come to choosing the “song 1s”.

Secondly, you will notice that the process speeds up as you go. As you begin, it’s hard work finding that first “song 3”. But by the end, the ideas are firing so quickly, that you finish all in a rush. It will become obvious why choosing a month at a time rather than a week at a time is so much better!

For more in this Series:

What is corporate worship? (Part 1 of 9)

Why Sing? (Part 2 of 9)

What is the ‘shape’ of the corporate worship gathering? (Part 3 of 9)

What makes for good and effective singing? (Part 4 of 9)

Five principles for choosing songs (Part 5 of 9)

Choosing Songs – planning (Part 6 of 9)

Choosing Songs – preparation (Part 7 of 9)

Choosing Songs – order (this one)

Choosing New Songs (Part 9 of 9)

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