It's a challenge that every worship leader faces: how to find fresh new worship songs for your church to sing. To make matters worse, the abundance of new music being churned out makes it difficult for a worship leader to sort through it all and make a wise decision about what to use. I've been there and can certainly sympathize with this struggle. So here are a few tips on how to make the process of finding new songs easier.
First, don't listen to the hype from publishers. Every record company that publishes worship music will try to push a particular song or CD as "the best worship song ever" or something like that. Don't listen to them. Don't buy into the hype. Instead, try to listen to songs with an open mind and decide what will work best for your congregation.
Second, just because it's new doesn't mean you suspend your guidelines for picking worship songs. As a worship leader, you should have certain criteria that you use to select worship songs.The rules aren't suddenly irrelevant because you are dealing with new songs. You should still follow the same guidelines as you do for picking any other worship song.
Third, look to artists/writers/publishers that are responsible for the songs you are currently using in church. Although past history is not always a predictor of future success, it can be a good guide in evaluating new music. For example, let's say that there is a writer who has written a number of the songs you're currently using. If he or she suddenly has a new CD come out, you would probably be wise to give it a listen. It's not guaranteed that you will want to use their songs. But the fact that you have used other songs by that writer is a good indicator that new songs might also be worth considering in your services.
Fourth, listen to the song first for what it is and then for whether it's something you can use. One of the issues I struggled with in evaluating new songs was immediately trying to determine whether it was a song my worship team could handle. However, the better thing to do is determine whether the song is a good song and then determine whether it can be used with your congregation. Since your worship team is going to likely have a different makeup than the band whose CD you're listening to some degree of modification will be needed to make the song work for your church. It's better to listen to the song and determine whether it's a good song on its own merits before deciding whether it's appropriate to use in your church.
Fifth, remember that it's more than likely you will end up using a very small fraction of the new music that comes to your attention. When I led worship I would often receive sampler CDs from different publishers. It was not unusual for me to use only 1-2 songs out of every 4-5 CDs I would receive. In other words, I utilized a very small percentage of the total music that I received. Part of that has to do with the fact I'm picky about what I use. It's also partly due to the fact that there is a high volume of worship music being produced but very little of it fit my needs.
Leading worship is both a terrific honor and tremendous responsibility. It's a job that is not to be taken lightly. Worship songs whether new or old should be selected carefully. As worship leaders we are also teachers. It's important to remember that whatever we are singing we need to be sure that it is teaching the truth of God's Word.
For previous posts in this series, click here.