A Guide to Leading Charismatic Worship
Part II. Preparing for Worship (part 4 of 5)
B. External Preparation
2. Choosing Your Songs
a. Know Your Heart
That is, know the songs that minister to you, as these are the number one candidates to minister to others. Even if you don’t have a scheduled date to lead worship yet, already have a list of songs that you plan to introduce/use for communal worship. Your list can be as extensive as you want it to be, and you don’t need to use all of them in your next lineup. Naturally, choosing a particular lineup should be done during a time of personal prayer and worship.
b. Know Your Audience
Leading worship for a prayer meeting is and should be different from leading worship at, say, an outreach activity. Basic demographics such as age and primary language must be taken into consideration.
Consider your audience and their capability to learn the song if they do not know it yet. In general, it is best to avoid choosing songs that are too “wordy” or with complicated chord progressions. Simple, catchy tunes that are very learnable always work best to get the congregation to participate.
c. Know Your Band/Music Ministry
Even if we wish we sounded as good as our favorite professional worship leaders, we are forced to face the reality that we do not. In choosing songs, we have to take into account the capability of our singers and instrumentalists. If a song proves too difficult to learn, sing or play, then it might be best to reserve it for a time when we’ve developed our skills enough for it.
Another option is to simplify a song for our purposes: skipping certain chord progressions, adjusting the key to a more comfortable pitch. Remember that our goal is not just to sound good, but to bring God’s people to worship.
d. Know Your Flow
Rick Warren shares a simple but useful guide for establishing flow in communal worship with the acronym IMPACT: Inspire Movement, Praise, Adoration, Commitment and Tie it all together. He describes each below (taken from Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox):
Inspire Movement: This is what we want to do with the opening song. We use a bright, upbeat number that makes you want to tap your foot, clap, or at least smile. When your body is relaxed, your attitude is less defensive. To begin our service, we wake up the body of Christ by waking up our own bodies. When people enter a morning service they usually feel stiff, sleepy, and reserved. After our “Inspire Movement” opening song the atmosphere always changes to being more cheerful and alert.
Praise: We then move to joyful songs about God.
Adoration: We move to a more meditative, intimate song to God. The pace is slowed here.
Commitment: This song gives people an opportunity to affirm or reaffirm a commitment to God. It is usually a first person singular song like “I Want to Be More Like You.”
Tie it all together: The very last thing we do is end the service on another short upbeat song.
Most of the time, an upbeat song at the beginning is really a wiser choice than a slow one. Pastor Steve Pruitt (www.justworship.com) observes that celebration and praise seem to pave the way into the more intimate times of worship. This is easily acceptable as a general rule, but is by no means set in stone. It is perfectly alright to start with a slow, call to worship song as the Spirit leads, but be confident enough about establishing a workable flow for the worship.
It is important to be able to tell the difference between fast and not so fast songs. While both may, in one way or another, “Inspire Movement,” try to visualize what kind of movement the song inspires. Does the song rouse people from their seats to clap and move their feet, or does it evoke an awkward I’m-trying-to-find-the-beat clap? Try to avoid the latter kind at the very start; it might be more appropriate as a transition song between fast and slow ones.
A smooth flow also includes a unified, progressing direction of action. Meaning, if you start with a song that speaks of or about God, then move to a song that talks to God (most Adoration/intimate praise songs are like this), do not go back to a song that talks about God again.
For parts where you plan to talk less (more on this on the third part of this manual), try to pick songs that flow well together key-wise. Usually, these are songs sung in the same key or are a whole or half key higher, making modulation from one to another easier. Particularly fast songs, a similar basic beat is necessary for a smooth transition.
Lastly, included in the flow is the appropriateness of the song for worship. Just because a song is beautiful doesn’t mean it is appropriate for every single occasion. There are particular songs that are appropriate for worship, for a Eucharistic Celebration, for reflection. Be able to discern one from others.