How To Choose Songs For Your Church's Praise Band
A praise team can add so much to church services and events by helping guide the congregation to a place of deeper worship. And an important aspect of that work is song choice. The goal is to provide high-quality and spiritually sound music in a variety of styles.
Each praise band is unique, with it's own special sound and set of strengths. Ideally, you want to find songs that your particular team will do well that will also engage the congregation.
To plan effective worship song sets, you have start by getting a clear understanding of your team and your church.
First, you need to take stock of your team as it is right now. Honestly evaluate your personnel by asking some basic questions, and chart the information.
1. The Instrumentalists
How many instrumentalists are there? You can create new arrangements of certain songs if you need to accomodate restrictions in numbers.
What instruments do they play? If someone plays more than one instrument, make notes about each one they play.
What is their skill level? Have them rate themselves first, and then maybe have each play a little for you.
How strong is your rhythm section? Drums and bass are the backbone of the band, especially if you're doing more uptempo songs.
Are the guitars acoustic or electric? Ideally you'll want some of each - it's good to have both available for any given set.
Are any solo instruments? Violin, flute, or even harmonica can add interest to songs and can help teach the melody.
2. The Vocalists
How many singers are there? As mentioned above, there are ways to work around any limitations in numbers for a song you feel led to do.
What is the vocal range of each? Each singer feels comfortable on certain parts. But use everyone to their fullest potential - a singer might normally sing high and lyrical, and be able to belt in a lower voice too.
Are there strong singers that can do solos? Never force someone, but encourage members to try stepping out, maybe first on a song they really like.
Can they handle doing harmonies? There has been a trend toward simpler vocal arrangements with more emphasis on melody. But adding harmonies at selective spots adds a lot to a song.
Sample Team Chart For Worship Leader
Skill Level (1-5)
Can or Will Do Solos?
electric bass guitar
vocals - alto
Yes - melody line
Maybe - easy ones
Personnel is just one part of evaluating your team. Consider your team's rehearsal habits as well.
Also, if your team has been ministering for a while, think about the songs and sets that have gone well and see if there are any common elements - for instance, if songs in lower keys or of a certain style sound better.
How much practice time is there each week? Some teams meet several times a week and can do more elaborate arrangements, others meet only once and might need simpler more familiar songs. The time you have will impact your song choices.
Is the team prepared for each rehearsal? Team leaders need to send out a song list at least a few days in advance to all musicians and sound people. Include links to mp3's or YouTube clips of songs. If everyone walks in with an idea of the songs, your work time will be more efficient.
How much rehearsal do team members need to feel comfortable with a song? It's very important to make sure everyone is getting enough time to know a song "cold" so they can worship during the service. If some of your members usually need a longer stretch of time to learn a song, schedule that in over a couple of weeks, or spend some individual time to help them along.
2. Song Arrangements
Do you follow set arrangements of songs or just do your own thing? It's easy to find sets of parts for songs already written out, but they probably won't be free - you'll need some sort of budget allotted for that.
Is there someone on the team who can write out arrangements? You may not know a professional arranger. But there might be someone, on the team or not, with an ear for using instruments in a song. Utilize their skills if you can.
Can everyone on the team read music? It's certainly not necessary. But knowing how much experience instrumentalists have either reading charts or music will help you help them learn a song faster. Some vocalists learn by ear and only need words to remind them of the melody.
Once you have a good feel for your team, turn your focus outward and make some observations about your fellowship.
1. The music "atmosphere"
Is there an expectation that hymns will be part of every service? Many churches have "blended" worship, with a mix of hymns and worship songs. The congregation at my church still enjoys having the organ for the hymns, but also accepts the worship band doing them. We often do a hymn as part of the song set now.
How do people respond to new songs? Most "worship wars" arise from an abrupt change in music style. This can be eased by using newer songs in a sensitive way. If there is an aversion to new songs, try doing only one new one every couple of months. That will give everyone time to soak in the song and start to worship with it. Then people will be more receptive to new songs in the future.
Do there seem to be "old favorites" that always bring a good response? There's nothing wrong with bringing out songs the congregation likes on a regular basis. It gives a comfort level to the set that may lead to more or deeper worship. Just make sure that the team isn't going through the motions. Look for new inspiration, even in songs that are may seem like "old friends".
General Guidelines For Choosing Worship Songs
- Make sure you get permission to use any songs - stricter consequences for copyright infringement are in effect.
- Find songs that the congregation can easily learn - at least the chorus.
- Choose songs that contain lyrics that focus on God, rather than words like "I" and "me".
- Be sure that any songs you pick are Biblical, or based on scriptural truths.
- Use a variety of music, both older and new. (**challenge with new songs: expectation of replicating a recording, which is very hard if not impossible to do.)
- Listen to all types of music to get ideas, and keep an open mind.
- Pray first - pleasing God, not people, should be the first goal.
- Have regular brainstorming sessions with all the team members to generate an ongoing list of songs.
- Use CCLI or some other reputable online source for song music and lyrics. Many offer pre-written chord sheets or instrumental parts, in adjustable keys.