Being Choosy about Choosing New Songs

Everyone has ideas about the next new song to introduce.

Everyone has some criteria for their choice.

You’re going to learn to be GREAT about choosing new songs to have your congregation sing! Here’s how.

Two words: 
Objective Awareness

Most of us aren’t aware of our own bias...that’s why it’s called a bias. We’re predisposed to ignoring our underlying reasons for thinking a certain way.

Of course, the words need to agree with theology of your church.

Of course, the range of the song can’t bee too high or low.

Of course, the culture of the song needs to fit the culture of your church. (Culture includes values, belief systems, rules, norms, morals, language — as in would we say things like "like a tidal wave" or "this terrestrial ball.")

Of course, the melody and accompaniment need to be within the skill set of your team.

Of course, there are songs that violate all the "rules" and still work great.

Now that I have, like Vanna White, metaphorically turned over the R, S, T, L, N, and E, you can more easily solve the puzzle.

But what’s missing? We know all the rules, but we still introduce "one-Sunday-wonders."

I believe what is missing is our own ability to be a) objective and b) aware.

Checking the handy online dictionary, we know that to be objective is to be "not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts." Dave, are you crazy? How am I supposed to do this? The WHOLE REASON that I want to do this song is the influence of my personal feelings and opinions! (Don’t pull a #JesusJuke on me here!)

And to be aware is to be "concerned and well-informed about a particular situation or development."

To be Objectively Aware, we need to distance ourselves from our choices. Here are some questions to help you achieve distance:

  • What reason would someone I respect give if they thought I should NOT teach this song?
  • Can I imagine a retired couple, a single mom with toddlers, a seventeen year old, and one of the elders humming this song while washing dishes? (Strike that seventeen year old from this question...they don’t do dishes)
  • Does this song cut and paste indiscriminately from scripture for its own benefit or does it accurately describe the God revealed in the whole volume of scripture?
  • What does our church have to lose if we don’t teach it?
  • Why do I really want to teach it? (No one is looking. You can be honest.)
  • I probably felt the same way about another song a year ago that we didn’t teach. Will I feel the same way about this song in a year?

That’s helpful, Dave. But as one worship leader said this week "we go through this kinda long, annoying process to pick the songs and all the worship leaders aren't in full agreement over the songs anyway."

I don’t pretend to be able to speed up ANY church’s processes(!), nor do I have the magic bullet to make church people with different opinions defer to each other (out of love for Christ...thank you, Paul) BUT I do have three nifty D-words to help you remember to keep things in check while you remain objectively aware.

It’s the "Triple-D" for song choices, so it’s not Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (hello, Mr. Fieri) it’s Discern, Delight, and Doable. (Boy, there’s no flashiness in that one!!) I’ll take them out of the suitcase:

Ask God. Consider others. Pay attention to visceral responses.

Do you really love it? You should. Don’t settle. wait for one (the collective) you delight in.

This applies to the leader, the band, and the congregation. How much work will it take to get it into people’s souls? Notice the difference in this question from "Will they sing it on the first take?" Though there are certainly great songs that land on the first try, many simply need to be taught well and repeated until they grow on you.

And if you’re choosing songs in community, humility is the rule of the day.

Why do we try to decide the merit of a song in a vacuum? No, not in a Hoover, I mean outside of the context of worship? What if rather than sending out YouTube videos of Elevation’s latest, you would get together and have a time of worship. Each person could bring one or two suggestions and would lead the group through it just on a guitar or piano? I’ve passed on several songs...until I actually played through them. This gets down to the core of the song. You might be put off by all the production from the video, but love the essence of the song when done in an intimate, acoustic setting. In addition to giving songs a better chance, it also makes glaring the downsides to the song. If you have a hard time leading it well, take note. If it’s hard for the group to sing it, take note. If it feels flat outside of a huge band, take note. If everyone is really singing out on the first time through the chorus, take note.

Take note. Ah. Back to where we started...Objective Awareness.

ps. Notice that I didn’t give you a handy one-page Song Selection Guide. That was on purpose. I feel like we know the rights and wrongs about this. It’s that we need to get past our blind spots and get into unity when making these choices. But if you want one, email me. :)