For over a decade I have had the privilege of serving as the worship leader for my church. Many things have changed, from technology, to style, but one thing hasn’t changed.

People hear a new song, and they send the “we should do this song” text or email to their worship pastor.

Typically they heard this song on a radio station, or their favorite artist just released a new album, and this song becomes so special to them that they would love have the rest of their church hear it, and sing it with them.

As a worship pastor what do I do with these messages? I listen to every single one.
I know that one of my strengths is choosing songs for our church which are great for congregational worship.
One of my weaknesses is finding new songs. I am more than happy for my church to do the research part of that project.
Does this mean we are going to sing every song that gets sent to me in our church? No, not even close to be honest.

So how do I separate the songs we might do, and subsequently the songs we won’t do? Here are 3 things I look for in each of the songs.

1. Lyrics

Do your worship leader a favour. Before you send them a song, open up a webpage that has the song’s lyrics, and then check them against the “what we believe/our beliefs” page on your church’s website.
If a song doesn’t align with my church’s teaching and beliefs on some kind of theology then we won’t do that song.

2. Is it selfish?

What do I mean by this. Basically, are we singing about God and his attributes, or are we singing about ourselves and how we feel?
If a song talks about how I am struggling, how I am not enough, how I need more of Jesus, I am going to pass. Even though those might all be good things and help me personally in my current life situation, I am going to pick songs like O praise the name, and Great is thy faithfulness every time. When picking songs for congregational singing I want to try and recreate heaven as much as possible. We will sing “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God almighty”, not  “I’m not enough”

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3. Is it a congregational song?

There are lot’s of great songs out there that would pass the first two questions with flying colours, but then might fall short here. There are a bunch of songs I love to sing, but wouldn’t use in a church worship setting.
Some songs are just more suited to be solos or specials. These are songs that have very wordy passages, or maybe for my church, any song that has a call and repeat section. Other examples would be songs that have lyrics that feel more like the worship leader is singing questions or commands to the congregation, rather than all of us declaring the greatness of God together.

So what next?

If a song passes all of these internal questions for me, then I will typically get some other opinions.
An example of this process is a song we recently introduced at my church called “You keep hope alive” by Church of the city.

  1. Someone sent me the song
  2. I listened to it, and it passed my three question test
  3. I shared it with the worship team that Saturday during one of our services.

In this situation everyone on the team instantly loved the song, and so I knew it would be one that our church should probably sing together.

What can you do?
If you’re not the worship leader at your church what should you do to help your church find new songs?
Send your worship leader a bunch of songs, and tell them I sent you ;)

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