Choose a centerpiece song and build the other songs around it.
Here’s why I like this method:
- Starting with one song provides a concrete, focused first step. I’m not overwhelmed by trying to choose 4-5 songs at the same time.
- Starting with one song causes me to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I consider what song will best capture what our congregation wants and needs to express in worship.
- Starting with a central song facilitates a well-rounded setlist. When I have one song in mind, I can evaluate its strengths and use other songs to fill in what it lacks. For example, if the central song is very congregational, I know I can complement it with a more intimate and personal song elsewhere. If the central song is slow and dramatic, I will consider a song with more energy plus another song to transition.
Here is how my setlist from this past weekend came together:
This was my centerpiece for the set. Why it was foremost in my mind? Mostly because it just felt right. If you’d like more tangible reasons, we hadn’t sung it in a while, so it was fresh. It is energetic and prayerful at the same time. And it states upfront in service that we expect God to move in a powerful way.
I felt it was important to follow the invocation of “Supernatural” with a strong praise song, and…
2. “He Is“…
from William McDowell (our group has also released it), filled that slot perfectly. If you listen, you’ll know what I mean!
3. “Be My Strength”
To be honest, the biggest reason I included this song is because it’s new, and we’re trying to establish it with our congregation. Musically, it’s much slower and more dramatic than “He Is,” so that transition was more sudden than I would have liked. Lyrically, it has praise elements (“For You are worthy/glorious/high and lifted up”) but also makes a transition toward the personal and devotional.
4. “Only to Be Yours” (Meredith Andrews)
This sung is even more personal, devotional, and confessional. The original record is great, but the arrangement is definitely tailored more for the radio than liturgical use. I’ve adjusted the arrangement in a way that feels more worshipful to me, with some sections softer and some repeating more than in the original.
5. “Our God” (as performed by Israel Houghton)
In our service, we typically use a fifth song after giving and announcements as a means to transition to the message. “Our God” lifts the service’s atmosphere every time.
Worship leaders, I’d love to hear from you. Do you tend to build your sets around a centerpiece song? If so, what songs have filled that role for you recently? If not, how do you go about building your lists?
Grace and peace!