If you are a worship pastor, a music director, or simply a brave volunteer, creating a set list for a worship service or gathering can be intimidating. To help you out, we put together 5 tips to get you started!
Define A Purpose
The most important decision you have to make when creating a worship set list is deciding on what message you want to leave the congregation with when the set is over. Depending on your specific circumstances, this could be anything.
For example, maybe you want your congregation to feel happy and rejuvenated, so you choose songs that are centered on the joy of the Lord. Or perhaps you are wanting to spend some time being thankful, so you choose songs that reflect all that God has done for His people. You may even choose a song like “The Stand” to encourage a physical response from your congregation if they have seemed distant lately.
What you want to avoid doing is choosing songs just to choose them, or you will likely see people starting to tune out as time goes on. Whatever your purpose is behind worship, whether it’s a feeling or simply supporting the message, let your songs reflect it.
Cater To Everyone
If you turn on any Christian radio station today, you will more than likely hear people singing in keys that are significantly higher than what the average person sings in. Male artists are especially notorious for singing up in the rafters because of their ability to switch into falsetto (which gives them practically double the vocal range of a female).
Recording artists can sing as high as they want and it sounds great! However, when it comes to incorporating a group of people, you need to be able to adjust. Choose songs and keys that are singable for anyone and everyone—without straining or having to constantly switch registers—by choosing songs in the average vocal ranges:
Though there are many who can sing outside of these vocal ranges, if you shoot for songs that generally stay inside this set of notes, you will more than likely be catering to the vast majority of your congregation.
If you feel like your set list starts to sound boring because you’re constricted by range, think about switching between male and female worship leaders. You can also experiment with songs that incorporate an octave jump, because if the congregation can’t make the jump, they can at least stay comfortable in their own octave.
It’s a good idea to incorporate a more rhythmic and upbeat song at the beginning of your set in order to get the congregation warmed up and excited to worship! It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but many times people come into church a little sleepy and in a regular routine.
Start with a song that will wake them up and also encourage engagement throughout the rest of the service.
Think Through Transitions
At one point or another, we have all probably witnessed an awkward transition between songs in a worship set. Unfortunately, awkward transitions can cause the congregation to disengage.
Ideally, if you are transitioning straight into one song from another, you will want both of the songs to be in the same key.
Another very smooth transition would be to the relative key (opposing major or minor key with the same key signature). For example, if you’re in C Major, you could transition to A Minor.
If the song you’re wanting to transition to is not in the same key as the previous song, you’ll at least want the keys to share some of the same chords. For example, it’s pretty easy to transition from G Major to D Major because of their shared chords:
What you really want to avoid doing is jumping from a key like G Major to F Major (two keys with no shared chords,) because the transition will sound very detached from the previous song. It also feels better if you don’t have to completely stop a song before you start the next one.
All of that being said, you don’t necessarily want to string together 4 or 5 songs in the same key, or it’s going to sound a little repetitive. If you allow yourself some breaks between songs every now and then, you will create opportunities to get into different keys. A good time for a break is right after the first upbeat piece where you can welcome the church. You can also create breaks within the main set by speaking to the congregation, displaying scripture on the screen, praying, etc. while the band transitions to a new key underneath you.
Know When To Introduce New Pieces
The last thing to think about when choosing music for your worship set is the incorporation of new songs. It’s always a good idea to introduce new songs every so often to keep the music fresh and inviting, however, you want to make sure you are doing it in a way that doesn’t totally lose the congregation.
You can deliver a song really well and the band can all be super into it, but if the congregation doesn’t know it, they will just be standing and watching until they can sort of pick up the melody.
A good place to introduce a new song is at the beginning of the worship set. You can even announce it by saying something like, “Good morning everyone! We’re going to start off with a new song today!” This approach will get your congregation pumped up and excited for a new tune!
If the song is more serious and doesn’t fit at the beginning of the service, you can introduce the song during an offering or communion, or even just as a separate special musical performance.
To help you just a little bit more, we put together a sample worship set.
B Major | Vocal Range: B2 – G#4 (Male Lead)
This song is a great upbeat tune to engage your congregation and start the set off with praise!
Break to welcome the church and transition to the main worship set.
A Major | Vocal Range: G#3 – C#5 (Female Lead)
Entering into the main part of your worship set, this song continues on the theme of a great God, but now challenges the congregation to declare their fulfillment in every circumstance.
A Major | Vocal Range: E3—E4 (Male Lead)
This song really brings home the feeling of being fulfilled by declaring over and over all of the wonderful traits of God!
You can either break here to pray, reflect, recite scripture, etc. or you can continue straight into the next song. The key transition will be relatively smooth from A Major to D Major because of the shared chords.
D Major | Vocal Range: A3 – B4 (Female Lead)
This final song continues with the theme of the traits of God, and ends the worship set with more praise and adoration towards Him.
That’s a wrap for now. Let us know how you create your worship set lists by sharing your tips in the comments below.