One of my students (Hello Tina!) just sent me a version of How Great Thou Art by Ascend the Hill to share what she was playing for this week. I believe both of us had a similar question about this version. Is this a good song for the the congregation to sing? Please don’t hear me saying anything against the band Ascend the Hill or any worship leader who would play this song for a worship service! It just makes me wonder what criteria this worship leader has for the songs chosen for his/her church. Perhaps this version of How Great Thou Art is perfect for this congregation, or maybe it’s just a cool version that might be fun to play.
So, what makes a good worship song? Is it a matter of taste? How do you or your church decide what your congregation should be singing on a given Sunday?
Here are some thoughts on how I chose songs when leading:
First, I think we would all agree that the song must agree with our church’s theology. Not much more needs to be said here.
Second, Is it singable? I always believed that one key job as worship leader is to invite and lead all voices to sing and praise together. Can I arrange it in a key that allows my congregation to sing comfortably (It was always painful when I messed this one up:-). Further, is the melody line something that most of my congregation could “catch”? Was there a good identifiable rhythm to the lyrics?
Third, can I and my musicians represent the song well? It’s difficult to hear a team of musicians, who have no feel for a black gospel song, to force a John P. Kee song on themselves and the congregation. Everyone feels uncomfortable, even the babies! Just because you heard an awesome arrangement of “Down at the Cross, does not mean you need to attempt to do it! I say this as someone who has done this before, and greatly regret it! I’m all for taking risks, but I would encourage all worship leaders, in churches large and small, to calculate those risks.
Another note on arrangements: If you really like a song and believe it would serve your congregation well, perhaps you can work out an arrangement that fits your team of musicians. Create arrangements based on the sound and talent levels of your team! You just might surprise yourself!
Fourth, respect the congregation. Does this song fit your culture? Am I leading my 75% senior congregation in songs I think are awesome, or am I trying to help them worship? In other words, am I leading with songs in their “language”? First, respect and serve the congregation with your music choices. If you do this I believe you will earn their respect, and later, the freedom to lead them into new musical frontiers:-)
Have a great Sunday!