A Short Guide To Choosing Songs For Church

Choosing the songs for your church is a great responsibility, as it is foundational to this ministry of God’s word to his people. The primary aim of song selection is to craft a service with a variety of songs that are theologically rich, God-glorifying, and facilitate teaching and encouragement within the congregation as they praise God together. Songs need to be chosen carefully and intentionally, as realizing the potential of a song comes in it being placed in the right context. We have a vast array of songs to choose from today with the internet, whereas in the past they were in one hymnbook. So choosing songs is the daily reality of modern music ministry.  It’s easy to choose songs without really thinking about the choices we are making, because they’re well known, or easy. Every church is different, and it’s important that you do the thinking about how they apply in your scenario. With this in mind, when choosing songs we need to consider:

  • Theological depth and accuracy
    • Does the song conform to Scripture? Is it accessible and helpfully expressed? Is the poetry of the lyrics helping those singing it to glory in their God? Asking these questions of the songs we’re choosing will help us to ascertain whether our singing is in line with God’s purpose for singing in the church. 
  • Musical ease, beauty and variety
    • Will your musicians be able to carry this song successfully, and support the congregation in their singing? Do you sing too many songs in one style? Is the song beautiful and therefore helping us to engage our hearts with the truths it expresses? These questions are important because our music is a gift from God, and its variety and beauty is an echo of the variety and beauty he has written throughout this world. We need to play music that fits our resources and situation, whilst pointing us to God’s kindness in blessing us with such a great gift. 
  • Liturgical shape (teaching, reflection, confession, prayer, praise)
    • How does this song fit within the larger scheme of the service? How does it help the congregation to dwell on the theme of the sermon, or the prayers? How is it congruent with the situation the congregation is in emotionally? How might it help to align their emotions with the truth about God? These questions are important for making the service flow, and connecting each part together. 

When placing songs alongside each other, choose styles that complement one another, and consider keys. We want the songs throughout a service to have variety, but never to work against the gospel flow from confession and prayer,  through to teaching and thanksgiving. Remember, singing is a gift from God to help us engage and absorb his word, so if a song isn’t in line with Scripture, it’s not worth singing. Our God is big and glorious, as is his gospel and his mission for us. Our singing should reflect the fullness of his character in word, music and position in the service.

There is a lot more we could say about choosing songs for church, and Emu Music has a six part course to help train you and your music team in these essential skills. Find out more at wordinsong.com