Once you have spent time asking God to reveal to how what He wants, you might want to take a look at your song selection. What does God want to hear?
1. Give me the Gospel Truth!
The first thing you probably want to do is take a look at the lyrics to the songs you are singing. Are they full of Gospel Truth? Romans 1:16a says “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” If you want people to be engaged, make sure many of your songs are helping people to understand the full rich Good News about Jesus! If you aren’t singing about God’s love for His people and our response, then you are missing out. You want to look for a balance of songs that are describing both his mercy and his righteousness, his immanence (closeness) and his transcendence (far beyond us-ness) …
2. Make it Clear!
Hopefully the songs are well crafted lyrically so they are also truly inspiring, easy to understand and pronounce, roll magnificently off the tongue, are unified and well connected, … but at least have the central meaning be the Gospel! Some songs are rich but also full of archaic language … if you need to look up too many words in the dictionary in order to understand what you are singing… you may be missing the mark. Or if the words are so poetic and vague and lyrical that they paint beautiful images, but you’re not quite sure what they mean? You may be disappointed at the results.
2. Songs that people can sing
Keep your “average Joe” singer in mind. You want it to be exciting and inspirational, but you need to keep it accessible too.
Things to consider….
Some songs stretch the vocal range (Matt Redman’s “Blessed be your name”, for example) … be careful of this. While we are on the topic of range, let’s recommend for general purposes that we put the song in a key that makes it singable for your average baritone male. Why? Men are the least likely to sing anyway. Almost every high school in America has one mixed choir and a separate girls choir. In our current culture women are much more likely to be expressive of their emotions and art. Also, women are more likely to find a harmony part than to just give up. So, as a general rule of thumb, try to keep the high notes no higher than a C or a D. That means bringing every Chris Tomlin song down at least a step or 2, maybe even more.
You don’t want the rhythms to be too tricky or the melody to jump around too much or the sections of the song to be too irregular. Simple is good. Now this can be subjective. I had some singers who thought the syncopation in “I could sing of your love forever” was too hard… And depending on the age and culture of your congregation, that could be true. Know your people. Be aware of what they are capable of.
If you really want people to sing along, then pray for God to reveal to you how to encourage that, and pick singable songs full of Gospel truth!
More to come…
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