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Worship Planning // Song Types


There’s many creative ways to plan the music for any worship service: drawing songs out of a hat, throwing darts at your pile of sheet music, singing whatever feels good on Sunday morning and hoping the band can keep up. As worship leaders, I think we sometimes get exasperated by the week-in, week-out task of being purposeful in our worship planning and sometimes resort to the “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” mentality. But there are some basics that we sometimes have to revisit to make sure we are giving our congregations every opportunity to connect with God.

Getting beyond the music

I sometimes fall into the trap of placing songs within a service because I know the music will sound good in that situation and everything will “flow”. But I need to slow down and think about what Joe Churchgoer (who might not be involved in church like I am…who might be going through a hard time in his walk with Jesus) will be hearing when he comes into service AND what I want God to do in the short time we have.

When it comes down to it, there are three different types of worship songs and how I organize those types of songs can increase (or decrease) the likelihood that true worship is achieved. I think these song types are so important that they should all have some representation in each service I plan.

Songs of Invitation

Since most ministry leaders are at their churches 24/7 (or so it seems), it’s easy to forget that people have had to deal with a week’s worth of berating bosses, looming deadlines, family struggles, etc. We expect them to show up and immediately be transported to this intimate place of worship with God with little to no preparation. But we are table setters. We show the bountiful feast that is in store and invite them to partake. In addition, we can invite God to reveal Himself to us. These songs are best used at the very beginning of worship or perhaps the beginning of a communion.

Some Favorites: Awakening (Hillsong United), Presence (Newsboys), Abide With Me (Indelible Grace)

Songs of Acknowledgement

Think of worship like writing a thank you letter to God. You wouldn’t write a friend and spend the majority of the time talking about yourself. If they are truly your friend, you would explain how much their friendship has meant to you and how much you admire and love them. The same can be applied to our worship of God. We need to spend some time praising Him just for who He is…His love, His mercy, His justice. These songs will rarely, if ever, mention ourselves as we want God, and God alone, to be the sole object of attention.

Some Favorites: Your Great Name (Natalie Grant), God You Reign (Lincoln Brewster), and of course How Great Is Our God (Chris Tomlin)

Songs of Relationship

This is probably the biggest category, especially in Contemporary Christian Music. We can use songs to drive home the point of the pastor’s message, further explain a Scripture verse or help carry the theme of other songs. Whatever our purpose in choosing them, these songs reveal how we relate (or wish to relate) to God. I frequently put these around the pastor’s message or at the end of service so people can leave thinking about their personal relationship.

Some Favorites: Scandal of Grace (Hillsong United), Nothing Ever Could Separate Us (Citizen Way), More Than A Friend (Jeremy Riddle)

Of course, none of these are absolute. Most songs cross in and out between the lines of these three categories. We need to mix up when and how we do songs. That’s where we get to be creative and have fun planning.

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11 Responses to “Worship Planning // Song Types”

  1. Hoss, great post! You are right, it is so easy to just pick songs we are comfortable with, or that seemingly go with our theme for the week, but there needs to be an intention behind the songs we choose. The three categories that you gave us to think about are really helpful. I especially find it hard to find that Invitation type song some weeks, knowing that just because the worship team has been engaged and are ready to worship, doesn’t mean the congregation will be at the same place the minute they walk through the door. Good stuff.

    • Thanks Carly. Invitation songs were definitely the group that our worship sets we’re lacking in too. I had to make a conscious effort to go out look for some of those specifically.

  2. Good stuff, Hoss. One related thing I’ve been thinking about more lately (related to my recent post https://thechurchcollective.com/worship-planning/festival-or-congregation/) is whether songs use “congregational” lyrics or “personal” lyrics.

    So many worship songs these days are written like you’re by yourself–which is fine. Especially the “Songs of Relationship”. But I’m gravitating toward songs that talk about we, and us–and you get more of that with the Invitation and Acknowledgement songs I think.

    The invitation song thing goes back to my recent post (link above) as well–as you said, and I totally agree–our congregants are coming in with a lot of distractions, and it’s easy for us to forget that after focusing on the music all week and having been at church warming up for a couple hours. But we need good invitation songs/elements to draw folks in and help them focus.

  3. …”what I want God to do in the short time we have.” I pray that is not what you meant to say… rather “what God wants to do and as long as He wants to take to do it.” All of our problems with worship music are because we refuse or otherwise can’t seem to get out of ourselves and put the Lord foremost.

    • While I see where you’re going with that and I wholeheartedly agree, my statement stands as well. In Psalm 13, one of my favorites, David cries out to God for action and ends with praising Him. I was reading I Samuel this summer and was struck with how boldly Hannah negotiates with God, but, when her prayers are answered, she praises Him. Even Christ asked for the cup of suffering to be taken from him, but, in the end, acknowledged the sovereignty of the Father and His will being done.

      As for the “short time” bit, our services are a little over an hour. Even if we are to look at African services that are usually 3 or 4 hours, that’s an extremely short time compared to the entirety of the week. I think it should be the duty of every worship leader before every service to call upon God to do such a mighty work in that service that His people experience heart/life change and give Him glory.

      Thanks for reading and sharing.

  4. Hoss I like your categorizations. I see that most of the more recent praise and worship music (or CCM, too) is your third category and “me” focused. However, I’d like to see you provide a more thorough listing of songs, not just the three examples you provided for each category. But no matter what, keeping these categories in mind, and trying to bring the congregation through to #2 & #3, will help WL’s to do a better job of selection AND ordering. Hope this gets more widely disseminated.

    • Thanks Heather! Since you are correct that there are more songs that can be fit into the Songs of Relationship category than the others, here are some additional songs that come off the top of my head for the first two categories:

      Songs Of Invitation: Come To The River (Rhett Walker Band), Word Of God Speak (MercyMe), Holy Is Our God (Starfield), O Praise Him (David Crowder Band), Search My Heart (Hillsong United), Song Of Hope (Robbie Seay Band)

      Songs Of Acknowledgement: Enthroned On High (The Neverclaim), You Are (Tenth Avenue North), Whom Shall I Fear (Chris Tomlin), Jesus! (Citizens!), He Is (Kingdom), God You Are My God (One Sonic Society)

  5. AWESOME Info, my soul is bless with an higher level of learning protaining to PRAISE AND WORSHIP…. KEEP UP THE GR8 WORK BRO BLESSINGS…

  6. Emmanuel A.Conteh November 25, 2015 at 4:56 am Reply

    God bless you sir, am bless by this piece of info. May God increase you greatly.

  7. Thank you very much


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