As constructing a sermon is to a pastor, so constructing a worship set is to a worship leader. You want to have solid content and memorable hooks that will stick with your church as they walk away.
For a worship leader, song selection is a very important and delicate, weekly task.
I don’t view myself as an entertainer, therefore I want my church to be able to easily engage, participate and sing the songs every week. That being said, I try to select SINGABLE songs! Novel idea, right? It doesn’t sound very profound, but it seems to be somewhat of a lost art.
What I’ve found is that the songs that seem to be the most accessible for the church are those songs that are timeless. They are those new or old songs that have that timeless, ageless quality. Timeless songs are songs that could have been written this week or 300 years ago. If we as worship leaders embrace them, I believe we can more effectively help our churches embrace God in corporate worship.
Here’s some qualities I look for in a timeless song:
1. SIMPLE MELODY
Think of the most popular songs that have been passed down from generation to generation. Most of them have a memorable, simple melody line. The melody is the key to a great song. The more complicated the melody, the harder it is to sing. I’m not saying that every great song has a simple melody, but if you want most of the people in your church to sing a song, a simple melody will enable that greatly. I was in a work shop at the National Worship Leader Conference one year, when I heard Nathan Nockels critiquing a song. He talked about keeping the melody simple, which means to limit the fluctuation in the notes of the melody line. I think the reason the Beatles’ songs have stood the test of time so well is because of their gift for writing memorable, yet simple melodies. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be great and when it’s simple, more people will be able to sing it. Keep it simple!
2. AGE ADAPTABILITY
A timeless song is an ageless song. It’s melody is simple enough to be adapted to any generation. A timeless song can be sung by my 7 year old daughter or my 81 year old grandpa. When you look at your setlist, is it geared for just one age group or can it be embraced by multiple generations? The church is a multi-generational organism and a healthy church accurately represents that. I am, in no way, suggesting a blended style worship set. That can sometimes be more confusing than constructive. I’m simply challenging that we use songs that are simple and accessible to the past generations all the way to the next generation. One of the timeless songs I use is “10,000 Reasons”. That’s a great example of a song that’s embraced by every generation in my church. I expect my generation and younger to like most of the songs I use, but there’s nothing sweeter to me than when I hear a compliment from someone who’s 30 to 50 years older than me. It tells me that most everyone was able to engage in worship in the same hour. That means I’m serving the whole church and not just one demographic of it.
3. STYLE VERSATILITY
A song that stands the test of time is largely preserved by it’s versatility. When you strip all of the instrumentation away, do you still have a great song? When a song is too dependent on the accompaniment, it’s versatility is extremely limited. The obvious examples of versatile songs are the revised hymns that we’ve all heard in the past decade. A timeless song can be played by a rock band, acoustic set or an old-school piano and organ. When you have style versatility in a song, it’s life-span is drastically increased. I think one of the greatest examples of this is “All Creatures of our God and King”. It was written in the 1600’s, yet it is easily translated to today’s popular style. Why? Because of it’s versatility. When you’re looking for a timeless song, test it with different styles.
The goal of this post is not to promote old hymns. God does not care about the date of a song, as long as the heart is right behind it. This post is about helping our people engage in corporate worship. Singing a song can be one of the most unifying elements for a group of people to do. A worship setlist that does not accomplish that is an oxymoron.
Psalm 100:2 says, “Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.”
This is not a suggestion. This is a command.
As worship leaders, let’s have a heart for God, His commands and His church, no matter what demographic they belong to. Let’s give them songs they can sing. Timeless songs can be a very effective tool in this mission.
Here’s some timeless songs (new and old) that I’ve used in corporate worship:
“How Great Thou Art”
“How Great Is Our God”
“All Creatures of Our God and King”
“Lord, I Need You”
“I Surrender All”
“Here I Am to Worship”
“It Is Well”
“Because He Lives (Amen)”
…to name a few.
What are some other songs that you think are timeless?
Gary is the worship arts director at Orchard Church in Denver, Colorado. He is also a blogger and a songwriter and is passionate about serving the local church. He has released two full length albums in the last several years and two EP’s in the last few years with songs that are completely geared for corporate worship – “Kingdom EP” (2010) & “Jesus EP” (2012). Gary has had his songs recognized by Myrrh Records, WorshipSource.com, the Purpose Driven Worship Conference, TheWorshipCommunity.com, CCLITV and SongDiscovery.
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