Helpful Keys In Building A Set List

So, you're a worship leader and feel like you're doing the same songs over and over again?

We've all been there. And sometimes you don't do certain songs from an album, because you know exactly how your pastor feels about it and how your congregation will respond to it. So how do you make worship more impactful and more meaningful with more variety without compromising your set lists every weekend?

Here are a few keys that I've learned over the years that have helped me grow in worship leadership and pastoring my congregation well.

Plan songs in advance.

I've experienced a lot of church's like to have their set lists in by a certain day of the week so the team has time to practice it before the weekend. Where I like this deadline, I just found that planning a Master List more in advance alleviates unnecessary stress and bonds the team a little better.

Worship Leaders and Pastors are still artsy, no matter how organized you are. The key here is not necessarily organization as much as it is strategy.

Gather the team and create a master song list for the year.

I absolutely love it when Pastors have their sermons outlined all year long. For some people, that isn't their strength or gifting to do that well. However, doing this will free up some of your time to focus on the important things during the week. There's nothing wrong with tweaking it throughout the year, but having a standard list for the year really helps everyone know what to expect. Create a master list with your team for each quarter, sort of like a toy box with all the things you are going to play for the next 3 months. Add to it all the songs (up to that point) that you want to introduce, and reinforce the songs that your feel are the church's anthem and voice.

Do this stuff...

  1. Pray and ask God for direction and wisdom. This can be with your team or by yourself first. I prefer to pray by myself, chat with my pastor, and then pray with the team. But there's nothing wrong with diving head first and discovering together.

  2. Connect with your pastor and ask him what he thinks the next year's direction is going to be. This is honoring. If your pastor isn't sure, and if they are open to you, share the direction you feel you've gotten and just be willing to adapt along the way.

  3. Gather your worship team and ask them to share their heart for the next season. This is vital. You can have everyone else's opinions and suggestions, but some of the most important ones will come from your team. This gives the team value and a voice. You want that in your worship team.
  4. Create a Master List document by asking them for 3-5 songs each. There are great free tools like Google Docs, then there's always Word or Pages that you can export a PDF and share via Dropbox. After doing this, share that document or link with everyone. This allows the team to pray over the songs, worship to them, practice them, get to know them, and dive in deeper with the Father. You want your team to have the time to connect with the song. Make it personal for them so they can worship, too, and not have to rely so heavily on the chord chart in front of them.

Nearing the end of every 3 months, if this is a great method for your team, just repeat the following steps.

This can help alleviate stress for choosing the songs for the following week and set up your team for success to know what to expect in the next 3 months. I get to choose the set list from the Master List. This also enables me to trust another member of the team to choose the set list, because they have the list of songs you're currently doing. We want to be Spirit led and we want to have incredible worship experiences in our churches, but we never want to lose the greatness.

The goal here is to not stress out about your worship set list next weekend, but be more intentional with what you're singing over your congregation and knowing more about what you're singing. Planning Center has this great little key that you can see how many times you've sung a song in a year or two. Use that little guy as a helpful tool.

I have attached a document that might be useful to you as a skeleton. I enjoy using categories for each of the songs (fast, medium, slow, etc.). Maybe you have some that you want to use that would be more useful such as themes (Hymns, The Cross, Baptism, Freedom, etc.) instead of categories. That works, too.

Have you any great suggestions or ideas? Feel free to share them in the comments below!