25 Songs or Less

I have said many times to others who I know are either worship leaders or on their way to being one,

“It’s best to start with one list of 25 songs, at the most, songs that you know the congregation will connect with immediately, and do them regularly. Try and introduce new material at your own risk, being sure they will be able to participate right away. Those who bring in new music every week are doing it for themselves, and not for the church. It’s all about participation.”

I’ve also been scoffed at that advice, and felt the eyes roll as I turn the other way. I think because we as leaders (or “musicians”) get tired quickly of the same old songs. We think others are going to be bored, or we’ll lose their attention. Uh huh – I used to avoid MWSmith’s Great is the Lord mostly because I can see myself thinking about lunch while singing the same old lyrics.

But what I have discovered is that simplicity is the key, and that if we invite them to sing without a lot of pomp and musical dressing, they will gladly join in if they can. And you are off towards community worship. You may think that How Great Thou Art is tired, but try singing that with any mature congregation without finding yourself caught up in its spiritual truth and musical power. The same could be said of songs like Open the Eyes of My Heart or Blessed Be Your Name.

I am constantly reminded of this. I was reminded again last Sunday morning. I plan the service thinking, “well this will be an easy one, familiar songs — good thing since I am playing piano! I want to play songs I can manage”. And almost every single time we sing the same tired songs, I get moving responses from worshippers who felt God move in their hearts to respond to Him. And they’re grateful, maybe not moreso than I, who am not at all sure exactly how that happened except we got out of the way and let God lead through simple familiar songs.

I have been here a while, and my list is honestly about 150 songs – ! But really we only sing about 30-40 of them regularly, really.

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