During last weekend’s message, in a short side note, Pastor Matthew shared:
“I sat next to my wife as we sang All I Have Is Christ. Do you realize? I hope you were paying attention because Pastor Matt and our worship team work so hard to give us good songs. He has a really important job, cause he puts words in your mouth - so you can think about the words you’re saying. It makes my heart feel so good to listen to you be confessional as you sing. You said in a song this morning, I don’t need anything else but Jesus.”
What Matthew shared is very true, and I’ve received bits of feedback this week indicating a thankfulness and appreciation for the work we put forth in song selection.
Yes, I said ‘we’ and that’ll make more sense in a moment.
That kind of feedback means a lot, and I thought it would be a good use of my blog post this week to briefly share with you the thought and intentionality that happens in our song selection process.
I believe song selection is one of the most important aspects of my role as your Worship Pastor. See, at Calvary, we have the opportunity to introduce around 12 songs per year - 17 songs max. That’s a new song every 3 weeks to a month. Introducing new music too often doesn’t serve our worship gatherings well and can even discourage participation. Not often enough and we could become too comfortable and no longer stirred by the lyrics. We want healthy rhythms of new songs that allow people to get familiar with the songs we sing so they can not only engage, but also firmly grasp the truths we’re singing about. We, as a Worship and Production community, want to do everything we can to encourage engagement! Sunday mornings are not a concert.
Now, to some that may not sound hard - picking 12-17 songs a year. It’s a lot harder than you may think. With a worship industry that pushes out new worship records almost weekly, it can be daunting to sift through hundreds of new songs every year to unearth the best and most timely choices for our church family - songs that help people worship well.
The mission of Worship & Production is to help the gathered church worship well.
“As a Worship & Production Community, aided and led by the Holy Spirit, we will skillfully combine biblical truth with the arts to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, thereby motivating the gathered church to join in proclaiming and cherishing the truth about God and seeking to live all of life for the glory of God.”
As your Worship Pastor, I feel the weightiness and responsibility of the song selection process, but I do not choose the songs by myself. Many Worship Pastors do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. After serving in worship ministry for over 10 years now, I know there are incredible dangers when the song choices are left to one person. When that’s the case, it’s so easy to lean towards only certain styles, artists, bands and themes. It ends up being the Worship Pastor’s favorite songs and not necessarily the ‘best’ songs for the church family.
To avoid these pitfalls, I have developed a very different process here at Calvary. So let me open up the doors a little and give you a behind the scenes look at the song selection process.
We have a Song Selection Team that serves in selecting the songs we introduce to you, the Calvary family. This is an incredibly healthy approach that I’ve seen the benefits of time and time again. After having made song selection decisions all on my own in the past, this is a much healthier model.
On this team, we each bring songs to the table and have an equal vote after considering each song. Yes, an equal vote. That means my song ideas don’t always get voted in, and that’s a great thing - that’s healthy. I’m thankful for that! I, of course, still hold full responsibility of what gets introduced, and have pastor veto power that I can exercise if needed. (I’ve only had to do that once and the team has never let me forget about it!)
This process really has proved to unearth the best and most timely songs. I walk away from each meeting feeling incredibly thankful for each team member and the quality of songs brought forward. Voting is not always easy with so many great songs up for consideration.
Here’s some guiding principles we operate under each time we meet - questions we ask when considering a song:
Healthy Tensions to Feel
- Rooted and Relevant: As faithful stewards of this process, we want to draw upon the rich heritage of the past, while at the same time seeking to communicate the eternal Gospel in ways our culture can understand.
- For The Church & For Unbelievers: Let’s not ignore non-christians when we think through songs at our gatherings. But let’s not allow them to dictate our direction, methods, and values either. Those have all been determined and modeled by the risen Savior who now invites us to celebrate as a family and to invite others to join in on the feast.
Questions to Ask When Considering a Song
- How singable is the melody? It is easy to learn?
- What is the vocal range required to sing the song?
- Is the lyrical content in line with scripture? Does scripture prove it to be true?
- What is the tempo? Have we introduced too many songs of similar tempo?
- What is the theme of the song? Do we have a balance and diversity?
- Is the song just one that I like, or like to listen to, am I venturing out?
- How difficult is the song for the band to play?
- Is the lyrical content deeper or lighter? Do we have a healthy balance there?
- Where is God leading us to lead our church body?
This hopefully shows you the thought and intentionality we put into each song consideration.
You have to know, I’m incredibly thankful for the Song Selection Team which currently includes Christy Freeman, Berto Ramos, Josh Svendsen, and myself. I’m grateful for each of these team members, their unique perspectives, their heart for Jesus, and their heart for the church family. Each time we gather is such an encouragement. We have better songs because of this team effort and I’m grateful for their impact on our musical worship.
I hope by opening up the door to what goes on behind the scenes, you are encouraged and reminded to keep us in your prayers. We do not take this responsibility lightly and feel so humbled and privileged to serve among the other Worship & Production volunteers as we glorify God together and serve you, the Calvary family.
Thank you for engaging with us each week as we glorify God together!
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.
This past Sunday we completed our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Ezekiel. We discovered in Ezekiel a book filled with dark visions and confrontational language. And one of the visions (probably the central, controlling metaphor of the book) Ezekiel presents is Israel as a beautiful bride who turns against her bridegroom, God, and breaks all the stipulations of her covenant.
Day Thirty: Vistas of Wisdom
I am very near the end of this little writing experiment called “31 Proverbs.” While I’m unsure how helpful it has been to how ever many have read it, I know that the process of sitting down six days each week to read, ponder, and then ponder some more by plunking on a keyboard has helped me grow in my understanding of wisdom.
Day Thirty-Two: A Mother's Wisdom (part two)
Yesterday, we heard from what was likely King Solomon’s mother imparting worthy words of wisdom in the area of leadership. For the sayings of wisdom we find here are those “which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). And she now turns her attention to the search for a woman of virtue and noble character, suitable to be a wife and mother.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.