Ask Rick

What involvement does your worship team play in song selection? What criteria do you use for selecting songs for worship?

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From Lisa Milligan serving in Sanford, FL 

QUESTION:Song Selection?

“What involvement does your worship team play in song selection? What criteria do you use for selecting songs for worship?”


It is my responsibility to put all the songs together. Ultimately, I choose all the songs but having said that, it is wise to use the resources of your team to find songs.

Currently, we have a song finder on our staff who is responsible to look for great songs and to categorize them into themes. As we approach a new series, their job is to research great songs that fit the message theme. As an added bonus, the song finder is always on the lookout for great songs that we can gradually introduce into the song rotation. We obviously haven’t always had a song finder on staff and you certainly don’t have to have one because it’s easy to create your own database of songs and build it from there. Many times, the speaking pastor will have a suggestion as well.

To me, a great congregational song for a weekend service offers clear, Biblical, memorable lyrics in a music style that fits the service. The song is easily singable, while it subtly or directly reinforces that weekend’s messages. A great worship song has a universal message for and from all believers, and is a general expression of faith anyone can give and which is made personal by the giver.

A great solo song must fit the above criteria but does not have to be singable. It’s more important for that song to drive home the point of the message.

In the early days at Saddleback, Pastor Rick asked me to preview every song but in giving the soloist the theme for the weekend, I would highly value their input on songs they loved and that fit their voice well. Many times singers would submit songs that didn’t fit that weekend but would fit a future service.

A strong caution – make it very clear to all singers that individual songs do not belong to them. Just because they find a song, sing it, or really want to sing it, they do not “own” that song. One time I asked a certain soloist to sing a song at Christmas and another regular soloist informed me that was “her song.” I explained as graciously as I could that although she had sung this song in the past the song was not really hers but the Lords, emphasizing that the worship service does not exist for our benefit alone as the team or member, but for the overall purposes of God.

Songs for worship must serve the purpose of connecting the people to God. We classify songs through a song flow formula that is more of a guide than a strict rule but the concept behind the formula is that we are telling a story: starting in broad terms and bringing people to a focused, intimate place. For example, we start with songs about God (His character, nature, benefits) leading to songs sung to God in the first person. We want to help people get to a place where there is an opportunity for an expression of worship, one on one from each individual to God.

I love the hymn that says “Let the Amen sound from his people again.” A great worship song is a beautiful frame for the Amen of God’s people. People will remember songs much longer than they will remember sermons.

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