Selecting Songs: Prepare then Choose

Worship leaders are faced with numerous decisions each week. One of those responsibilities is choosing the songs they plan to lead during their worship set. Here is a simple outline of how you can choose songs for your worship services:

Before you ever choose a song or do any type of service planning, always take time to check your heart.  Ask, “Am I in a place where God can use me?  Is there any sin that needs to be confessed?”

Don’t rush through this step.  Take time and ask the Lord to prepare your heart and mind.  Your role as the worship leader is important and needs to be taken seriously.  You are planning a time for people to engage corporately with God.   It is vitally important that you have the right posture and mindset before you begin planning a worship set.

3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not lift up his soul to what is false
    and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
    and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Psalm 24:3-6



Clear communication between a pastor and a worship leader provides an opportunity to prepare people to receive God’s Word.  This does not mean that every song you choose must be centered around the message’s topic.  (If your youth pastor is speaking on the Exodus, you do not necessarily have to choose the song “Pharaoh, Pharaoh.”)  The main goal of talking with your youth pastor is to have a clear direction for where he/she will be going with the message.



After you have discussed the direction of the youth pastor’s message, spend time reading the scripture passage(s). Don’t rush though this step.  Ask the Lord to bring songs to your mind during this time. Have a note pad ready. Write down the songs that come to your mind and any truths that God may reveal to you during this time.  Having these thoughts on paper may help you later when you are thinking through song transitions.



I often choose songs that go along with the message. (I understand not everyone does this, but this is the way I normally choose my setlist). The hope is that the songs and words we sing during the worship time will help prepare the congregation for the message the youth pastor is about to give. Here are some basic ideas to remember when choosing songs:

  • The Key—it is not always appropriate to do a song in its original key. If a song is too high for people to sing, some people will not sing with you. The same is true if a song is to low.
    • Choosing songs in similar keys can make a set flow easier. This does not mean that you must do every song in the same key, although this can work great for an acoustic set. Since I normally only have time for three songs on Wednesday nights, my first song is normally in one key and my second two songs I try to arrange in a similar key. THIS IS NOT A RULE, IT IS ONLY A PREFERENCE.
  • New Song—New songs are great and bring life into a worship service. They can help give the congregation fresh words of worship or illuminate a new view of God. Negatively, new songs can sometimes cause your congregation to disconnect. It is important to balance how many new songs you play each set.
    • Try to introduce only one new song a month. Here is a friendly way of adding a new song into your song list:
      1. Week One: Introduce the song
      2. Week Two: Skip it
      3. Week Three: Play it again
      4. If your congregation has connected well with the song, play it again in about two or three weeks. Then you can add it into your rotation of songs as often as you need.
  • Familiar Songs—These are the songs that almost everyone in your group knows. Familiar songs need to make up the bulk of your set list each month. It is important to remember that though you have been listening to these songs for months now and may find yourself tired of hearing them, some of your familiar songs are still “new songs” to those you are leading.
  • Theme—Look for a common theme in the lyrics of the songs. This will aid with the theological flow of the service. This is also a great way to connect your songs with the message. For help choosing songs with similar themes, visit




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