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4 Problems A Short Master Song List Can Solve

4 Problems A Short Master Song List Can Solve

I remember that day.  I sat down to prepare the set list for Sunday morning.  Something I did every week.  Something I had done hundreds and hundreds of times.  But this time, I felt paralyzed.  

I pulled a few songs but realized “I don’t think my current team even knows these”

I pulled a few more… “I’d be okay not leading these anymore” 

A few more… “will the congregation engage with this or just try to remember how it goes?”

A few more… “hmm, I wish I had more new, fresh songs to lead.” 

Maybe you’ve been there.  Maybe you are there.  

That day I cut my master song list from 200+ songs to 50 songs.  This has been one of the best things I’ve done for our worship ministry.  

Your master song list probably contains all the songs you’ve ever lead through the years.  Each song presents itself as an option every week when you prepare for a worship service.  But paring down this master song list to a CURRENT master song list may be the solution to some problems your’e facing.  

1. My Church Isn’t Singing Passionately 

One of our major roles as worship leaders is to help people sing.  To remove barriers and obstacles and allow space for people to genuinely lift up their heart and voice to the Lord.  Too many songs can be one of these barriers.  

It’s simple.  People can only learn and connect with so many songs.  Sure, we can be vaguely familiar with hundreds of songs, but for a song to go from vague familiarity to personal declaration,  from eyes on the lyric screen to eyes on the Lord, this takes consistency.  In order to have this level of consistency you have to limit the number of songs you lead.  

2. My Team Isn’t Playing Confidently

Another role we have is to help our worship team play and sing each song well.  In the same way a congregation can only meaningfully connect with a limited number of songs, a volunteer worship band can only intimately learn a limited number of songs.   

Most musicians can look at a chart and play the chords for hundreds of songs.  Or look at the lyrics and sing the words.  But if we want our team to go from playing notes to making music,  from tentatively hoping they don’t mess up to confidently and passionately leading,  there has to be consistency.  I call this getting in reps.  For me, it normally takes playing through a song 15 times before I feel I’m leading it wholeheartedly. 

3. We Don’t Introduce Many New Songs

I’ll just say it.  It’s difficult to introduce new songs.  Carefully learning all the parts.  Locking in the vocals.  Finding the right key.  Wondering if it will translate to your worship team.  These uncertainties have often kept me from sharing new songs.  

But one thing that can make leading new songs almost impossible is a master song list that is too big.  New songs take time.  Time to learn.  Time to practice.  

Let’s imagine a rehearsal.  First you work through that hymn you lead 2 years ago.  Next you dust off that song you did once on Easter.  And now you hope to have time to work on a brand new song?  You may as well forget it.  

4. We’re Leading Songs That My Church Is Tired Of 

If you work to keep you master song list short something will inevitably happen.  As you add songs you’ll have to carefully consider songs to remove.  This can be tough but it’s very healthy. 

A worship leader friend of mine I deeply respect told me “songs have seasons”.  It’s true.  If we remove a song form our list it doesn’t mean it’s not a great song or that it didn’t serve our church faithfully.  It just means that the season for that song is coming to an end.   

Removing these songs can keep you from leading them out of blind convenience, sometimes long after they’ve run their course.  

Now at this point you may be thinking “Only 50 songs? That’s not nearly enough!” 

Consider this.  If you lead 5 songs on a Sunday morning you could lead 5 different songs every week for 10 straight weeks without ever repeating a single song.  50 songs is plenty.  

Quick Thoughts For Your Master Song List:

  • Try to get it down to 40-60 song. 
  • Include a variety.  Ancient and modern.  Current and oldies.  Slow and Fast.  Praise / Worship / Response / The Cross / God the Father / The Son / The Holy Spirit.  
  • A song you remove is never totally gone.  It may be the perfect song to for the right occasion. 
  • Every few months revisit your master song list.  Are there songs to remove?  Are there songs you’d like to bring back?  

How do you handle your master song list? We’d love to hear!

Share in the comments below.    

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