How to Create Song Order in a Worship Setlist

At present I am currently mentoring two people on their journey to becoming worship leaders. Last weekend was the first time they lead the entire sung worship part of the service unaided! I was there, singing BVs just in case I was needed to jump in and 'rescue' anything - but it went great!

It was in the preparation phase when they asked for my advice about the order of the songs in the setlist they had chosen - How do you know when to sing each song?

This was a great question and really made me think. I have been leading worship for 20 years so ordering a setlist is now second nature and the thinking goes on almost sub-consciously, so this question made me think about the process afresh as I tried to explain it to them.

Here are a few pointers I suggested - maybe you will find them useful too?

How to Arrange Songs in an Order for your Worship Setlist

  • Pray about it! Ask God what he is wanting to do and go with that. Also think about creating a bit of space between or within songs to help them 'breathe' or to allow the Holy Spirit to show up and possibly take things in a different direction. Which songs lend themselves to this? Are there enough down-tempo softer songs in the setlist for this to happen?
  • Know your church! How do they normally do things? Perhaps for the first few times you lead, it is best to stick with the tried-and-tested formula already in place. Once you are a bit more confident, you may want to try mixing things up a little for greater impact?
  • I generally tend to start with an up-beat song or two (but not always, it is also sometimes good to change things up a bit and start with a really tender song - especially if it emphasises the theme of the sermon / entire service)
  • What do the lyrics in the songs lend themselves towards? Some songs say things like 'Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see you', or 'Holy Spirit you are welcome here, come invade this space and change the atmosphere' - there lyrics suggest a placement earlier in the setlist, a welcoming or invitation to enter into God's presence.  Others say things like 'We take your word out into the world' which lend themselves towards a placement near the end of a service.
  • Keys -What keys are the songs in? In order to create flow between songs, it is helpful to group a couple of songs together that are in the same key, or to work out a transition between one song into the next that may include a key change. You may also want to consider changing the key to one of the songs in order to make the transition into the next song easier?
  • Theme - What is the key message your pastor/preacher/minister wants to communicate? If there is a song that communicates this message well, try to place it just before (or after) the sermon.
  • Be confident! - often there are no real 'right' or 'wrong' answers to this type of thing. You just need to make your choices and then confidently communicate these choices to the rest of the band members / multimedia  / sound teams.
If you have anything to add to the suggestions above, or if you have found these suggestions helpful, then please leave a comment below! Thanks for reading.

Related Article: How To Introduce New Worship Songs

Related Article: To Tips for Good Song Selection


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