How to Choose Songs for Your Service


I’ve had a lot of people ask me about how I select songs each week.

It’s a valid question.

There are a lot of songs out there to sing in worship. There are more than ever. There are also a lot of preferences and motivations to select songs.

Song selection is one of the most important responsibilities of a worship leader. If we truly want to lead people to recognize God’s presence, it’s important that we get song selection right.

Here are some tips I’ve learned about selecting songs for worship:

1. SUPPORT THE SERMON. Most worship services, anywhere you go in the world, consist of a few varying elements. The center piece element is usually the sermon. That’s why most people are there. I love to support the sermon with the songs I select. When you theme a worship service, there’s a better chance that the church will walk away intent on applying God’s message to their everyday life. It’s an awesome service to your church when you can support that sermon with the songs you select.

2. PRAY. The best worship sets consist of the songs that God wants us to sing to Him. One way to determine that is by asking God for wisdom and peace in your song selection. If I don’t have a peace about a certain song, I ask God for wisdom and He always gives it to me (James 1:5). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed a setlist because God has interceded in some way. A worship setlist should not be an opportunity for worship leaders to perform their favorite songs. Prayerfully select your songs. Each song is important to your church, and you need God’s wisdom and guidance with that responsibility.

3. VIEW IT AS A JOURNEY. Whether you have three, four or five songs in a set, view the setlist as a chance to take your church on a journey for 20-30 minutes. Design the order to be a succession of songs that support each other, that will take your church to a specific destination. Anybody can throw together a random conglomerate of tunes, but it takes care to make a setlist a journey. Make sure that each song flows to the next lyrically. Consider keys of songs and tempos as well. It’s an opportunity for art, and God can use you as the brush. Here’s an example of a setlist as a journey through the idea of God’s unfailing love:

“Not for a Moment”
“You Never Let Go”

If someone in your church asked you how you select songs, what would your answer be? It doesn’t have to be the same as mine, but make sure it’s more about God’s leading and less about your latest favorites. Song selection can make a huge difference in what happens in your church. That’s a huge responsibility.   

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Gary is the Worship Arts Director at Redemption Chapel in Stow, Ohio. He is also a blogger and a songwriter with a passion to serve the church. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children and have been married since 1999. You can follow him on Twitter & Instagram @garydurbin or on Facebook at