Leading worship is about connecting human hearts to something greater.
It’s about shining a spotlight on the glory of God and getting out of the way. It’s about drawing attention to something outside of yourself. But isn’t it true how often our worship sets do anything but that.
- We lead for a room of spectators.
- Our songs don’t connect.
- The band is more into their instrument than worship.
- It feels like we’re just playing a bunch of songs for people.
The starting place for creating worship sets that flow isn’t with practical tips. It doesn’t start with the latest, greatest method.
It starts with a leader’s burning heart for Jesus and a compassionate heart for people.
First Things First
If I’m honest, oftentimes I’m the distraction. We’re the distraction, worship leaders. We need to strike a balance—not being so innovative that we steal attention and not being so sloppy that we steal attention. Let’s not forget our role as worship leaders.
It’s not about a larger platform and a brighter spotlight. Worship leading is about becoming less. It’s pastoral. It’s serving. It’s getting in the trenches. It’s about kneeling down, with tears in your eyes, compassion in your heart, taking people by the hand and leading them to the open arms of Jesus.
Channel the energy that you would normally use to love your ego and love God’s people.
Your worship set won’t flow if you don’t love His presence and love His people.
Are we on the same page?
Great. Because I want to leave you with something super practical as well.
Lose the Distraction
I think we would all agree that our worship sets should sound more natural and connected. Less like a concert of song to song to song and more of a journey. I talked briefly about this in episode 11 of the Beyond Sunday podcast, but I wanted to take it a little deeper and make it more practical.
There’s nothing wrong with prearranged songs. There’s nothing wrong with producing entire songs. That has its place. But I really believe that every worship set should have at least one moment where everyone comes up for air—no pulsing music, no organized song, no rushing.
And then—create a medley of a few songs that go together. Why? Because medleys create space for momentum to happen. Rather than starting and stopping songs with full arrangements, we’re going on a seamless journey that allows people to worship with abandon.
We’re drawing attention away from the slickness of our arrangements to the truth of who God is. And that lights peoples hearts on fire.
So as it relates to medleys, here are a few practical tips that I have found helpful:
Create a Mind Map
Ever created a mind map before? I know it sounds kind of new-agey and scary. It’s anything but.
You can use a piece of paper, a white board or even an iPad app like MindMeister. The goal here is to write a theme in the middle of the page and see what songs come to mind from that theme. Draw a line and add that song.
Keep doing that until you run out of ideas. Then take it levels deep. What songs come to mind after that second tier of songs? Connect those as well. After a while, you will have dozens and dozens of songs as options for your flow moments.
What’s so cool about this is that you may have started with a theme like “The Cross” and ended up with a theme like “Trust.” That’s great because we want to take people on a journey.
What we don’t want is to just throw songs together because they are popular. Rather, think strategically and theologically—what will make sense in people’s minds? How can you position the truth so it lands strong upon people’s hearts?
A Few More Thoughts
Find logical song connections—Oftentimes I’ll think, “After I sing the last phrase of this particular song, what song naturally comes to mind?” Sometimes the closing phrase of one song is the opening phrase of another, as in the case of “Cornerstone’s” final line “He is Lord, Lord of all” and “At Your Name’s” opening line “Lord of All the Earth we shout Your Name.”
Combine new and old—When you’re thinking of songs to add to your medley, don’t just think new and hot, top CCLI charts. Think about how you can dip into the past and do some hymns or older songs that you know your congregation loves. The goal isn’t to be cool, trendy and innovative. The goal is to connect with the room.
Combine time signatures—Thinking in time signatures also helps. If I’m in 6/8 time, it’s helpful to find other songs that are also in 6/8 time to continue the momentum. For example: “How He Loves,” “Good Good Father,” “Your Great Love” and “Great Are You Lord.”
Keep Consistent Keys—Also, don’t box your songs into any particular key. When you’re in a medley moment like this, it’s best to keep them in the same key for flow purposes. Any song can be done in any key. It’s actually very cool to take a song that’s usually very high and sing it lower in a more tender way.
Let’s wrap up. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with doing full arrangements of songs. But find one spot within your worship set where you can pause, breathe and then go on a medley journey. It makes the experience feel less plastic and rehearsed. It gives people space to really engage.
How about you? Do you create medleys like this?
Do you have moments in your worship set where you flow?