I was having a discussion with our Senior pastor this am. He made the comment " the new songs we sing, are becoming more and more complicated" His point was, its hard to remember the lyrics and sing along. He was wondering if it made sense to mix in some updated older songs? Simple songs, easy to remember. 

What do you think ?

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Hi Steven,

I think some songs are definitely complicated to sing and are not altogether suited to congregational singing for that reason.  As a worship leader, it is part of our role to discern which songs are more suitable for your average person. By that I mean a person who is not a musician or has a great deal of knowledge of music.  Oh, I am sure you know what I mean.......if this was a UK site I would say 'Joe Bloggs' who sits in the pews, but I am not sure if they use that term in the US.  Anyway, where was I?  It's interesting that you do your songs from memory, and wondered if that is the way you prefer to do your worship or would you consider providing words for your congregation?  I think there is nothing wrong at all in mixing in some updated older songs and also I think it is lovely to do songs without having the words in front of you.  If you do desire to do songs without words though, then I think it is important to do songs that are short and repetetive, so that people can give their all to the actual worship and not have to concentrate on complicated tunes and lyrics.

God Bless.  Lorraine


Yes, I agree with what you've said. We display the words to each song( the media guy gets mixed up sometimes). There is something to be said for simple, repetitive songs. 

I appreciate your input. 

I have started doing music at a small prayer group and they don't know any of the modern songs at all, so I have to think very hard about which songs to do, so I am sticking to short and repetitive (is that how you spell it?). Gotta start somewhere!

Last week week at a bigger venue, through lack of communication, there were no words available (long story) so we had to think on our feet 'what do they know?  Ended up ok though, and worship was good.

ps. when it comes to words, I've yet to meet a media guy who doesn't get mixed up :)  No insult intended, 'cos I would freak out if I had to be in charge of the words!


Media - just requires a little practice and a willingness to sacrifice personal worship to serve others. T'aint hard.

I'd suggest that there are songs written for congregational use and 'worship' songs that are designed for artist performance. So I would filter the songs used according to whether they will work well for a congregation or not, and particularly whether they seem to carry an anointing or not, rather than what's current. I have observed that some less complicated older songs may move a congregation in a way that clever new ones don't, and it's probably not just about construction.

From a historical POV there have always been worship songs that are too complicated to sing in church, Handel's Messiah being a well known and loved example.

I agree with Toni that there has always been a struggle between the complex songs that us musicians like and what actually aids the congregation in coming to the Lord (which is our goal as worship leaders). Worship time is NOT the time to show off our chops.

In worship music, simplicity in melody, timing and lyrics is better as the focus becomes less on the music itself or (even worse) us musicians instead of the focus being on HIM.

This has been kind of a pet peeve of mine. I agree that we are the "gatekeepers" of the songs that our congregation sings, so it's a huge responsibility to always put ourselves into their shoes (voices).  Learning a complicated song can be so distracting that we lose any meaning that it has. There are so many good, memorable and meaningful songs available, we shouldn't have to settle for complicated songs that we probably won't be singing anymore in a few months.



It depends what you mean by newer and older. I'm assuming that you aren't looking back to picking songs from a hymnal, where you are often left singing a long poem full of archaic words to a dusty tune that would challenge your range even if you knew it...

In contemporary worship, it is a bit of relief to hit on a song that isn't harmonically some variant of I IV V vi. On the other hand, if I'm trying to busk along musically, it does mean that so much use of the same basic framework makes it very easy to keep up. The same applies to both structure and lyrics. If I start a song that goes "I just really want to sing / and worship you my ...", I don't think there are too many options to fill in the blanks.

I really enjoy reading these comments ... Thank you.

It does Appear that many worship songs are finding there onto contemporary Christian music stations, and that does mean all songs work well in the corporate setting.
I'll be spending some additional time praying and considering whether each song makes the cut for Sunday.

Yes, I agree with the comments I have read.  I put contemporary Christian music into two categories:  1. Congregation songs  and 2. Great songs to sing for yourself or as a special, but does not work well as a congregation song. 

Congregation songs should have melodies that are not too complicated too learn.  i.e.  Melodies that mainly follow a natural progression so that it doesn't keep the congregation guessing too much which way the tune is heading.  This doesn't mean that you can't do a more complicated song occasionally to mix it up, but it shouldn't be the majority of the songs.   I also think it is good to mix older contemporary songs with newer ones so that when the older ones are sung, they can just focus on worshipping God instead of figuring out which way the tune is going.  It can be a little distracting during worship if too many newer songs are played.

A good test as to whether it is a good congregation song is, "How long does it take the worship team to learn a new song?"  If they learn it quickly, then the congregation will be able to pick it up quickly.  If it takes several practices to get it down, then it will also take the congregation longer to learn it too. 


Great feedback , I with you 100%
Anyone who play a mandolin is awesome to begin with !!

Great advice, Marsha.  I find it helpful, as I'm selecting a new song to bring in, to picture the oldest and youngest members of the congregation worshipping to them.  Will the older lady pass out because there are too many words to try to get out in one breath?  Will the teenagers cock their heads to the side and not be able to connect with them lyrically?  Will the little kids revolt by making paper airplanes out of the offering envelopes in the pews?  It may sound silly, and of course you can't make everyone happy, but it has proven to be helpful in weeding through the many choices.  I also keep in mind the length of time it takes the team to learn them. 

I've also found it helpful to remember it will take the congregation hearing, singing and worshipping to the songs about 5 times before they even remember that they've heard it before.  That can help keep the team focused, even if we get "bored" of doing them a few weeks in a row.  (We usually do a new song two weeks in a row, give it a week off, put it back in the service in a different position and then decide if we should keep it or not.)  Some of the songs I thought the congregation may struggle with have become extremely worshipful and well received after that process.

I also add new songs at specific places in the service (our "best place" for new worship songs is at our offertory slot, where in our traditional service the choir sings an anthem.  It's a good place for people to give a listen and not have it interrupt their worship during one of the sets.)  There have been a few that we tried and had to ditch- they just weren't a good fit for our congregation.  And that's ok.  Then they become the "car riding worship songs" for me!



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