We are currently going through a transition period of worship pastors at my church. We have people on our normal worship team leading once a month, including myself and a few other people, and we also have guest worship leaders who come in to lead once or twice a month to help us out. This is until we can find a perminant Lead Worship Pastor. This is just the situation that I have to deal with and it doesn't bother me, but because I am relatively new to leading worship, I need a little help.
Because we are constantly having someone different lead every week, we get different backgrounds and worship style, vocals, acoustic sets, rock sets, etc. That causes us who are regulars at the church to find familiar songs that everyone knows. Mostly older songs with a few newer songs. I usually try to keep the majority of my set list the same when I lead, but I want to do a few newer songs and change the theme of worship. I am one of the youngest adults in the church so I want to bring in some songs that were written in the last few years, but I don't want to teach people a new song everytime I lead because it feels like they are constantly having to learn new songs mostly every week. I usually struggle to find a set of songs because of this.
The hardest thing is also making the songs flow into the next one. So picking songs that fit together in a nice flow. I really want the service to be about worshipping and not about people having to find the lyrics on the screen or constantly having to learn a new song every week. Or wondering why we stopped in the middle of the song to lead into the next one.
Do you have any suggestions or comments on how I could make this work?
In our church, we do have the worship flowing from one song to another, or, just as commonly to prophetic/improvised songs. How you are able to do this relys to a certain extent on your pastor (I pastor our church, so we can do what we want!)
Controversially, we don't have any words on screen or anywhere else, as I find that all that happens is that people stop worshiping, and start singing songs. To help this, we pick very simple chorus' that anyone can pick up even if they've never heard them before. Our chorus' tend to be completely focused upon God, and simply pour out adoration to Him, rather than songs that are about God, but necessarily sung to Him.
When we plan the worship, we usually have the first song set out, but then take it very loosely from there depending on how the Spirit moves. We often keep the same, or similar chord progression for the entire worship, and use that progression behind different songs, or use lead instruments to make variety musically. The core of having the same progression though keeps it all together and helps to create a flow.
It takes a lot of experience, and a constant seeking of God to be able to just flow with the Spirit, and take people with you at the same time. It also takes a supportive pastor who will allow you to do this, and also allow you to make mistakes (which you will make regularly!) It does, however, make for deep, intimate and dynamic worship that genuinely changes lives and leads people into and encounter with Jesus.
I think you are spot on that it is good to "Sing a New Song" and keep worship fresh but not to overload the congregation with new songs. Try to pick new ones that will be useful on a variety of occasions and that may have long term use. Some great songs are not likely to be used often in your average congregation.
On flow, it often helps to have songs in the same or closely related keys. E.g. song 1 is in D, song 2 in G works well. Modulating from a song in one key is easy to one with one more or one less accidental (i.e. 2 sharps to three sharps or to one sharp). Also, you can do something where the first song finishes on a chord on one instrument (e.g. piano), and the new song is started straight away on a second instrument (e.g. guitar, which had dropped out for the last chord of the previous song). This immediately sets the key and rhythm of the new song. The band need to be together and able to see each other and signal effectively to each other to make this work well.
If songs don't flow in keys, you can always transpose one into a matching key (e.g. drop E flat into D). I strongly recommend that if you do this, that you go through and write out a transposed version of the chords or melody as necessary for all your musicians - not everyone has the ability to transpose in their head live, even if I know some guys who can and expect everyone else to be able to do the same!
Thank you everyone for your input. Our situation is a little hard, but your advice really helps and is encouraging!
The responses so far have been good. Here are a couple of additional ideas:
Get together with the other members of your team that are also leading that month and pick one or two new songs that everyone can put into their sets. That way, even though you're not leading, the songs will still be sung.
Pay attention to the songs the guest leaders are introducing and include some of those songs in your set.
As far as flow is concerned, I stopped worrying about the keys of the songs a long time ago. Flow is dependent on two things: How you end a song and how you begin the next one.