Teach the songs. Know your church. Have a Plan.
While I’ve included a few examples of how this might look, I wanted to provide a glimpse of what we do at Journey. In fact, our strategy at Journey goest against one of the key points I outlined, but I’ll explain why these rules are meant to be broken, and should be bent to fit your church.
Our Current Strategy
I’ll start with our overall structure. We plan songs at least 2 weeks up to 6-8 weeks out. By being this far out on our programming, we’re able to make course corrections if needed. For instance, we have introduced a song, then it tanked, and so we pulled it. There is no need in riding a song that doesn’t work based on a structure or plan.
We typically use the “2 on, 1 off, 1 on, evaluate” plan outlined in an earlier post. This way, I give a song a fair shot of getting to the majority of our church as well as most of our band (we have players that rotate from week to week). After these 4 weeks, I’m typically able to tell whether a song falls into one of the following 3 categories:
- In the Rotation. These are songs that will be included in our regular rotation of songs. Some are home runs, most are songs that connect with our church. Recent examples of these songs for us include Back to Life, You Make Me Brave, & Jesus I Come.
- In the Hopper. These are songs that we might use every once in a while, and are tend to be based on a specific topic. These songs typically connect well with our church, but they don’t warrant being utilized on a regular basis. Recent examples of these songs for us include The Same Power, Grace Flows Down, & Stronger.
- In the Trash. These are songs that simply didn’t work for our church. NOTE: It doesn’t mean these songs are bad or not helpful, they just didn’t work at Journey. An example of this for us was Christ is Enough, which is an awesome song but didn’t really connect with our church.
Once a song settles in a category, we use it accordingly in our programming. We tend to introduce 1 to 2 new songs a month, depending on the season of our church. In fact, we have introduced more than that in a shorter span before, and have gone months without introducing any new songs.
For instance, this past Easter, we had several songs we wanted to ride heading into our celebration. One service a few weeks before Easter, of the 5 songs in the service, it included 2 brand new songs, 2 songs that were introduced the week before, & only 1 song that was already in the rotation. That’s A LOT of new songs.
An important thing to note about our church is this: we’re weird. Here’s what I mean:
- We keep it fresh. Our church takes to new songs very quickly and enjoys keeping things fresh. I’ve never received a comment card or had a conversations where someone was complaining about all the new songs or asking when we would play their songs. That in itself is weird for most Worship Leaders.
- We don’t typically teach songs. At Journey, since new songs are expected, we rarely teach them. I know this is against one of the key points I mentioned earlier, but since new songs are expected, making a big deal of a new song goes against our culture. Therefore, we don’t interrupt the natural flow of a set in a service to point out that a song is new.
Finding the right balance of these ingredients is less a science and more an art.
Sometimes you’ll want to lead your congregation as you hope they will be, by introducing songs they may not be totally ready for. Other times you might have a season where you won’t introduce any new songs and will ride familiar and comfortable songs.
The best advice out of these posts may be this: pray for insight and wisdom. We may be good at what we do, but we have access to the One who knows the hearts and minds in our church. While we might have some great songs lined up or a sophisticated strategy ready to go, but without divine guidance, we’re going nowhere.