Picking a good set

StageWithGuitarPicking a set is one of those things I love and hate as a leader. Sometimes I have a song in mind I’ve been waiting to do, sometimes nothing sounds right, but it’s often somewhere in between.
Usually it starts with having a good song filter, and that comes down to these questions:

  1. What do I want the set to feel like as a whole? Does it seem like an upbeat week? A quiet, reflective week? A week to pour our my heart, good bad and ugly? Does the song I’m looking at fit that feel?
  2. Is there continuity between this song and the rest of this set with regard to flow of the service or meeting? Can it be played in a key that fits and makes for smooth transitions?
  3. Is a song I’m choosing a good song? Meaning, does it stick in my head? Is the melody actually good and desirable in some way? This does not mean happy or sunny necessarily, just its ability to be considered a “good” song. I realize this may seem arbitrary and completely subjective, but it’s not – at least not completely. In other words, does the melody speak to me and connect with my heart?
  4. Can I and the band play it? Not everyone on the team is at the same skill level, and I myself am not as skilled as others might be. If every song involves bar chords sliding up and down the fret board, my hand will probably cramp before one song is over.
  5. Are the lyrics actually theologically sound, to the best of my knowledge? This one can be tricky, I think, but again, ask yourself, do the words really reflect God’s heart as you best understand Him?
  6. Are the lyrics personal? In other words, are they about my relationship with God and promoting that? I’ve heard plenty of complaint over the years about “girly” worship songs, and I tend to think that complaint is way over-blown. If you want to know how personal and intimate and “girly” God can be, try reading the book of Hosea a few times through.

Whether you start with individual songs or with the set as a whole, you need to give some thought to the set as well. It helps me to think through these questions too:

  1. Assuming this is a Sunday morning, if I know something about the theme of the sermon, I try to keep that in mind, at least a little bit. Honestly though, I usually don’t know, and knowing doesn’t always help anyway.
  2. If I’m talking to God about the set, what do I think he’s saying about the feel of it? Usually, this gets me matched up to the set in a way I obviously didn’t plan. I like this way better and I think it’s the better way anyway. The most I can take credit for is listening to and following Him the best I know how, which is kind of the point, right?
  3. If I need to adjust anything when we get there, do I have a backup plan? This usually involves cutting a song or sometimes rearranging the set.
  4. Are the songs arranged in a way that fits the flow of service? For instance, at my church on a Sunday, it’s usually like this: 1 song opens up, usually mostly upbeat, then announcements, then sermon, then we get called back up to play, but we have prayer ministry time up front, so the next 1-2 songs are softer and more reflective to allow good prayer time. Then we have 2-3 more songs, and usually gradually move toward more upbeat and celebratory to close the morning, though not always.

Those are really the most important things I can think of when it comes to picking a set.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? How do you pick your own sets?