Worship Leaders: Our Songs Aren’t Good Enough

I’m not a full time worship pastor, and as such I don’t typically begin the song selection process for the following Sunday until mid-week. But when I do look at the list of possible candidates, I’m frustrated. I would be thrilled if I could find 40 excellent non-hymn songs that are very strong both lyrically and musically – the kind that will still be sung regularly even 10 years from now. But I find only a handful of really solid ones, and I’m not convinced most of those will be around that long.

And I’ve become disillusioned with many hymns. When I started leading worship again last November, for the second time in my life (the first was 4 years ago, lasting 5 months), I felt my “ace in the hole” was the hymns. And since I’m in a small church in a rural community, I figured if we sang 6 songs each week, it would be three hymns and three contemporary songs/hymns.

Upon examining the 50 or so strongest hymns more closely, I’ve discovered many if not most of them have flaws that I hadn’t taken real notice of previously – usually related to the lyrics. Sometimes it works to sing one or two verses of a well known hymn, but the other verses just don’t cut it. Others that I would have assumed we would sing are just not that good when viewed objectively.

Of course this is my opinion, not shared by all, but I doubt I’ll change my mind. I certainly hope I come to terms with the repertoire we have to choose from down the road, and I keep searching for new songs that will stick. But I find myself constantly having to compromise when forming the song list for the next Sunday.

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4 Responses to Worship Leaders: Our Songs Aren’t Good Enough

  1. Carmen Carrion says:

    Wow! You want 40 of them!? I think the only solution is to write your own. Of course some of the benefit of certain music to certain people is that it’s familiar and takes them back to a place of meaning in their past. I agree with only using lyrics that are excellent in every way. And I am ready for something more meaningful than the endless vain repetitions of so much of our church music these days (yes, that means even a few of the hymns). The music itself is so largely a thing of taste but using more than the I, IV and V7 chords and, again, having more than one line of melody that’s repeated over and over would sure be nice.

    Not to dis all church music. There are some that really speak to me but, again, it’s probably just because it takes me to a certain time or place, or speaks to a felt need in me. One more thing in my rant – why can’t we have written music to look at. Is it any wonder so few kids are learning to read music these days – they rarely, if ever, see it. When I’m learning something new I like to have some idea of whether it’s even or odd (in 3s), going up or going down. OK, I’m off my soap box now.

  2. Paul Race says:


    I wish I had your problem. At least you have an ear, and a sense of why certain songs work together and others don’t, and some don’t work at all. That’s apparently a rare gift among some of the worship leaders I know. :-(

    I used to collect hymnals and for every gem I found, I would find hundreds that had gone out of use for good reason. :-(

    But even more disturbing is fellows with PAID positions that can’t tell which songs are going to have the effect of piping cloroform into the room, or worse. Contemporary AND traditional, lest we blame one genre over the other.

    But the gems are out there. And if you can’t find enough, get together with Rod and write some more. :-)

    God bless – Paul

    • admin says:

      Your “piping cloroform into the room” comment is one of the funniest things I’ve read this week.

      I wish it were as simple as getting together with Rod and writing some. If it was easier to write great songs, more people would be doing it. The sad thing to me is to think there are really good writers who, if they gave more attention to each song, might give us better ones, but for various reasons don’t take the time to really craft their songs like they could.

  3. Rachel says:

    Perhaps they/we know don’t better or don’t know how to craft songs better. And let’s face it, the contemporary worship music industry is not about taking your time in one’s craft … it’s much more about cranking out product to put on the shelves in order to pad the pocketbooks.

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