Why Your Worship Set Doesn’t Flow (and how to fix it!)

For the last few weeks we’ve been talking about the importance of developing your Music Plan… Specifically the FIVE QUESTIONS you should ask each week in preparing your worship set.

And today, we’re going to talk about one of the most important elements of your music plan — one that we ALL DO EVERY WEEK.

But first . . . a quick reminder that selecting songs is only part of the music plan you need to build each week.

We’re talking about creating a plan for how the music that you have selected is going to fit into the overall flow of the worship order, help create moments of life transformation, empower members of your team to step up to new levels of leading, and engage your congregation in passionate worship.

We’ve already hit on three of these BIG IDEAS in this series, but today, I want to share with you three important steps to answer question #4:


Seems like a simple enough question, but if you’re like me you’ve been in worship environments with worship leaders who do a great job creating the order (or flow) of the worship set. And you’ve been in worship environments where you’re pretty sure the worship leader picked the order of songs by throwing darts at a board and seeing what song titles he hit first.

Our most basic role as worship leaders is to help people have a life-changing encounter with God through worship. The key word may very well be “Help”.

We certainly can’t “make” that encounter happen (that’s not our job and we couldn’t do it if we wanted to!), but we can definitely “make people miss” the encounter if the worship set energy is up and down, the themes of the songs change like the wind, and we have a tri-tone key change from song to song.

It’s not impossible to worship God in such a distracting environment, but let’s face it . . . we can make it hard on people if we don’t create the right flow in our worship set.

Years ago we developed 9 Core Values for music planning here at The Journey, with the direct aim of minimizing the distractions in worship, and helping people really enter into God’s presence. And when it comes to creating the right flow, these 3 values specifically help our team develop the right worship set order . . .

#1 – Start Big — End Big. At The Journey we like to start the service off with a big, energetic song. The reason… you’d be surprised by how many people in the service are thinking about almost anything EXCEPT worship when the service begins.

They just finished getting their kids dressed and in the car, they barely had time to eat breakfast and they’re running late. Trust me, when they walk in your sanctuary, they’re scattered. For us, the big opening song gets them up and gets them clapping.
While clapping isn’t necessarily a deep act of worship (and in your church maybe you don’t clap), here’s what I’ve found: When the congregation is distracted, if you can get them engaged physically, then they’ll soon start singing along and engage mentally. And when they engage mentally and physically, they are well on their way to engaging spiritually.

So we start big, but we also end the set with an energetic song, too because . . . well . . . that’s how our Teaching Pastors like to begin the message.

Now – I’m not saying that YOU have to Start Big and End Big. But I am saying that you should think through the “how’s and why’s” of the opening and closing songs in your worship set.

#2 – Create Musical Flow.
If you want to break all the momentum you’ve built in a worship set and snap people our of their encounter with God, then be sure to stop between every song, talk a lot, and never ever do any songs in relatively close keys.

OK – of course that’s not what we want, so as you create your song flow remember…

Don’t stop after every song. Don’t talk after every song (let the pastor preach… keep your spoken parts to a minimum). Try do songs that are easy to modulate to (or are in similar keys). For example… it’s easy to get from G to D, or from E to B. It’s hard work to get from C to F# (think of those British ambulance sirens and that’s the interval from C to F#).

#3 – Create Thematic Flow. Musical flow is important, but so is Thematic Flow. If your pastor is teaching on Grace, and your worship set includes a song about Grace spend some time on that. Do 2-3 songs that develop the Grace theme. This will help your congregation open the “Grace File” in their minds… they’ll be ready to hear about Grace when the pastor begins the message.

But if your pastor teaches on grace and you do five songs on five different themes, you haven’t done anything to help the congregation prepare for the teaching of God’s Word.

So – consider how you open and close your set, keep the songs flowing musically, and take time to develop the theme of the day without bouncing from topic to topic, and you’re well on your way to creating an order of worship that engages your congregation, and minimizes distractions.