What I Need From A Worship Record…

I listen to a lot of worship music.

Primarily, I listen to worship music because I love it, but there’s also the added element of my job. Find music for congregational singing is a big part of my job.

And while I’ll be the first to celebrate all of the variety evident in today’s worship offerings (including that amazing archival benefits of the internet,) I gotta’ say I’m noticing that most of the records I hear lack a few important things that I need for my ministry. I’m not saying that these CDs are evil or wrong in their approach…but they do feel…unbalanced.

If you’re a worship leader, you may identify with this list. Or you may have something to add of your own!

  1. VARIETY. I lead people 52 Sundays, almost as many Wednesday nights and lots of random other special events every year. I may like listening to a CD where all 13 songs are about God’s love, but that’s not a resource for my church. Yes, we sing about God’s love…but we sing about a lot of other stuff, too. I’m not much of a skeptic, but with each one-dimensional project I hear, I become more convinced that worship CDs have shifted from being a resource to simply entertaining and inspiring. We need balance.
  2. NORMALCY. I love a weird violin-run-through-an-overdrive-pedal-on-top-of-udu-loop as much as the next guy, but what about just starting a song normal…like actual praise teams do? How about ending on the I chord now and again? I don’t want to come off as simple-minded or inconsiderate of art, but I don’t know that I’ve added a “modern” worship song in the last year that I didn’t have to adapt for my team. I don’t mind doing it – but it’s a disturbing trend to see worship records sounding more like guys locked in a studio that folks leading a congregation.
  3. SOMEBODY ELSE. With music sales declining, I know that marketing is becoming much more important. If I’m shopping for a record, I love it when the marketing includes folks from within the congregation talking about what a song has meant to them. Sadly, online worship marketing usually consists of the artists telling me how it’s not about him…while superimposed over a 2 minute video clip…of him…on a stage…in front of thousands. I realize that personality plays a part in what we do, but I love it when I can get a sense of how these songs work in the day-to-day lives of the church where the songs have come alive.

What else? What do YOU need from a worship record?

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11 comments

  1. Johnny!

    I need reverent, God-honoring songs that our people can sing. There's not a terribly large selection of those from which to choose, once one really digs into those terms.

  2. Spence Peppard

    Worship music is really not for my ears. Worship is to be given to God, so for me to give the top ten things I'd like to hear from a worship CD seems counterintuitive.

  3. Todd Wright

    That's a good point, Spence, but as worship leaders, we have a responsibility to lead our people well.I don't think there's anything wrong with knowing the sorts of things that help us find the type of songs Johnny has mentioned as well as the elements I've described.

  4. Marina

    I miss some happy songs, like 'the happy song', songs on which you can dance. Songs that say, just like the Psalms, Lord, life sucks at the moment, but I'm trusting you. Songs to sing when someone gets babtised, songs about 'please forgive my sins'. It's true what Spence said, but i want to sing for God a song that i can sing with my heart and fits in that moment. Why would I sing:Lord you're beautiful, when i'm shouting inside 'WHY did you let this or that happen?! But i want to trust you.' If i did so, i would be faking the Lord. (sorry for my poor English, i'm dutch)

  5. pizzahead

    awesome lyrics are really important, but that isn't enough. Otherwise we would be singing many of the hymns that have been handed down to us through the bounty of church history. There are many many examples there of awesome lyrics, and we do still sing them, but we also want awesome melodies that bless the awesome lyrics with a joy you just have to sing. And we want to be able to play them on an acoustic guitar, an organ, a piano, or even a ukelele, in churches that have less than 100 members, and hearing aids.

  6. Zack

    I am currently working on an acoustic worship album…with the goal of simplicity in mind…we have plenty of hillsong and need songs that are accessible, playable and worshipful that a smaller team.can pull of well…that includes just a guitar and vox or just piano or a layer of these and u can dream the rest with your team…

  7. Zack

    I am currently working on an acoustic worship album with simplicity in mind..we have plenty of hillsongs gateways and Passion albums…what I see is a lot of small.churches struggling to duplicate these large productions… by releasing things that small worship teams can accomplish as well as just a guitar and a vocal…Paul Blanche does this well lyricly…but even the music is still.produced…just a thought…

  8. Spence

    This is slightly away from your question about our needs from a worship record, but If I had to critique modern praise and worship, I'd tell young leaders:#1. Try playing with the delay off once in a while.#2. You may think the song needs to drag on for 4 extra minutes, but the lady that just collapsed on the 3rd row may disagree.#3. If it's hard for you to sing, it's going to be disastrous for the congregation. #4. Your vocal range is not linear to the tightness of your jeans.#5. Watch to crowd. If they haven't sang along in a while, you might need rethink your setlist.

  9. Todd Agnew

    Thanks for your post. It made me think and made me laugh. I love the overdriven-violin-over-udu-loop. I think I'll use that on the next record. And I agree. It does seem timely. I think God may be stirring the hearts of His people.

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