Evaluating new worship songs for congregational singing is a never ending job. Every day more great songs and lots of mediocre ones are being written, and worship leaders have to sort through them all.
My process of looking for new congregational songs contains two simultaneous processes. For me to present a song to our senior pastor for consideration it has to pass muster on a Quality Evaluation and a Fit Evaluation.
Quality Evaluation is examining the craft of a song from the lyrics to the harmonies. Fit Evaluation is deciding whether or not a song is appropriate for our particular church, given our history, culture, background, and so forth.
For this post let’s take a look at the Quality Evaluation. I will address the Fit Evaluation in a following post.
In a Quality Evaluation I look for five things:
- Great Lyrics. Theologically sound and emotionally gripping. Grammatically clear. There is some give and take in quality between elements of a song, but certain things, such as the theology of the lyrics, must never be compromised.
- Great Melody. Natural phrasing, reasonable range, fits the text well.
- Great Harmony. The harmony does not need to be complex; it simply needs to take us somewhere. The harmony needs to be married well with the text, just like the melody.
- Great Rhythm. What is the overriding rhythm to this song? Does it stick in your head and your gut? Does it match the mood of the text?
- Great Hook. A memorable song has a great musical gesture, whether that gesture is in the introduction, the melody, or some instrumental interlude somewhere in the song. Some songs can survive without a great hook if all the other elements are excellent.
Once a song passes muster on these five points you can then do a Fit Evaluation. We will take a look at that process in a later post.
Browse through your songlist (if you are a worship leader) and see how the songs measure up in these five areas. If you are comfortable with it, please share the results and your action plan with us.