The Power of a Playlist

May 1st, 2013
Image © by Aka Hige | Flickr | Used under Creative Commons license.

Remember the days when you heard a song on the radio that you loved and so you went to the store and bought that compact disc? (Yes - the days when CD’s were your only option for owning music?) And you would put that CD in the player and go straight to the track of the song you loved and you would listen to it over and over again. At some point, maybe you would listen to the whole lineup of songs and find another one you liked. Usually there were more than a few that you didn’t care for, but you were stuck with them, so you tolerated listening to them. After all, you paid for them.

iTunes changed all that. Now you only buy a song you love. You never, ever have to even listen to a song you don’t like. You make a playlist of your favorites. And when your favorites change, you change the playlist. It’s easy. And if you don’t want to buy any songs at all, you can tune into iHeartRadio and design your own station. No need to tolerate songs you don’t like when you can have absolute satisfaction with your favorites.

My Favorites Versus Your Favorites

Though these are technological advances that are enjoyed by many, it is worth noting how this has impacted corporate worship gatherings in the church. The “worship war” as it has been called, used to be generally “traditional” versus “contemporary”. But now it is plural: “wars.” It is “my favorites” versus “your favorites” and there aren’t just two camps in the war; every worshipper has their own camp. If the worship band plays your favorite song, worship is really good that day. If they don’t, worship was not as good as usual. If they play your favorite, you easily engage. If they play someone else’s favorite, “I just couldn’t get into it, today” you say. This lack of tolerance has impacted the participation and appreciation of corporate worship. People, worship leaders included, have lost the fact that God is the sole focus of the music set and time spent together; people have forgotten the purpose of gathering in his name, to give Him glory. We know the saying “It’s not about us,” but sometimes we still act like it is.

Our Playlist

People need to be led back to what it means to worship as one body. And if part of worship is going to be singing together, then we need to get everyone on the same page. It is hard to go against the culture of “personalization” that has been described here, but there is a possible solution. Why can’t a church have its own playlist? These are OUR favorite songs. These are the songs WE sing. TOGETHER, WE sing these to worship OUR God. Practically speaking, here is how you do it: as the worship leader you already have a pool of songs that you choose from when planning music sets over a period of six weeks or so. Take that pool and call it a playlist and publicize it as such to the church. Print it in the program. Post it on the web. Get it out there so that people can download it. If people start listening to those songs over and over in their car, eventually they may sing them in the shower. And once they can belt it at the top of their lungs while they are alone, they might just start singing with the congregation because now they know the song and it is important because this song is OUR SONG to God.

Making It Happen

This can work. However, the challenge has always been that the worship leader is so busy the playlist becomes an extra step that they just can’t get to. Someone has to own it. There is probably someone you know who loves to worship through music and would give anything to be part of the worship team—except they have no musical ability. But they would love to come see you once a month for 15 minutes, get the list, adjust it from last month if needed, and work the communication channels of the church to get it in the program and on the web.

A Church Playlist might just be the tool you’re looking for. It will increase ownership and “oneness” among the people when they worship together. It will increase participation among a culture of non-singers in which we live (see “Why Aren’t People Singing?”). And imagine what it will say to guests who come to visit the church gathering: it will be tangibly evident that these people love God. What an opportunity!

“Sing a new song to the Lord!….proclaim the good news that he saves…Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.” -Psalm 96

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