Where does one find music for worship? Traditional Worship services have the handy-dandy hymnal and a history of music to choose from. Organists have catalogs of music from which they have spent a lifetime learning.
But the music leader in Contemporary Worship, where do you discover it, and where do you find it?
The radio. Intentionally listening to Christian radio is a great place to start. Listening for songs that are more than catchy, sing-able singles; but for songs that capture your soul, and are appropriate for congregational singing. I often turn on the radio while driving around town and find myself drawn into a song, rushing to find a pen and pencil to write down the song (though that may be obsolete with Shazam). Then search for the music online or in local stores. Often a book of piano/guitar/vocal exists in the key performed. The only down side with this is that the keys may not work, and you are working out of piano books. But these books are great because the keys licks and harmonies are often written out.
Another great resource is CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International). Obtaining a CCLI license is essential to any church, but that is for another blog… When buying into a Premium CCLI License a church then can log-in to SongSelect.com. This is a great site that provides lyrics, lead sheets, chord sheets, and hymn sheets for hundreds of thousands of songs. They also do a great job of listing popular downloads where you can see if things are rising up the charts that may work in your congregation. With the “Top 100” list music leaders can just keep an eye out for something new that is “climbing the charts.” Also songs will be spotlighted and it is a great place to look through your favorite composer’s catalouge; I have found many songs doing this. Songs that don’t get airplay, or are even recorded but have been true songs of worship. Here’s the link: http://www.ccli.com/
Worship Leader Magazine. I was turned onto this publication by a colleague and have found it to be invaluable. It is a great magazine for Praise & Worship leaders and those who work in the church with an interest in Contemporary Worship. Each issue has an overall theme and great articles that are intended for everyone from the musical novice to expert, experienced contemporary worshiper to a minister thinking about starting one. Regarding music it has a sampler CD of music that has yet to hit the masses! Also it gives the music (lead & chord sheets, now in three keys), lyrics, MediaShout files, PowerPoints, as well as the MP3s. Here is the link: http://www.worshipleader.com/
Write. Songwriting may or may not be your gift, but I always encourage the writing of new songs for worship. This can be an awesome way to bring your music team together on a whole new level, and truly bring an offering to worship. If songwriting is not your bag, then I still encourage the process. In one of my theory classes the professor told of a composer (I can’t remember exactly, but I think it was Bartok) who would write everyday, regardless of inspiration or need to write. He felt the art of writing music to also be a discipline, and the writing of songs for worship can be a great spiritual discipline. These do not need to be great anthems of worship, they could be the smallest melody, or most simple song of praise.
Finally, the HYMNAL! You know what I’m talking about, that old inch and a half thick book contemporary folks threw away, right? Our hymns should not simply be abandoned for the latest hit single from Christian radio, the songs in the hymnal have spoken truths for generations – and will for many to come. Music leaders must try to rework these songs for their worship styles. I feel that David Crowder does a great job rearranging the “old hymns” for today’s contemporary worship. Also I believe simply playing a hymn with the instrumentation available to you will bring new life to it, everything does not need to be “rocked out.”
Through all of this one must make sure the search is for songs to be a part of worship. There is much out there that could be called “Christian Entertainment,” (I heard Don Moen use this term on morning on the drive to church, perfect description for) music that is written, published, performed, produced, & broadcast by Christians. Yet that alone does not qualify it as music for worship. What should qualify music for worship is for another blog…
And good luck in the eternal quest for music for worship!