Crafting Quality Worship


Crafting a quality worship set list is no simple task. It takes time, prayer and planning to be done in a way that honors our Lord. It can also provide an intellectual and emotional link to the pastoral sermon that follows. Sure, you can throw some songs together and hope for the best, but that’s not what I’d recommend. What does it say about your leadership if you don’t put in a whole-hearted effort to craft the best worship set possible? Over the years, I’ve learned much about what you may want to pursue when planning a worship set. I’ve also compiled a list of resources to help you save time and plan more effectively. Let’s dive in.



I’ve learned to avoid picking random songs. So, let’s talk about worship flow and how to create it. The main idea relates to the speed, intensity, and feel of each song and matching songs that transition well together. For instance, you have a four song worship set and you start with the most upbeat, continue into two mid-tempo songs, and end on a powerful ballad. You can also do that same set in reverse order to end on a high note. Think of the feel through the worship set as a smooth sloping curve. We want to avoid jarring transitions; these simply create distractions and a disconnect with the congregation. Only make a jarring transition when you need to make a point- and only when it is honoring to God as a meaningful part of the service.


Every song has at least one theme integrated with the lyrics. Some have many; others have only one. Worship songs tend to be based directly on scripture. Use this to your advantage during the planning phase. Talk to your pastor and get some scripture from the sermon. Use that information to find songs with a theme that matches up. While it is not always possible to have every song align perfectly with the sermon, you can often get very close and should at least attempt to do so. I like to use a website with a worship song and scripture database, – this site is extremely handy to find popular songs by theme. I use it for nearly every worship set I plan.

3. KEY

This part is a bit more technical, but extremely important. Take some time to be intentional with each song’s key. A simple rule of thumb is to lower the key about one whole step from what the popular worship leaders sing the song at on the recordings. Please bear in mind, this is a overly-board rule and you need to sing through the song in different keys to find one that will work well with your congregation. Also consider songs that are adjacent in the worship set- if they are only a half-step or a whole-step apart, you may want to place them both in a middle-ground key to make the transition between them smoother. As for sing-ability, hymns were written for four-part harmonies; worship songs were written with a single melody and tight harmony. That means the margin for error is much smaller with worship songs. Run through the songs with friends and family beforehand. Take notes after each service and adjust keys if needed to encourage more participation. I like to use another free website to transpose MP3s and charts quickly and easily during this process, – this site is offered free by the folks who run


Give your team of musicians and vocalists a fighting chance. Begin planning a few weeks ahead and get charts and rehearsal MP3s to the team as soon as possible. Then spend time dialoguing with each member about rehearsing. Instead of cramming at the last minute, encourage them to take 15-20 minutes per day to listen through each song and make notes. If you need them to focus on a specific part (guitar solo, harmony, etc.), tell them in detail and offer to walk them through it. Most worship bands are built with volunteers. So, as their leader, give them every advantage you can. They will thank you for it! I prefer to use the cloud-based online planning and organizational site, Jeff Berg and his team consistently knock it out of the park with this site and they are always improving the experience. There is a free version for use with 1 service and up to 10 people- perfect for a small church team.


Playing out a hymnal is tough for most worship bands. These days, most folks don’t read music and will go cross-eyed when they look at a hymnal from a church pew. This has led to many worship bands avoiding hymns. It’s time for that to change. I’m a firm believer in using hymns in my worship sets– even if it’s only one per worship set. They are packed with great theology and they usually encourage participation due to high familiarity. Many worship leaders have done versions of hymns for bands. I’ve also started offering my own arrangements of popular hymns here at


Put the songs in an order that flows naturally, find songs with a theme that matches the sermon of the day, pick a key that everyone can sing easily, rehearse the team well, and beef up your set with hymns. Easy. Done. And don’t forget to prayerfully consider each and every song choice! Put these tips to good use in your next service and I guarantee you will notice a positive improvement!

1 Chronicles 16:23-31 (NIV): Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place. Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength, ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”



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Adam Layne Fisher

Adam is a worship leader, producer, and songwriter with a passion for bringing hymns to today’s church. He serves full-time as the Non-Traditional Worship Leader at Buncombe Street United Methodist Church. You can support his ministry by purchasing his full-length worship album on iTunesSpotifyAmazon and other online retailers.

If you’d like to learn more about Adam, check out his personal blog:

Adam Layne Fisher