At our most recent Magnify hangout, the topic of discussion was song selection. And, as invariably happens, our minds turned to food!
In some ways, thinking about song selection is like thinking about preparing a meal - considering the ingredients that we'll bring together in a dish to nourish us and satisfy our tastebuds. As we gather together around God's word we want to our meals of singing to be full of rich biblical and theological substance. We want to give thought to how our songs might complement and enhance the other elements of the service - how our songs might helpfully open up or respond to the readings, liturgy or preaching. And we want to intentionally think about the contrasts and balance of the service - that as we rehearse the gospel story, our songs can help us move through contrasting moments of praise and wonder, humility and repentance, brokenness and assurance.
And like our daily meals, the need to think through weekly service song selection is constantly in front of us - the next meal is never far away!
But like our eating habits, how often do we take the opportunity to step back from the 'meal by meal' urgency and take time to consider our diet of singing - the cumulative impact of these meals? When we look at the songs we choose over the spread of a few months, do any excesses or deficiencies become evident? Are there themes or topics that are underrepresented? And how well do our songs help encourage particular "church health" goals or outcomes? For example, at EV we're keen to intentionally work on nurturing an engaged and expectant culture of singing in our gatherings - how well do our songs, viewed over a season, help foster this?
In our hangout, we worked at refining a 'song auditing' tool that we'd love to share with you and try together. We're by no means suggesting this is a silver bullet solution...we're going to give it a go too and see how helpful it is!
The first step is to pass each song in your song bank through this list of questions, so you've got a record of the different themes they cover, and where they sit in regards to certain balances and biases. We've also included a section that helps us discern how well the songs help us build towards certain magnification outcomes, such as congregational engagement. You'll end up with a spreadsheet that shows these results for all your songs.
The next step would be to take pair these results with the records of which songs you've used in the last term...and how many times you've sung them. For example, we use planning centre online for our services, which allows you to produce song reports for time periods.
Then find someone who's good with databases and graphs and stuff to weave their magic over it all and present you with a report that hopefully will help you articulate some strengths, weaknesses, balances and biases in the songs you've been singing in the last term. With this kind of information at hand, you can intentionally work towards addressing issues or balances as you move forward.
We'd love to hear about how this tool works for you. Are there elements that don't make sense? How will you change it to suit your church's outcomes / goals? How would you improve it? Comment here to join the conversation.