Set Lists: What’s Your Point?

Andrew Stanley —  April 30, 2013 — 1 Comment

Flow Header

A Set List …
It can flow places you never thought it would go.
It can be just as much of a teaching moment as the message or sermon.
It can grab the attention of even the hardest of hearts.
It can determine what people are thinking about when they leave their seat.
It can make or break the flow in the service.
It can be a determining factor of whether or not someone comes back next week.

Am I putting too much emphasis on the proper development of a set list? I don’t think so.
Even the best leadership of a bad set can leave a mediocre impression.

We need to be intentional when we’re planning sets. Sometimes, they come together with ease. Sometimes, you may feel like you could have grabbed two random songs with your eyes closed, bashed them together and it would have flowed better than what you had spent two weeks planning.

I think one of the most important approaches to choosing a set list is to determine a common theme throughout the entire set. I know this may sound obvious, but we all need the reminder.

Maybe you’re planning into a theme that the teaching pastor is speaking on, or maybe you don’t know where the teaching pastor is going to go with a particular theme and all you have in regards to direction is that you need to fill 15 minutes.
Regardless of your situation, you need a theme and it needs to be clear.

You can’t really go wrong if you’re planning songs that declare truths about who God is. But, you can be intentional about focusing in on one characteristic rather than attempting to give a broad sweep of many different characteristics.

Let’s take a deeper look into this …

I’ve chosen three songs that have strong themes in and of themselves:
Great is Thy Faithfulness – Self explanatory. A song that declares God’s faithfulness in all elements of life (highs & lows, creation, etc).
God is Able – A song declaring that “God is able” and victorious over death.
Amazing Grace – There is grace, it’s amazing, and available for each of us.

A surface look at these songs, they’re not the most connected songs in the world.
However, with a deeper look at these songs, one could easily lead through the connection that God’s faithfulness was demonstrated on the cross that He overcame, and that is the greatest offer of Grace we can know. But, the leadership through the set needs to be intentional.

The themes of the songs that you sing may not be as obvious to people as they are to you. Remember, you’ve spent time planning and rehearsing for this set. The people you’re leading often get one chance to sing a verse that contains the theme you might be hinging your entire set list on.

The themes of the songs that you sing may not be as obvious to people as they are to you.

Just playing the songs from the beginning to the end and then starting the next song may not be your most powerful approach to development of the theme through the set.  So remember, we need to be intentional and clear.

The intentional leadership through the set may come in the form of saying something quickly between songs, reading a scripture that relates to the direction you’re flowing, saying a prayer that refocuses people’s attention, or maybe you can find a way to let the songs speak for themselves …

For example, this coming Sunday, I have “In Christ Alone” flowing into “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)“.
The last stanza of “In Christ Alone” is:

No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand.
‘Till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.

The first line of “Amazing Grace” is:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me

I could leave it like that without having to say much, but people might not grasp the connection I’m trying to make.  Now, if I jumped straight into the chorus of Amazing Grace from In Christ Alone, then people would literally have to be asleep to miss the thematic flow:

No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand.
‘Till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.

My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Saviour has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing Grace

Keeping the songs in the same key, also knowing that their tempos are almost identical, people might not even notice that we’ve switched songs. One less distraction, and a powerful message delivered.

Be intentional and hammer home your theme, even if that means breaking up songs and flowing through your set in unconventional ways!

Andrew Stanley

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  1. Dissecting A Worship Setlist | Worship Links - April 30, 2013

    […] Andrew Stanley at Amplify has taken a set list and really broken it down for us. He lists three of the songs in the set and explains how they link up thematically. He even […]

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