Lessons from Leading Praise: More than Words

I have learned an important lesson regarding choosing praise sets – though the words are very, very important, I need to think about more than just the words when I prepare a set.

Potential problems that can happen if I only think about the words:

1) a fun rock-style song followed by a Celtic-style song followed by a somber hymn

2) 3 or 4 songs that are all difficult to play and all the instrumentalists (including myself) are wondering why we decided to play so many difficult songs at one time

3) 3 or 4 really boring sounding songs – words might be great, but everyone wants to go to sleep

Those are just some examples. I think this lesson became really clear for me one Sunday during run-through when we were working on “In Christ Alone” – the one that goes – “In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song…” As we were practicing I just realized, “um, this song is kind of difficult to play. Are we together or all off-beat? Do we have any dynamics going on? Etc.” And I just felt like, “wow, I hope we make it through today’s set.”

So, after that weekend, as much as I might really like the lyrics of a song, I look at the bigger picture and look at other factors – how it sounds musically, how it will be for us instrumentally, how it fits with the other songs, etc.

Susan IskandarGracepoint Hsinchu Taiwan Worship Leader

    • Dom
    • June 15th, 2009

    Yep, there are a lot of considerations I learned as well, including the key of the song, the mood of a song, and how transitions work between songs. We’ve come to the conclusion that the content of a song is crucial for closing songs after the message, as it should reflect the spirit of the message. But praise sets preceding the message don’t necessarily need to be entirely content-driven. Sometimes we just want to wake people up and get them energized.

  1. this is very true.. choosing a set is not easy! sometimes you have to choose one over the other (words and music/playability) but sometimes you find the perfect song! sometimes you love the song but it doesn’t really flow musically with the set.. etc etc

    with home church now.. it’s just me on the guitar and franklin on the bass at SFSU. and so some songs, even if we can play it and the words are good… it’s hard to sustain without drums or some other type of instrumental dynamics. a song like “Saviour King” for example.. hard to sustain on acoustic alone…

    But we keep learning as we go!

  2. Oh, forgot to mention, check out Steve (aka: Esteban) singing “What Can I bring” at Will and Andrea’s wedding ceremony. The song was changed at the last minute but you can’t tell.. great job Steve! An SF brother who does not show a wide range of emotions told me he was moved to tears.


    You can also find Kevin, Steve and the rest of their peers on our “Fun Stuff” page doing their song and dance for the reception. It was very good!

    • janice
    • June 16th, 2009


    Thanks for the post. Yea this is so true… As Eileen meniontioned, with the new home church setting, many of us have been praising God with just 1-3 instruments… In our group, we have Chris Lee on the guitar and the rest of us sing… and we’ve been singing oldies like “Draw me closer,” “Lord, I give you my heart”… it feels old, but I like the cozy and intimate praise/worship/service feel. 🙂

    We miss you, Susan!

    • Dennis
    • June 16th, 2009

    thanks suse for your words on this point.

  3. Gosh, but I REALLY like “In Christ Alone.” Can’t we just sing it every week? 🙂

    • Hartie
    • June 16th, 2009

    I agree Susan! Rock on! Or should I say… “Jesus Rocks!”

  4. susan and all past, present, and future praise leaders –

    thank you! to me, it’s all good! i’m always blessed by praise, but being here in gracepoint hsinchu, we’ve had our fun and awkward moments, and through that, me as a musically untalented and ignorant person, came to see the labor and hard work it takes to choose a set and lead praise!

    • Jasper Cheng
    • June 17th, 2009

    Hey Susan,

    Interesting points, thanks for the post. Keep us updated on life as our Taiwanese praise leader, actually you’re the only sister praise leader too, right?


    • Franklin
    • June 17th, 2009

    That’s actually a really good point, Susan. There are so many factors to consider, even if they might seem superficial at first. But part of leading worship is creating that worshipful atmosphere and elements like energy and liveliness are important. Now I know why Eileen might pick a seemingly random song to lead the set… =)

    • Myra
    • June 19th, 2009

    wow, i never knew… i never knew.. thanks so much for all the praise team’s hard work.

    • Paul
    • June 24th, 2009

    Thanks for sharing, I can totally imagine the scene 🙂

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