I attended a night of worship and it made me think about the amount of songs in a worship set list.

The band did about 9 songs that night and I found it to be a bit tiring by the end – and I wasn’t even part of the worship team. If I felt this way as a worship leader, I wonder how non-musicians feel about a longer set list.

In the Worship Leaders + Facebook group, worship leaders often post their set list for the upcoming Sunday. The number of songs range from 3 to 7.

Although I don’t believe there is a ‘perfect’ amount of songs for a worship set list, I have been using 3 for the past several years and it works really well.

There was a time when I would always plan a 4-5 song set list. My reasoning was because other worship leaders were doing the same.

Then, my worship team absorbed a slew of new members all at once and I noticed they were struggling to pull together the songs every week. They were fighting their way through the set and didn’t seem to be enjoying it at all.

Something needed to change.

A shorter set list helps the worship team relax.

It is important that the worship team enjoy what they are doing, whether they are paid or not. Otherwise, the team culture is a nightmare and the congregation can sense it. Playing 4+ songs each week may not be a big deal for your veteran team member (because they have already played the songs over and over), but what about the new guy?

When you bring on a new worship team member, there is a good chance that every song on the set list will be brand new to them every week, at least for a few months. When working with volunteers, they probably also have a full-time job and a family to take care of. Expecting them to learn 4+ songs is stressful.

In short, a stressed out team cannot effectively lead worship. So, it is our job as worship leaders to do what we can not only to eliminate our own stress, but the team’s as well.

You might also enjoy: 3 Steps to Successfully Add New Worship Team Members

A shorter set list leaves the congregation hungry for more.

As a worship leader, it is easy to think that worship is the really the only thing going on each Sunday. The message afterwards is just something that has to be done, right?

Well, I am not afraid to admit that I used to think that way. My focus was on worship and I would not really even listen to the pastor while he was preaching. I was too busy thinking about what had just happened or what we were going to do different next week.

Then, I went to Rhema Bible Training College. I found out that the Word of God is the most important thing not only on Sunday mornings, but in our every day life.

Attending Bible school placed a hunger in me for the Word and brought everything into the right perspective. While we worship, we should be proclaiming the Word of God and also preparing for the Word to go forth from the pastor without hindrance.

After 3 songs, the congregation is still hungry for more. This keeps their heart open to receive the Word from your pastor. When you choose a longer set list, it can wear the congregation out. Then, when the pastor takes the stage, all they can think about is how tired they are and what’s for lunch.

A shorter set list allows worship to ‘breathe’.

Worship leaders like to plan out every moment. This may be the reason we plan a longer set list – to completely fill the time that has been allotted for worship in the service. After all, there is no telling what might happen if we leave some blank space!

Don’t get me wrong – planning is a good thing. Considering the Holy Spirit knows exactly what is going to happen at the upcoming service, I believe He is with us as we plan.

However, the Holy Spirit also likes to throw a surprise here and there. This is the beauty of serving God. His love is so vast! And, just like spontaneity is enjoyable in dating and marriage, it is also enjoyable as we serve God (if we let it).

So, leave some space in your worship time to let the Holy Spirit move. Simply keep playing through a simple chord sequence, shut your eyes and focus on Him. Don’t think about the mistake you just made or the next step in the service. Take a moment to breathe and let the Holy Spirit surprise you.

Bonus: 3-Song Set List Ideas

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About the Author

Kade Young

Kade Young brought Collaborate Worship into existence with a dream of helping worship leaders around the world fulfill their calling with excellence. He has been leading worship since 2005, is a graduate of Rhema Bible Training College, and currently the worship leader at NoLimits Church in Owasso, Oklahoma.