Planning Seeker-Oriented Worship Sets (guest article by Jay Minor)

Today I’m posting a bit of an inside conversation from my friend and fellow minister and worship leader Jay Minor.  One of the other brothers in the LA Church was asking for advise on planning the singing for a big outreach event for our college ministries.  Jay gave him some input that was so specific and helpful I thought this would be great to share with a broader audience.  I have learned so much from Jay over the years and always value his ideas, input and example.  So, here you go: “Planning Seeker-Oriented Worship Sets” – by Jay Minor!  Feel free to add any comments on this great material…

Jay Minor

I do have some thoughts and suggestions, but do want to say they are only opinions, so please take what resonates with you. I thought the level of connection and engagement from the worship team has gotten better and better over the last few years at this event, by the way.  Great job!  

So, my thoughts…I like to look at worship sessions like this not as “music before the message.”  Rather, I look at the whole event as something that is guiding people on a journey and taking them somewhere. As such, you need to have a unified direction, and I find it helpful to have one voice leading the people through how to think and feel during the musical worship. In my opinion, that should be you. That doesn’t mean that you are leading those songs, but the lead singer is not necessarily the worship leader.  Think of it like a sermon, with songs scattered through the sermon to help accentuate and drive home the points you are trying to make.  You do the talking, you guide people in how to think and feel in between each song. You can preach, you can lead, all in 20 second sound bites, while the intro is playing, or just with some pads behind you, or with silence.  But there should never be silence between songs just because are you between songs.  IF you do that, then the point is on the songs.  The point is NOT the songs.  The point is what is happening in people’s hearts, and the songs help people to get there.  

You have to put a voice to the things that they may be feeling. Help them know what to do if they feel insecure – validate that those feelings are normal, but then give them an option of how to feel instead. Remind them of what we all have in common and can relate to – whether that be about praise (don’t you love the mountains, the beaches, chocolate, etc???) or about our need for a savior (haven’t we all felt alone at times, or haven’t we all struggled with sadness, or hopelessness?  There is an answer for that IF we will let Jesus be our strength, etc…) Don’t be afraid to give them specific instructions (everyone take a deep breath, close your eyes, give someone a high five…)  That helps them to feel like you are leading the whole church together and they are a part of it.  

Be willing to pray between songs that God will help people to leave everything outside, and through these words we are singing, that we can draw near to him and feel his presence, etc.  It doesn’t have to be an “official” prayer by someone walking out to pray (and everyone says “come on, bro!  Pray it!”)  Wrong atmosphere.  YOU are the leader, you can pray two or three times in a 30 minute worship set, as you are leading people to lay down their burdens before the Lord.  

So choose your set of songs that will take people on a journey.  Begin with the end in mind.  Where do you want people to be, and how do you want them to feel when the worship set is over?  

Choose themes and musical styles that will help to pull them in, and then open them up, and then call them higher.  This is an evangelistic night – that means the target audience is non-disciples. Choose your songs to be the most effective for them.  A non-disciple may not connect as much to songs with a lot of hymn-type lyrics.  Those are great for church services or disciple devos or worship times.  But this night should be more about the guests – so choose songs that are easier to learn and pick up.  Simpler lyrics.  That doesn’t mean shallower.  It just means simpler, with fewer religious words, and not a lot about “the blood of Jesus.”  Themes about praising God, how great he is, how much he is there for us and will help us – those are the things that you want your guests thinking about and feeling as you go through the worship time.  Do the hymns at another time. Find songs where you can even do a breakdown in the middle and vamp, then you lead people to pray, or meditate on the words, you can even read a scripture or have a spoken word piece in the middle of a song that accentuates the message of the song.  

Don’t feel like you have to include lots of different people from different ministries.  That is a good thing to do, but it is secondary to the bigger purpose.  The PRIMARY PURPOSE of the night is to help people draw near to God, so you do what will help them. IF that means that you have the same band on every song, so be it. 

Remind your worship team that this is not about them.  Don’t expect to walk out on stage and have everyone cheer for you. That’s not what this night is about. Our job is to point people to God and then get out of the way.  The ultimate goal for the night is that people would not remember that we were on stage, but they would remember an incredible time of connection with God.  

Pray a lot with your band and singers about setting aside all insecurities, and not worrying about themselves, how they look, what people think about them. Their goal is to focus their hearts on God and have an incredible personal worship experience while encouraging and leading others to do the same.  Let the Holy Spirit work through them.  it’s not a performance.  Have a devo ahead of time and ask them what the difference would be between a performance and a worship set.  Have them have to put words and thoughts to how they can approach it differently.  

Set up your keyboards more in front so that you can lead from there. Don’t have the singers in a line way in front of the band. That looks odd. Integrate the band and the singers together so they are one unit.  

Well, I guess I had a few thoughts…anyhow, like I said, take what resonates and leave the rest.  Pray for God to guide you and I know it will go great. Thanks for doing it!

love ya!


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