Song Categories: How organized is your playlist?

My last blog entry A Canon of Songs: Theology Incognito? led up to the idea of choosing song categories to make sure your songs are covering the areas or topics you believe are most important. I am using what I will call a Revelation/Response model which is my adaptation of the fourfold order of worship that I became aware of at a Robert Webber seminar. He also had a songbook available (Renew Songs & Hymns For Blended Worship) with song categories to support the fourfold order of worship. To use the fourfold order I categorized all my songs (not the first time I’ve done it) using these categories. It really gave me an idea of what kinds of songs I had and we were using in worship. Unfortunately, the fourfold order was not a success at my church, but it did get me thinking more about what happened in the historic fourfold worship service and how songs connected with it. I decided there were just too many categories for me to use effectively. I simplified the number of song categories from about thirty (hymnals have even more!) to a manageable thirteen categories to support a Revelation/Response model.

Revelation/Response Model
It’s a simple yet sound approach to choosing worship songs.
Revelation: Who is God? What has He done? We need to know the God we worship.
Response: What should we as a result of that revelation? We need to be reminded of what we should be doing with our lives.

The sermon is placed between the revelation and response and bridges them. A good sermon teaches the Word (reveals God) and includes application for our lives (response to God). Having more than one song after the sermon was a big change for us since people are used to checking out after the sermon since only a song followed it before.

The Song Categories
Here is a list of the categories I am currently using with brief descriptions of each for now:

Opener (Come to Worship):
Songs that remind us why we are here and help us transition from the street to the sanctuary and move our focus to God. Easy songs to find.
GITS – Father (God in the Spotlight – Father)
GITS – Jesus (God in the Spotlight – Jesus)
These two categories are songs that showcase the attributes and works of God the Father and Jesus Christ. God in the Spotlight means ideally a lot about God and little about us. I started with high ideals and had to relax them. Hard songs to find; we like to sing about ourselves.

Prayer - Holy Spirit:
Songs that remind us the Holy Spirit dwells in believers and the role the Holy Spirit plays.
Prayer: Sung prayers
Response – To God: A song directed primarily to God
Response – To each other: A song directed primarily to each other
Many of these response songs would be great God in the Spotlight songs if there wasn’t so much focus on us.
Communion – Repentance: Sung prayer of repentance
Communion: Songs that focus on the Lord’s Supper and the death of Christ
Closer – Evangelism/Missions
Closer – Serve/Obey
Closer – Believe/Trust
Closers are songs that remind us and challenge us to live out our faith to a watching world. I broke them into three areas to balance our coverage. Evangelism/Missions is the hardest category to fill, followed by Serve/Obey. Believe/Trust is easy to fill.
Advent/Christmas: Songs that we typically only use during the Christmas season

I have discovered that many songs are hard to classify in a single category, so I choose the one I think is the best fit. Next I will show how we use these song categories to plan music for worship services.


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