“I” Trouble: The “We-I Balance” in Corporate Song (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1, you will want to read it first.

The best worship songs are God centered; however, we have a tendency to show up most of our songs in "I" form or "We" form, or both. In an individualistic American society I worry that our corporate worship is more about "me" than "we". What follows is my analysis of our master playlist and several months worth of our actual setlists.

Fortunately for us, we recently scaled back our playlist from 267 songs to about 120, so scoring all the songs did not take very long especially since they are all in a database and I can open each quickly by clicking on the titles from a playlist view and enter a number in a new field I created for each song’s information. I have to admit, I was concerned when I started scoring the songs. I really wasn’t sure how “I” dominate our playlist would be.

I scored all the songs on our playlist and got a -23 which for 120 songs means we lean towards the “I” side but still have a fair number of “we” or neutral songs to choose from. If you were to place -23 on the We-I Balance appropriately scaled it would place us just beyond -1 towards the “I” Dominant side. I was surprised; I expected to be further from 0 on the “I” Dominant side.

Here are the summary numbers by song category (Note: the categories are linked to my blog entries describing each one):

Openers: 1 (19 songs)
GITS: 9 (35 songs)
Holy Spirit: -5 (15 songs)
Response Songs: -11 (15 songs)
Communion Songs: -12 (16 songs)
Closers: -4 (19 songs)

As I look at these numbers the Closers category stands out as one I would like more “We” songs in; the idea is to send out the congregation singing like a congregation, not individuals. I expected to see large negative numbers for the Response and Communion songs but was surprised when the Holy Spirit songs weren’t right up there with them. Overall we could use more “We” songs. Interestingly some “I” songs could be changed to “We” songs with little or no difficulty, but without requesting permission from the songwriters, it would probably violate the copyright laws.

The real test is how we actually use the songs in worship services; our playlist is just the list of songs we choose from,. Do we have “I” trouble. Because our play record is in the database, the answer is only a query and report away. Here are the summarized results for each week.

Medical Lake Community Church (MLCC)

Date We-I Balance
8/16/2009 -4
8/9/2009 -1
8/2/2009 -4
7/26/2009 -1
7/19/2009 -3
7/12/2009 -1
7/5/2009 -5
6/28/2009 0
6/21/2009 1
6/14/2009 -1
6/7/2009 1
5/31/2009 1
5/24/2009 3
5/17/2009 -2
5/10/2009 -2
5/3/2009 -7
4/26/2009 -3
4/19/2009 0


Note the -7 on 5/3/09. I went back and looked at that one! It turns out I led the 7 songs on that service, normal for a Communion service(1st service of the month). I noted that Communion services accounted for more high negative scores but not on 6/7/09 where it was 1; interestingly, I led the songs on that service too!

I have also included the Results from Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women where I volunteer twice a month.

Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women (PLCCW)

Date We-I Balance
8/2/2009 -3
7/5/2009 -3
6/21/2009 -1
6/7/2009 0
5/17/2009 -4
5/3/2009 -2
4/19/2009 -3


Clearly I choose more “I” songs at Pine Lodge than MLCC. As I look at the data, I’m pleased that I’m not at -5 or -6 which I think would be to “I” dominant. I think a good target to shoot for is 1 to -1 which would make sure there is a solid “We” presence, yet maintain a personal element. Finding excellent “We” songs in some of the categories I have already mentioned will also help.

Some of you may think I’m being too analytical (a BS in Math and a MS in Systems Management will do that to you!). How long would you be willing to drive your car without a gas gauge? Or, put another way how many walks to the gas station with a can in hand would it take before you get the gas gauge fixed? I don’t want to attach more precision to the numbers than is warranted, but at the same time the numbers do give me a better idea of how congregational our mix of songs is. I’m concerned that our worship of God in song unknowingly reinforces a “me centered” faith. Such an individualistic faith is not characteristic of the faith community of the church described in the New Testament.

Strategic song selection reflects a healthy balance between “I” and “We” songs.

How strategic are you?


Good thoughts, Doug. I'm working on something similar, focusing on attributes of God right now...unfortunately we haven't pared down our list recently! I'm curious...did you start with a software package of any sort, or is this all a custom DB?


I appreciate the feedback. The link to your name did not work, so I couldn't contact you directly.

Don't know if you clicked on the GITS link (God In The Spotlight); in the blog which links to a blog entry that describes our song categories that focus on the character and works of God the Father and Jesus Christ. My songs are in a MS Access database which I have continued to modify over the years to meet my organizational needs (it also integrated with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint). I'm glad to answer any questions you have on it.

Just curious as to how you found my blog?


Ah, I wondered what GITS meant :)

I found you via Fred McKinnon...I check out the Sunday setlists every once in a while to see what other folks are doing.

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