“I” Trouble: The “We-I Balance” in Corporate Song (Part 3)

If you have followed me this far, you know I have been analyzing our Sunday setlists for signs of “I” trouble. If you missed the first two parts you will want to read at least the first one: Part 1, Part2.

I have been altering my song planning to bring more of a balance between “We” and “I” songs. In a 6 song set with a “We-I” Balance of -4, changing only one "I" song (-1) to a "We" song (1) will change the balance to -2. I’m finding that to achieve the 1 to -1 balance I am targeting, requires only minor changes when planning a set.

I’m also evaluating new songs differently as a result. I just recently finished introducing a new song. There were two songs I had been working on: “Speak, O Lord” by Getty and Townend and the classic hymn “Day by Day and with Each Passing Moment”. Both are excellent songs, but I chose “Speak, O Lord” because it was a “We” song in a song category dominated by I songs (the other 5 songs were “I” songs!).
I am also curious as to the balance in other Christian worship settings. I decided I would take advantage of the Sunday setlist data at Fred McKinnon.com. For this analysis I used Week 59, September 6, 2009.

My goal is to understand, not individually critique song selection, so I decided to pick 10 sites at random and report the “We-I” Balance and overall average balance without identifying the sites selected. I used Excel to list the posts in numerical order and generated a random number beside each and the sorted the list by the random numbers and looked up the songs for the first 10 sites listed. If I could not find the lyrics for all songs in the set, I did not include it in the results. I ended up with 8 sites where I was able to find the lyrics for all the songs listed and calculate the “We-I” Balance for each set.
Here are the results:

The Average “We-I” Balance for the eight set lists was -2.4. Which pretty much matched my average of -2.3 at Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women which is more "I" dominant than the average at Medical Lake Community Church of -1.6.

What do the results tell us? Clearly, we favor songs with “I” over songs with “We”. But remember, this is only a one week snapshot. What I believe has more value is what this number looks like over time. I’m concerned about the faith impact of “I” dominant song sets on the church and individual believers.

So what is the big deal? From my vantage point, simply this: I believe that worship is formative. What we sing matters. If corporate worship is to truly be corporate, and the church is to worship as the body of Christ instead of an assembly of individuals, the songs we sing should reflect that intention. My goal is to reinforce the corporate nature of worship by balancing the use of “I” songs with “We” songs. To not do so would be to capitulate to our individualistic American culture that continually tells us in many ways that it is all about me. Balancing “We” and “I” in planning set lists is one way I can be strategic in song selection, but it is not a substitute for finding and using great songs that help disciple believers.

What do you think?


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