Surprising Advice About Your Opening Worship Song

Does Your Opening Song Captivate Your Congregation? Part 2

Yesterday, we began a conversation based on an article written by live music producer Tom Jackson. Tom’s article is teaching bands/artists seven ways to captivate a live audience with their opening song. The question is, can we transfer the principles to worship to make our opening song more effective at connecting with our congregation?

For the most part, yes.

I’d love for you to fully engage in this conversation, so take a few minutes to read both the introduction to this series and the original article that appears on Disk Maker’s blog.

Let’s dive into Tom’s first point:

1. Choose The Right Energy Level.

“Your first song needs energy – but not too much, and not too little.”

Tom goes on to say that most artists start a live performance with “an overwhelming intro, then blaze through the song (and maybe two or three more) without stopping or giving the audience a chance to respond.” It seems the band doesn’t really care about the audience. The band’s playing AT the audience, instead of involving them in the show, Tom explains.

Let’s translate this to a worship service. Change band to worship team and audience to congregation and show to corporate worship.

Unfortunately, you could still say the exact same thing.

Many worship teams don’t seem to care about the congregation, because they don’t involve them in the song.

I think one of two things makes this true. One is exactly what Tom says: the worship team is playing AT the congregation and doesn’t involve them – they’re wrapped up in the music.

I think the other extreme is where the band is playing at their music stands and doesn’t dare look up at the congregation. If I can over-generalize for a moment, the former can be an issue with larger churches, and the latter is status quo in smaller churches.

Tom likens this approach to the meeting people who “talk about themselves for the first 10 minutes without ever asking about you.” It’s a not a good start to a relationship. But it does sound like a lot of our opening “worship through music” sets.

Later in the article, Tom gets into more ways of the band connecting during that opening song. So as much as I want to jump on that now, I’ll stick with Tom’s admonition about the right energy level.

Forget The First Fast Song?

This really got me thinking: I’m that worship leader that loves the opening fast song.

Now, tempo doesn’t have everything to do with the energy of a song. But it’s a tangible place to start when it comes to talking about energy level.

I know better than to put Revelation Song or I Surrender All right out of the gate. People aren’t ready to soar or go deep at that point. So I go the opposite and put one of our fastest up tempo rockers.

But maybe they aren’t ready to move at 140 beats per minute, either.

So what’s the alternative? The good news is, there’s a number of great medium-fast songs out there. Most people would call these songs upbeat, but they’re a little more relaxed in the 100 BPM range, give or take 10 beats or so.

Some examples? King of Heaven by Paul Baloche (Same Love album). It’s a laid back, decently paced song that clocks in at 110 bpm. Everlasting God is slower than most people think and falls in that range. The original from Brenton Brown is around 100 BPM. But even Brewster’s version is only around 110 BPM. The guitar solos are blazing, but the tempo really isn’t.

Another suggestion for you is Brenton Brown’s new one, God My Rock . It’s right at a 100 BPM. Very singable and catchy. And interestingly, he wrote this with Paul Baloche – who truly is the king of the medium-fast tempo.

Take his song, Hosanna (Praise is Rising) – another Brenton Brown collaboration. Most of us over-rock this one. But re-listen to Paul’s version. It’s only around 114 BPM. That’s light years away from a lot of my opening song choices that are upwards of 130 to 150.

So here’s what I’m going to do, based on Tom’s advice. I’m planning next month’s music soon and will to try the “not too much, and too little” suggestion for my opening song. And since I won’t have the results for a month or so, we’ll need you chime in with your thoughts.

What kind of song do you open with? How does it help you connect with your congregation?

Disclosure – some of the links above are affiliate links. I only endorse what I love and think others would dig, too.

Jon Nicol