God’s people have always compiled resources for use in worship, whether it was gathering the various psalms written over time and organizing them, or collecting them in the form of hymnals in the 1800’s. Their purpose was to equip people to worship through song. They worked to ensure that the music was singable, the lyrics were biblical, expressed a full range of emotional expression, and taught a rich theology of God.

With the advent of modern worship, we as leaders are often tasked with compiling a new kind of hymnal. A catalog of songs that serve our congregation and span the range of topics I mentioned earlier. What might this look like? While there’s no absolutes for how to do this, here are some of my suggestions based on years of serving as a worship pastor.


I suggest about 75 songs in total. Here’s how I would break that down. I’ll use the analogy of baseball to help simplify this.


These are the hot new stars on the scene. They’ve been written in the last 2 years. This doesn’t usually mean the new songs on Christian radio. Typically Christian radio is actually about a year or two behind the musical trends. I’ve found that introducing about 10 brand new songs a year is enough to keep things fresh as well as give enough time for each of those songs to become familiar to a congregation. What this typically looks like is to introduce a new song and keep singing it for three weeks and then give it a week off. Then play it at least 2-3 more times the next month to keep reinforcing it.

Here is a general rule: by the time you as the leader get tired of a song, your congregation is finally feeling comfortable with it. We get tired of songs far quicker because we have been listening to them over and over in the process of charting, practicing, and rehearsing the song 20 times more than the congregation has heard it. So it might look like this: New song (week 1-3) Break (week 4), Next new song plus previous month’s new song (week 5) and so on.

You can keep this pattern going up until about November when you start gearing up for the holidays, so it’s not usually a good idea to intro new music in November or December. Whether you love Christmas songs or not, that’s what people want to sing in December so they’re probably not interested in learning a new song at that time.


These are the tried and true players. They’re still fresh enough to feel effective and the congregation still loves them. This group of songs will include the 10 brand new songs from the previous year. Additionally there will be songs you have sung for the last 2-3 years that people don’t seem to get tired of.

When you’re keeping your spreadsheet that tells you how many times you have sung a song, you’ll start to see that these songs have been sung about 30-40 times in the last few years.


These players hold a special place in the heart of the people. They’re the song that you pull out when it fits the sermon topic just right. You might sing each of these songs 2-3 times a year. Any more than that and people start to mentally tune out. They like the song but it just doesn’t play like it used to!


These are the hall of famers, that everyone should grow up knowing their name. They’re the ones that people keep calling GOAT (Greatest of All Time). Not everyone will agree with me here and that’s okay. However, I think that keeping hymns alive in corporate worship is both beautiful and necessary.

For the older generation, these songs hold a special place in their lives with Jesus and helps them connect in ways that newer music might not. It also might help them be okay with “enduring” modern worship because they still get to sing the songs that make their hearts sing too!

For the younger generation, it’s an important way to help them connect with the fact that they are not the first generation who has poured out their hearts to God. Singing songs that are older than 100 years old can help them see themselves as part of a larger story and community of faith.

Lastly, the lyrical content of many of these songs is artistically excellent. The reason they are still being sung is because they have married melody and lyrics so well. They also cover a much broader range of theological truths than much of modern worship.

Looking for great modern hymn arrangementsTry this article.


The amount of songs that are typically sung on a Sunday in each church will dictate what your set looks like but here is a recommendation.

  • 1 New song (Rookie)
  • 2 Familiar songs (Starters)
  • 1 Oldie but goodie (Bench)
  • 1 Hymn (Hall of Famer)

This variety of songs has worked well in most of the environments I have been part of

I suggest making an excel spreadsheet to keep track of what you are singing, how often, and what songs need to be rotated.

It might look something like this… (Depending on when you read this, what is new and what is familiar will definitely change. The principals still work so disregard outdated songs and make your own list)

Picture of Nic Cook

Nic Cook

This article was first published on as part of a series of resources for worship pastors/directors, and volunteers.