Questions to Ask When Choosing a Sermon Response Song

The song that follows the sermon, especially if it immediately follows it, is one that should be prayerfully and intentionally chosen. Following up a sermon with a completely unrelated song can distract people from what they just heard, using a song that might actually contradict the sermon can confuse people, and using a song that is just randomly chosen will come across as, well, just random.

Here are some questions I ask every week when I’m trying to choose a sermon response song.

– What is the sermon’s text?
– What is the sermon title?
– Who is preaching?
– In what context is the sermon being preached? Part of a series? On a special day?

For example, I know that this coming Sunday’s sermon text is Hebrews 2:1-8, and Matthew 3:1-11. The sermon title is “Jesus is Supreme: Don’t Neglect His Offer”. Bill Haley is preaching, and it’s part of a year-long study of the book of Hebrews. This is also the first Sunday in Lent.

Once I know this information, I will try as hard as I can to ask the preacher the most important question: “how would you like people to respond in song after hearing your sermon?

This morning I called Bill and asked him that very question. He let me know that he was going to wrap up his sermon with an illustration from the end of the movie “Saving Private Ryan” when the character played by Tom Hanks, who is about to die, says to Private Ryan “earn this”. His point will be (I think) that the Gospel says something completely different to us. We can’t earn it. It’s been done. We have been given salvation.

So Bill encouraged me to choose a song that people would feel like singing if they were standing at the foot of the cross and wanted to respond to what Jesus had done. I chose “The Power of the Cross” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. I might change that before Sunday, but at this point it’s what I’m planning on using.

Here is what a sermon response song doesn’t need to accomplish:
– Summarize every point in the message
– Enable people to sing the sermon back
– Be a perfect fit

It’s usually helpful if the sermon response song enables people to respond to what they’ve just heard. It isn’t a random song or a completely off-topic song. It’s a song chosen after praying and reading through the relevant scripture texts, talking with the preacher, looking at a few options, and then settling on a song you think is the best fit.

5 thoughts on “Questions to Ask When Choosing a Sermon Response Song”

  1. Just to say thanks so much for this blog. I lead the music ministry in my church and this blog is a constant source of sound advice and a place where I get questions that really should be answered. It isn’t easy being in charge of the worship, but you do make it a little easier!

  2. Just wanted to agree with this(!) Music is a means that people retain more info than any talk/sermon/message. Like it or not, it’s a proven fact. Think about it, you get a song stuck in your head and it stays there for days! I’ve also found that a special music can fit better and be more effective than a traditional congregational worship song as the lyrics may drive the sermon’s point home in a more clear way… It takes research online and through your CD’s but it can truly be a powerful thing to allow -almost force- (lol) people to reflect on the sermon.
    Keep up the awesome work Jamie! I check this site at least once a day to check for more worship “nuggets”!
    God bless bro!

  3. I like your thoughts on this! It is a very important time that can become quickly disconnected.

    Something that I do in our church (for good or bad…) is to listen to the sermon and choose a song of response on the spot. We are blessed with musicians better than me who can play anything at the drop of a hat. There are advantages and disadvantages to this.

    For instance: Advantage – being able to actually respond to what we’ve just heard instead of anticipating a response…

    Disadvantage – limited songs for response. Basically they can only come out of the hymnal if done this way so that the congregation all knows what to sing

    I wouldn’t advise people to do it this way entirely, but it’s nice for both worship leader and congregation once in a while…

  4. Yes, if there’s one song that should be linked to the sermon, it’s the one after it! We can’t do it Rich’s way because the song is printed out in the Bulletin, and the lyrics need to be uploaded to the projection system. Sometimes the preacher might not know how the sermon will develop until very late. Then ‘Speak, O Lord’ is very useful!

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