What kind of radio station is your church?

Jodie McNeill

One of the hardest things about running a music radio station must be the decision about which songs to play and how often to put them on the air.

Some radio stations seem to value nostalgia and variety. They claim to play the best songs of the “seventies, eighties and nineties”, and it seems that they generally play each of those songs fairly infrequently.

Other radio stations seem to value newness and repetition. These ‘hit’ music stations have a relatively short list of new songs, and they seem to play them over and over again for a few weeks, until they quickly become ‘old’.

Both of these radio stations have their place. But if the two genres get confused, then it can easily annoy the listener.

So, if a ‘classic’ radio station plays only a few old songs with high repetition, then the nostalgia will quickly turn into boredom.

Or, if a ‘hit’ radio station plays a long list of new music, then it won’t give the listener the experience of getting to know the new songs well enough to enjoy them.

Why church is like a radio station

Choosing songs to sing in church can often seem just as complicated as choosing songs to play on a radio station.

Unlike a radio station, a church needs to make sure that the lyrics sung are faithful to the Scriptures and able to serve the congregation as they sing to God and each other.

Yet, like a radio station, the church still needs to decide how often to sing old songs, and how regularly to introduce new ones.

And, like a radio station, a church can easily make mistakes in the choice of their playlist.

So, if a church decides to sing only a small selection of ‘golden oldies’ over and over again, then it will quickly leave the congregation feeling that the songs are stuck in the past.

On the other hand, if the church tries to teach a new song every week, and fails to regularly repeat them in subsequent weeks, then the congregation might feel that they are missing out on singing songs they get to know and love.

Two kinds of playlists

To remedy this, it seems that our church needs to either choose to have a ‘classic hits’ playlist or a ‘latest hits’ playlist.

So, if a church wants to focus on including songs from the past three or more decades, then they would be best to make sure there is a long playlist with plenty of variety. The song ‘Shine, Jesus Shine’ might be interesting if it’s sung once a year, but playing it once every month leaves a lot to be desired.

Alternatively, if a church wants to make sure it is always singing the latest songs, then it should ensure that each new song gets sung regularly. It’s no good teaching a different brand-new song each week if those songs are not repeated regularly for a few months.

Finally, like all good radio stations, there is a place for mixing up these styles of playlists. It would be great for the ‘classic’ style to include occasional new songs, and it would be good for the ‘latest hits’ style to include occasional oldies.

Above all, it is vital that whether a song is new or old that the lyrics of our songs help the congregation speak the truth about God to him and to each other.

What kind of radio station is your church?

Jodie McNeill is a part of the team at Youthworks

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