How to Improve Congregational Singing with Spotify Playlists

Recently, Church leadership guru Thom Rainer wrote a post laying out 6 reasons why congregational singing is waning. Among the reasons given is: We don’t know the songs.

Familiarity is absolutely an issue in modern/contemporary/whatever you call your non-traditional service. Between the sheer number of new pop worship songs being released and the delivery method—words on a screen without notes or rhythm—it is easy for those in worship to feel lost. When you combine it with environmental aspects that make your service feel like a show, you have a recipe for a passive congregation.

To tackle this challenge, we have to give people a chance to get familiar with the songs. In addition to repetition of songs in worship, you can use Spotify playlists to provide a way to listen to songs throughout the week.

Spotify Playlists

Spotify is a free* music streaming service with tons of music, including many of the newest releases. Custom playlists are easily created and can be shared and even embedded on the web. Listeners can also “follow” a playlist, giving them easy access to the most recent version. Note: Listeners are required to have a Spotify account to listen, but again, signing-up is free*.

In practice this means that you can create a playlist called “Next Weekend’s Songs” and update it each week. When you delete last week’s set and add the songs for the upcoming worship service, your congregation will automatically see and be able to stream the music you’ll be using. If you embed the playlist on the “Plan a Visit” or “New Visitors” page of your website, people checking out your church have the chance to hear the songs as well.

Other playlists you might consider creating include a master list of all the songs your congregation uses, seasonal collections (Advent/Christmas, Lent/Easter), or songs related to sermon series or themes (peace, justice, God’s faithfulness, etc.).

A couple tips:

  • Start a Spotify account specifically for your church with which listeners can connect and interact.
  • On the settings page, uncheck “Automatically make new playlists public.” Playlists can be public or private, and the visibility setting can be switched at any time. Turning this setting off ensures that nothing will accidentally be visible before you’re ready because you have to actively make it public.
  • Create and add custom artwork to your playlist that features your church’s name and/or logo. It should be a square image, and you can watch the video here for a tutorial on how to create an imagine like this for free.

You can check out the Defining Grace Worship Playlist embedded below, which is one of the playlists I have started curating. For the others, head over to the playlists page on my site or check out my Spotify profile.

*The asterisk is there because, like many services, the free tier is ad supported. Also, there is no “family friendly” option, and so listeners will likely hear alcohol ads that play no matter the time of day or what genre you’re listening to—worship included. You can become a paying customer to remove all ads, but I am disappointed that it isn’t an option. This may make this solution a no-go for some ministries, so I wanted to make it clear.

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