How many songs should we have in the overall church repertoire? How many should we use for any given service?
This is a question I’ve probably been asked a hundred times, but one to which there is no definitive answer. How many songs your church has in its repertoire and how many are used in a specific service depends a great deal on the style of music the church uses, the style of services you utilize, what traditions you might have, and more.
With that said, let me offer some thoughts. First, surveys indicate that the working song repertoire of a church using a contemporary style of worship range widely. Partly it depends on how you define “working repertoire.” Some churches have a set number of songs they generally work from—their “working list”—but will regularly throw in others, especially older songs that are not, technically, on their list. Additionally, seasonal songs—Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Thanksgiving, etc.—are also often not included in the list, but nevertheless are used annually.
All that to say that an accurate number is pretty tricky to find. Some worship leaders have told me they have just 30-40 songs on their working list. Others say as many as 300. Again, in part, it has to do with definitions.
Of course maintaining your list means that occasionally, because you add songs to your overall repertoire, you’ll also need to delete some. I prefer annually to go through the song list and discard unused songs. This is not for the faint of heart. Some of the songs might have some serious sentimental value. But like that whatchamacallit that Aunt Bertha gave you a decade ago, if you haven’t even touched it in several years—unless it’s a tried and true classic—throw it out.
How many songs you should use in a particular service is a bit trickier. This depends on how long the service normally lasts and how much of that time is allotted for praise and worship. This can vary greatly. I’ve been in churches where the service lasts 45 minutes and in churches where the services lasts more than two or more hours. I’ve also seen services where five minutes is allotted for praise and worship and other churches where they allow more than an hour. Obviously with such wide-ranging parameters, the number of songs used is going to vary. Some churches use only two or three songs in a service while others may use as many as fifteen or more.
There really is no right or wrong answer for this question. You may need to make some attempts and see what seems right. Get feedback from your pastor and other leadership. Take the steps that are necessary to find the number of songs and/or the amount of time that is right for your church.