How to Create Moments in Your Christmas Music

Jason Hatley here – Pastor of Worship Arts at The Journey and Founder of Worship Leader Insights.

You’ve heard me say it before — our goal in worship on Sunday isn’t to sing songs, but to create life-transforming moments (thanks to Tom Jackson for introducing me to this principle).

This is especially true as we’re preparing music for the Christmas season. But oftentimes, the temptation is to give Christmas music the “same old treatment” that it received last year.

Doing the same arrangements of the same songs on the same Sundays we did them last year.

But the story of Christmas is powerful and life-transforming. And the music of Christmas can be as well, if we’ll answer these 3 questions as we plan:


Every song in your worship set has a purpose.

Some are “openers” that are designed to be fun or engage the audience from the very beginning (these are typically songs that people in the congregation know from “outside” of church).

At Christmas this may be something like starting with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” or “Run Run Rudolph” (both songs that we’ve opened with in the past — and really have no theological content whatsoever). But they’re fun. They’re engaging. And best of all, they’re familiar.

These are songs that the congregation is hearing when they shop at the mall. And the next time they are at the mall and hear that song, I want them to think, “The last time I heard this song was when I was at church.”

That’s the purpose of those types of songs for us… to help people make a connection in their everyday life back to their experience at church and be reminded of what they experienced that day. Call it “reclaiming” if you will.

But these aren’t the only songs we do, and we don’t do them every Sunday.

Oftentimes we open with a pure “call to worship“. These songs are designed to get the congregation up on their feet and singing with a lot of energy. While the song may be new to a few people, these are ALWAYS songs that we’ve sung before (I at least want our regulars to know it).

We do a new song nearly every Sunday, but we NEVER start with a new song. I don’t want to alienate the entire congregation with the first phrase that comes out of my mouth.

So we sing a familiar song here… one that most of the congregation knows (and loves to sing). And when they do, it immediately engages them in worship, and in turn that helps our First Time Guests relax and feel comfortable engaging, too.

So, as I’ve been finalizing our worship services for this Christmas I’ve been looking for songs that have the right feel for “calling” everyone together in our context — high energy, guitar-driven Christmas songs.

Other songs serve as a “transition” song that take you from high energy to a more focused and quiet moment. Still others are worship songs that can be re-cast as Christmas songs.

For example, on our first Sunday after Thanksgiving we’re doing two Christmas songs, but we’re also doing 2 songs that aren’t “officially” Christmas songs, but because they’re lyrics tie in, they take on a new life as Christmas songs in that moment.

You get the picture.

Remember – Great worship sets are built by prayerfully putting the right songs in the right place for the story that you want to tell on Sunday.

Next week we’ll pick up with question #2. In the meantime, take some time to ask yourself:

1) Do each of the songs that I choose for a Sunday service have a purpose?

2) Are we just “singing songs” on Sunday, or am I actively looking for the moments in each worship set?

3) What are my values for music planning?

Understanding the purpose of the song can help you decide the best way to use it… and how to create a moment during it.

Your partner in ministry,


P.S. Are you ready to start creating moments EVERY Sunday?

My resource, Leading with Authority in Rehearsal, will teach you how to locate the moments of life transformation in your worship order and make the most of the opportunities you have to lead your congregation in worship every week.

Posted On: December 05, 2012
Posted as: Worship Planning

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