In choosing the selections to be used during the service, have in mind a theme for that particular service—a theme that will prepare the hearts for the message of the sermon. If you cannot find songs which are appropriate for the sermon theme, you can at least choose songs that will give "tone" or "build-up" to the service. Include at least one song in every song service on the second coming of Christ.
The Book and the Selections.—In selecting a songbook for use in a series of meetings, choose a book that contains sufficient material so that you do not have to repeat the same songs over and over. The book should contain both hymns and gospel songs, with a predominance of gospel songs. Keep a record of the songs used each evening so that repetition does not bore. Have a definite plan for each service. Do not come unprepared, or trust to chance or circumstance. Make out your program beforehand. Ask God to direct you in your choices. Then know definitely just what you are going to do, and how you are going to do it. Plan the definite order of service you are to carry out. All special music should be chosen with these facts in mind. Let everything build toward the main service.
Plan Program in Detail.—Be prompt in beginning and ending your service. Keep dignity and ease in the forefront. Secure and retain the interested attention of your audience from the time you appear on the platform until your part of the service is over. Do this by planning your program in detail. Be earnest. Sing more and talk less. Announce the numbers definitely and clearly. Don't sing every song the same way. Have variety in performance, and variety in the types of songs chosen. Keep your audience happy, not with jokes, but by your attitude, and by appropriate methods of creating interest. Do your song leading so well that your audience will respect you and your ability.
Make the people want to follow your directing. Don't expect the same degree of perfection as from a trained choir. Don't be too demanding, or too detailed in your requirements. Commend often. Compliment sincerely. Encourage participation by everyone. If you cultivate ease of bearing and naturalness in directing, and diffuse enjoyment and pleasure, your audience will unconsciously catch the joy and happiness of the service. This is true heart preparation. This is the unification of spirit which is needed for the reception of the message of the evening.
The Hand and Tempo.—It is best not to use the baton for congregational leading. The hands and fingers are much more flexible and expressive. Keep the arm high while directing, so that all can see. Don't use both hands simultaneously in tempo marking. When special effects of interpretation are wanted, two hands may be used. Be definite in your beginning beat, and your "cut-off" sign for the close. Give ample time between stanzas for breath, and give the last measure its full value.
Film Songs and Chorus Songs.—I use a film song in every service. Then I teach a number of chorus songs during the series of meetings, and review them often. A theme song is chosen for each series.
Create Worshipful Atmosphere.—One feature which I always use in my song service, and which I believe is pleasing to God and puts the song service in its true place as a sacred worship service, is a short prayer after the first song. Ask God to meet with you, to bless your voices and your worship in song to His glory and to the good of every soul there. In this prayer I especially remember those who are there with heavy hearts, the discouraged and the disheartened. Ask that the songs and their messages might cheer you all on in the Christian way.
For the closing number of the song service, I always choose a prayer song, a consecration song, or a song of surrender. This song prepares the hearts for the Bible truths they are to hear, because they have just sung, "I Would Draw Nearer to Jesus," or "I Am Praying for You," or "Have Thine Own Way, Lord," or another of similar message. Then the audience stands to sing the invocation song, "Into My Heart." This is sung softly and prayerfully, and an "Amen" is added. If the song director sets the example by closing his eyes while singing this song as a prayer, the audience immediately follows his example. No directing is necessary.
Avoid Showmanship or Exploitation.—Only music that is worth while, songs with a message for the heart, should be used. And only the performer who is consecrated to God, who brings this atmosphere into the meeting by his personality and performance, should be invited to take part. Sacred service is no place for showmanship, for exploiting the voice or the personality. Song is worship to God with self left out. The predominant desire should be to bring a definite message by word and beautiful melody. Since words are particularly important in sacred music, be sure the word message is understood.