ARE SHORT SETS MANIPULATIVE?

This post falls into the category of "thinking out loud." From time to time, I use this site to ponder aloud about worship culture and what it means for the place where I lead. I don't know if I'm correct in the post below...I'm just wondering and thinking and trying to use my brain as I plan and lead my people. Feel free to weigh in with a comment or two, just don't yell at me.


I've noticed lately that many churches are moving to shorter setlists. Not too many years ago, it wouldn't be uncommon to hear 5 congregational songs, a choir special and maybe even a solo performance during the offertory. But now it seems that most modern churches in the megachurch model feature singing for 3 songs, max.

Every church has its own reasons, but from what I read and hear, it seems that this new "quicker" music portion of the service is designed to A) accommodate hard cut-off times due to multiple services and B) make services more concise for online viewing/interaction.

I'm sure there are more nuanced reasons for shorter sets, but on the surface, it seems to be primarily a time concern, not a spiritual one.

And that's why I'm worried short song-sets are becoming manipulative.

I am noticing that churches with shorter song sets are trying really hard to pack a spiritual wallop in a short amount of time. Song 1 is the rocker, Song 2 is heartfelt confession and Song 3 ends up being a 7-minute love song to Jesus. Is that enough time for our people? 

I've led worship for most of my life, and I've noticed that a lot of the people in church on Sunday morning aren't ready. It's a sad fact, but a human one. Many of the people I'll step in front of on song 1 are just now thinking, "oh, yeah, God..." And what about the lost? Someone curious about Jesus shows up and we're trying to get everybody to maximum spiritual impact in 16 minutes, grand total?

I don't know what the answer is, but I do think worship leaders bear a bigger responsibility than that. I don't think our job is necessarily to provoke a response. I believe my job (and your job) is to clearly present the good grace of God in the form of Jesus our Savior by the inspiration and empowering of His Holy Spirit; AND then to give people the opportunity to respond to that. To do that, we've gotta' take time to ascribe glory and acknowledge His Lordship and confess our inability to save ourselves and rightly understand the power of His death and resurrection and respond to His call on our lives and THAT'S A LOT OF STUFF TO GET DONE!

I see a lot of worship leader "tricks" in these short sets: constantly yelling come on or I can't hear you, giving a 4 minuted devotional/personal monologue before a song, *pro-level lights and sound, roaming around the platform. None of those are inherently bad, they're just things that tend to happen when we don't have enough time to do our job correctly. And when I see worship leaders resort to manipulation, I feel for them. That's a burden they simply can't carry.

Maybe you lead in a church with short sets and very controlled timing. How do you deal with it? What do you do to ensure you're leading in a way that's ministerial and not manipulative?

*Just to be clear, I lead worship in a metal building with possibly the worst acoustics in the Southern US and will happily let any of you underwrite a new building and sound system for us. I promise to use them for good and not evil.