These general guidelines are both of my own devising and with some help from Pastor Chelpka over at Covenant OPC.
- Choose songs from both Sing the Wonders and The Psalms of David in Metre.
- Choose songs based on their place in the order of worship. For example, after the call to worship, an expression of praise is appropriate (taken from the Psalms or from the first section in the hymnal). After the confession, a reflection on God’s faithfulness and gospel grace is appropriate. Between the readings of Scripture we usually sing a psalm.
- It is especially prudent to choose songs that reinforce or otherwise foreshadow the themes of the sermon.
- Choose at least one psalm (usually placed between the Old and New Testament readings).
- Choose familiar songs and tunes. Never repeat a tune to two different sets of words in a service.
- Aim for musical variety. Choose hymns from different eras of church history, different musical styles, etc. but not to the point of cacophony. Hold the line between too much similarity (in meter, style, etc.) on the one hand and too much variety on the other.
- “Be sensitive to significant aspects of our current congregational life, i.e. season of the year, shared trials or celebrations.”
- Use your memory, the indexes, and the table of contents to find hymns; if it helps, Hymnary.org is also a great tool.