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WordPress for worship teams

Keep your worship team organised with an online collection of music, song sheets, MP3′s, lyrics and much more. Using Wordpress can streamline and simplify the ordeal of organising music for a Sunday morning worship service.

When I joined the Pakuranga Baptist Church worship team as a singer and guitarist/bassist my first question was -where do I get music from?

This was the first time I’d really been involved in worship (well I was as a kid, but then I was a drummer and didn’t really need music), and so I didn’t have my own collection.

The answer I received surprised me there is a file cabinet over there with music you can photocopy – umm okay. Being an online guy I figured there had to be an easier way, especially when I moved into worship leading and wanted a much better way to search through songs, find resources and such like. I asked our creative director if there was a better way and he said, “Yes, I’ve been working on a spread sheet that you can use”

This wasn’t going to work – sure you can search for names, you can check common sequences and such like, but there is no way to search lyrics etc.

WordPress to the rescue

I’d just completed transitioning the church from using Powerpoint for songs to using Zionworx (We’ve since moved to ProPresenter on Mac – look for a post soon on technology in worship), and during this transition our creative director wrote a Windows script to convert Powerpoint files to text files so we could import them to Zionworx. I wondered if I could use this collection of text files and the wonderful XML importer for WordPress.

I wrote a quick PHP script that would read the text files one by one and create one large XML file in the WordPress format. I then created a clean WordPress install & imported this XML file. Suddenly I had a WordPress install full of 180 songs. Of course it didn’t go completely smoothly – there were issues where either the original Powerpoint to Text or Text to XML scripts had split titles and such like. But it didn’t take long to whip through and clean up the ones that weren’t right.

Grabbing a theme

Next I needed a theme that would allow us to quickly show the songs, and be extensible so we could add extra elements to each song.

I hunted around a bunch of free and paid and settled on Basic – by Elegant Themes (Note: – that IS an affilate link, if you do buy one, please help support Studiowhiz, otherwise the non-affilate link is here).

One of the reasons I picked Basic was because of its simple nature. It’s a very clean simple theme that can quickly be adapted. One thing I did was hack the sidebar to use the WordPress custom fields for extra song data.

This side bar has information such as:

  • Usual song sequence
  • Usual song key
  • Chord sheet – for guitarists
  • Lead sheet – for singers, pianists etc
  • MP3 – great for new songs
  • YouTube – link to a YouTube version
  • Last time the song was sung & song count – great for CCLI records
  • Song printing options

This makes it super easy now for team members to grab the music they need for songs, and the worship team can keep tabs on what songs are being sung and how often. When introducing a new song, we can put a MP3, song sheets & a link to the YouTube versions of other churches doing the songs. This really helps the teams quickly get up to speed with songs.

WordPress plugins to help

Of course WordPress is fantastic – of course plugins make it just THAT much better, and yes of course I do have a few extra plugins installed.

WP-Table Reloaded: I use WP Table Reloaded for the page with our team roster on it. This plugin makes it so easy to create reasonably complex and large tables, and updating them is really simple.

WPTouch iPhone Theme: Less a plugin, more a theme, WPTouch is perfect for worship leaders with iPhones, iPads, Android and such like phones. From the phone you can search posts, find songs and check lyrics – it’s brilliant.

YARPP: (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) has to be one of my favourites, especially in the context of a songs database. This plugin can use the category, tags and lyrics of a song to help suggest others. Now it’s not perfect, it is after all using words to match against words (rather than semantic meaning). I’ve found this really helpful just to spark those thoughts – “oh maybe this song, rather than that song”

Adaptations to WordPress

If I was setting this up today with WordPress 3.0 – I’d probably invest in setting up some custom post types. But really we don’t add much – when there is a new song I add it, otherwise we do have the church secretary update the site after the sunday from the Run Sheet – to update play dates and counts. So when it comes to adaptations and changes I didn’t really make many.

Alphabetical list: one thing of course that makes sense for a songs database is an alphabetical list of the songs. This is something blogs don’t do – they tend to order by date. So I created a page template that I could use to list the songs.

Here’s the code I used to generate the alphabetical list … note the 200 – we only have 180 songs, so 200 was more than enough for us
<h1>Alphabetical List of Songs</h1>
global $post;
$myposts = get_posts('numberposts=200&order=ASC&orderby=title');
foreach($myposts as $post) :

  • php the_permalink(); ?>">
  • php endforeach; ?>

    Other Changes: because of WordPress’ custom fields I really didn’t need to change much else. I setup some custom fields for things like Chord Sheets, Lead Sheets, MP3, YouTube links etc. Then in the side bar I wrote some IF statements to check if they exist, if they do – write them out, if they don’t … don’t.

    Music Sheets: We grab our PDF music sheets from CCLI, I download them to my local computer and then attach them to each song (or post) using the WordPress Media Upload tools – just as you would upload a post image. I then put the URL to each PDF into the appropriate custom field so they are collated in the sidebar.

    What about copyright?

    Okay this is a tricky one. As a church we have to honour local copyright laws & of course we want to honour the licenses for music we have. We are members of CCLI and we obtain most music from that fantastic source.

    The way we get around – or should I say, work with copyright issues, our Songs Database is not public. It is behind .htaccess and only team members have usernames and passwords. Our CCLI license allows us to make photocopies for our worship teams (we do have to account for these). We figure that doing this online cuts down on wasted paper & allows us to better track how many copies we have.

    As for the MP3 – many churches distribute a CD of music for learning new songs. We figure that by having these online and stating that these are ONLY for learning music, that we honour the intent of the copyright laws. We have a church iTunes account which is fantastic as we can purchase the single MP3 we need to learn – this goes to learning, and adds music to our church music collection for playing during offerings etc etc.

    Again, none of this is public – and we monitor site usage etc.


    So there you have it, a quick way to use WordPress to help your worship team have a fully indexed, searchable, online songs database that can really save time. Now when I create a Sunday Set List, I email to my worship team, with a list of songs and links to the songs on our Songs Database. They can login, check the song, grab any music sheets they need.

    Future Thoughts: we need to spend more time correctly categorising and tagging songs. Through a combination of Categories and Tags you could say that this song is a Praise song, or Worship song, then tag it with things like LOVE, PEACE, HOLY of HOLIES, REFLECTIVE etc and allow you to build up a powerful online understanding of your church music – this would of course massively improve the YARPP system too.

    It would also be an advantage to rank songs by popularity rather than always by alphabetical order. The other thing I’d like to change is the way the WordPress search works. At the moment if you search by an exact title match it sometimes ranks other songs higher.

    Hope that helps

    I hope this helps you and your church. It has made a massive difference to us – even the older (less computer savvy) worship team members love using it. It’s amazing how something so simple can really streamline the whole process.


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