Alongside a zealous passion for Jesus, songwriting is huge passion of mine. I am eternally grateful that God grants me the opportunity to do something I love to worship Him. It’s amazing that God gives us gifts to enjoy, ultimately, to return those gifts back to Him for the uplifting of His name and to give Him glory. With that said, lately, I’ve been getting a good amount of questions concerning songwriting in a worship context. This is by no means a comprehensive, end-all-be-all songwriting post. These are merely steps that I methodically sift through in my mind when writing songs for the Church. Hopefully, these steps will be beneficial for whoever aspires to be a songwriter for the church or for the person who is actively doing so already. Here we go!
Writing worship music has a lens that it gets filtered through and that lens in the Word of God. Many people would consider this “confining,” however, I would offer a rebuttal. Think of it more as someone who has a problem with their vision. This person is both near sighted and far sighted. They cannot clearly see things close to them or far off, unless the correct lenses are given to them. The Word of God is the lens that allows us to see Jesus more clearly and accurately the more we know it. It is truth and we must adhere to it. The importance of writing theologically sound songs is imperative. We want our congregations to know the truth about who God is and what He’s done. One of the best ways to do that is through music. How often do you remember every sentence that a Pastor says in a sermon? Not often. We remember the sentences and phrases that convict us, shape us, or speak to us, but hardly ever the length of an entire sermon. Now, how often do we remember the lyrics to a great song? All the time! This is why we must be faithful to the Word. As worship leaders and songwriters, our desire should be for the truth about our God and Savior to be on our congregations tongues not only at church, but when they leave church!
When I’m writing a new song or listening to a new song, I want it to stir me in my Spirit! I couldn’t care less if the songs I write are sung by churches all around the country, but what I do want them to do is to excite my soul and spur me on in excitement to worship Jesus! This is what I mean by exciting. When a great melody, fresh lyric, and Holy Spirit breathed presence collide to comprise a song that exalts Christ and becomes so much bigger than the writer. There comes a point when, as the writer, you can do nothing but say, “That song was all Holy Spirit, I was just a vessel.”
People want to hear a great melody. It’s what draws a listener in, especially if they are a non-musician. The reality is, if a song isn’t catchy in some aspect, people aren’t going to listen to it. It doesn’t have to be the next big top 40 hit to take the world by storm, but there needs to be an element of sing-ability. Think about your favorite songs, why are they your favorite songs? I guarantee one of the reasons is the catchy melody. Also, there is an incredible gifting in writing a melody that feels new, but familiar at the same time. Almost like the song has been sung by your soul before, but its new wording, melody, and phrasing to your tongue.
As songwriters for worship music, we do have a lens to look through for writing. As I stated earlier, that lens is the truth of the Word of God. Let’s take it a step further and view this lens as a telescope. Now we are able to see things that would never be able to see with the naked eye. We can explore the infinite space of the heavens when viewing through a telescope! In the same regard, the songs we are writing are worshipping a God of immeasurable vastness, depth, and limitless glory. There is freedom in that! What we usually view as “confines” are contrarily the exact opposite. With that said, there will always be recycled, overused “worship lyric go-to’s,” but we should strive for freshness in our lyrics. The countless number of attributes of God are never changing, but the way that we could express them are countless. Let the words we pen be worthy of a God who is infinitely worthy of new ways to sing of His glory, grace, and goodness!
This one is to appeal the musician side of me. I love a song that is arranged incredibly well. I love great musical hooks as much as a good vocal hook. The parts don’t even have to be difficult to play, as long as they fit the feel and vibe of the song perfectly. Whether it’s a signature guitar riff, a moving piano motif, or the dynamic arrangement of drums, the music sets the tone for how the lyrics are delivered. When great melody, lyric, and arrangement come together, it’s nothing short of a thing of beauty. Music is the single most powerful vehicle of art and media on the planet. Pair that with the unstoppable power of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God, and you have a force that can shake the world for the renown of Jesus Christ!
Does it resonate with the church?
I listed this one last, but it definitely isn’t the least important. I listed it last because, in my opinion, this is a “save the best for last” scenario. This is the last question that I come to because it’s what all of the other points are filtered through. A song may be all of the things above, but if it’s not going to resonate with the church (through a sermon series, the season we are walking through, or just general style) it’s a “no-go” for me. Also, a song that may not work for this particular season may be an anthem for the church a year or two later, you never know. Our team has written some powerful anthems for our church and it’s because we are all very involved in the lifeblood of our church! Having a finger on the pulse or the heartbeat of the church is something that every pastor, leader, and songwriter should have for their local church body. This only happens by connecting with the people in your church, actively serving, and buying into the overall vision of your church!
These are the main steps that I think about when songwriting for the church. I hope you found these steps helpful. Also, I am more than willing to answer any questions you may have about any of these steps or just to chat more in depth about this subject. Thanks!