I know songwriting isn't for everybody, but lots of worship leaders ARE songwriters. As much as I wish, there are no hard-and-fast rules for what makes a good worship song. In fact, it seems as if the songs that don't follow rules typically have a longer life in the local church.
But there are some philosophies that guide us as we write songs for corporate worship. We would be wise to remember these encouragements and constantly check our songwriting against them.
TRY FOR SONGS THAT LAST
There are songs for a season - four minute tunes that somehow intersect with culture and faith at just the right moment and become a huge hit for a few months or years. There are other songs that stand the test of time. None of us know exactly how either of those things happen, but having the right goal is a big step in the right direction. This means we try to stay away from fads or what seems clever at the time. Surprises "twists" in the song or cliche phrases may seem smart at the time, but those tricks don't have a long shelf-life. Aim for truth and clarity and poetry and your song will immediately come out stronger for it.
REMEMBER THAT THE SONG ISN'T YOU
I wish this wasn't the case, but it's a sad truth. Many times people like our songs because they like us. It's awesome to be liked by the people you're leading, but try to write songs that will have just as much power and beauty if sung by someone else. When we write songs on our own persona/fan-base, we tend to take shortcuts - we don't work on the rhyme scheme hard enough or go for something original because we know our people are gonna' love the song anyway because they know our "heart." You wrote the song, but the song isn't you. And it'll bless even more people if work hard at it!
WRITE IN THE GAPS
One of the most common mistakes we make is writing something that's already written. Either we get so inspired by a piece of music we try to emulate it OR our favorite song sneaks its way into what we're writing. It's true that there's nothing new under the sun, but when thinking about songwriting, think about what you can write that's fresh and original. Worship songs sing about timeless, unchangeable truths we can hold on to in perilous times. They should sound awesome! As you're writing, challenge yourself to go that extra mile. Write that third verse, don't settle for that bridge, try a new chord. You may not keep any of that, but it will certainly push you past your creative boundaries!