On July 26, I'm speaking at a conference called the Songwriter's LAB. One of the sessions will focus on "writing for congregational worship" and thought I'd share an abbreviated version of those talks here on the blog!
IT'S GOTTA' BE GOOD
There's a reason why you're people like the songs you sing in church: because they're good songs.
If you're going to write worship songs for churches, know that the competition is pretty fierce. In fact, most churches only add 4-6 new songs a year, which makes for a crowded field. All those "professional" worship songs operate a high level of production and songwriting quality and if your songs going to sit alongside them, you better be good at it.
Nobody can necessarily tell you how to come up with good song ideas, but you can learn a lot from the attributes of other strong worship songs.
1. ARRANGEMENT - Good worship songs are expertly arranged. These songs have been meticulously crafted with dynamics - in other words, the song is a journey. This "progression" can be found in all good worship songs.
As you're writing, think farther than just your voice and your instrument. How's this song going to play in a room full of people? What's the lesson or emotion needed at the end of the song and how are you going to get there? What will the band do?
2. TIMING - This doesn't just mean the overall length of the song. Timing matters in every section of what you're righting. Every section of your song needs to be timed with wisdom. (Ever wonder why it seems like every Verse 2 is half-as-long as Verse 1? Timing!)
Timing usually equals "re-writing." This is where you go back to a finished song and edit it. You make things more efficient, tweak chord voicings and work on transitions. Go back to a finished song a few weeks later and the timing issues will be apparent.
3. ECONOMY - Pro songs know what they're about. You can write a worship song that covers justification and sanctification and mercy and social justice and creation and adoration...just don't expect people to sing out. if you want your songs to sit alongside the professional stuff, write with this goal in mind: MOST POETIC THAT'S MOST EFFICIENT.
That isn't easy to do, but one thing can help you get started. When you being working on a song, write out a thesis sentence. Ask yourself to describe the goal of the song in one sentence. Then as you write, measure your lyrics against that sentence. If you're veering too far off course, your song may suffer.