Thoughts on Songwriting…

For those who feel called to write songs of worship, there are many challenges. I thought it might be interesting to highlight 7 of these specific obstacles to worship songwriting and see what you think. (These are not listed in any particular order.)

  1. Originality. Your worship songs should be fresh. Granted, you’re probably not going to stumble on some hidden Bible code that reveals something no one’s ever noticed before. But you can communicate “worthy” or “steadfast sayings” in a fresh way. Many worshippers today struggle with complacency and there is a definite calling on writers to stay true to the Word while simultaneously working hard to make those songs connect in a way that matters. It sounds hard…because it is.
  2. Doctrine. We’ve all heard songs that we consider wrong or contrary to our theology. I don’t think any worship songwriter sets out to write poor doctrine. But it can happen. Worship writers who are smart recognize where God’s put them – in a local church. One of the many, many, many blessings of the church is that it’s a close, immediate way for you to formalize your doctrine. And I dare any of you to find a pastor or worship leader who wouldn’t check your songs for doctrinal question marks.
  3. Poetry. You wanna’ make a mark? You want to write a good song that people remember? Focus on the poetry. I’m not talking about rhyme schemes (necessarily) but rather working hard at words. Writers who don’t focus on the poetry of their songs end up with works that sound like spiritual cliches. And then that obstacle becomes a discouragement – writers sit around moping that their song didn’t work and they keep searching for some theological or stylistic thing that turned people off. Chances are…it was the poetry.
  4. Humility. I promise you that there are humble songwriters do exist in the world. I haven’t met any yet, but…ZING! I’m kidding! When you write a song of praise to God, you’re proud of it. It’s been hard-won and you want to use it. The problem is that our zeal for the song ends up being louder than the song itself. My grandpa always said, “Don’t tell anybody if it’s good or bad. Just do it and they’ll know soon enough.” Cultivating a humble heart and a loose grip on your creations will make your writing and ministering much more enjoyable!
  5. Process. Here’s a little known fact that most writers never learn. Your song is never really done. I promise you. Ask any songwriter to play one of their strongest pieces from three years ago and they’ll play it different than it started. Rewriting, reworking and experimenting is vital to making a song live and make a difference! Writers who are not committed to the process of fine-tuning songs end up with a batch of work that just makes them bitter. Why not enjoy the song for the rest of your life, right?
  6. Courage. Killing a song is one of the hardest things a writer can do. I’m not talking about forgetting it. But I am saying that good writers realize when a song’s not going anywhere. They’ll put it aside and pray for wisdom to know when that song is needed. If you’re smart enough to see the song isn’t going to change, move on to the next one. (You might actually be surprised when that ‘dead’ song comes back around.)
  7. Precision. Chances are your latest song was written for a specific place or time. A sermon, a circumstance and prayer – something prompted that song. Good writers are smart about when they break the song out. Poor writers plug their stuff in anytime they can. If you’re prayerful and humble, you’ll see those times where your song is the absolute perfect fit. And take it from me – finding just the right spot is a million times better than beating your church over the head with your latest offering!

Some of you out there are writers – and a smaller crowd even worship writers – what do you think? What can you add? What’s a common obstacle to worship writing?

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