New songwriters, especially those who have a relationship with God, will most likely find themselves at some point in their songwriting journey wanting to learn how to write a worship song. Maybe that’s what drew you into songwriting in the first place.
Writing worship songs is on a whole different level than an ordinary “secular” song. I want to give you 10 steps to consider before you go about crafting a worship song. These songwriting tips will help you approach this type of songwriting from the right perspective.
1. Be in Prayer and the Word
In my opinion, this is one of the most important points I can make. That’s why I put it first. If you’re writing a worship song about God and to God, you should be in daily fellowship with Him. How are you going to write a song that is professing your worship to God if you are not in an intimate relationship with Him?
In order to express our worship, we need to be familiar with Who and why we are worshipping. By being in constant prayer and reading God’s word we will be spiritually in tune with who we serve. Read through and study the Book of Psalms. It is filled with wonderful words of worship.
We read in Ephesians 5:18-19,
“… Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”(NIV).
And in Colosians 3:16 we read,
” Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”(NIV)
Now, I have read articles online debating what some of these words mean. Like, did “Hymns” mean the same thing back then as it does today. I’m not going to get into the debate. It’s clear to me that God created music, gave us ears to hear it, and a heart to be moved by it, and the ability to write it. It’s our responsibility to know the subject we’re writing about as intimately as we can. In the case of worship songs, that would be God himself.
2. Be Humble
If you find yourself following step 1 you can’t help but be in a position of humility. There are many verses in the bible that address the subject of humility. I will list 3 here..
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4:6
For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:11
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6
Understand that whatever songwriting talent you possess and have developed was given to you by God. It is important for us to remember this truth before we even begin to write a worship song. And it’s just as important to acknowledge that once the song is written and either being sung by you and/or a congregation to God.
We should not be “proud” of the worship songs we have written but rather grateful for having been blessed with the talent and ability to have done so. Read again James 4:6 listed above. You may find yourself struggling with humility when people who hear your songs tell you how “great” or “wonderful” they are. They mean that as a compliment but we should give God the glory for providing that song. It is easy for us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought if we are not careful.
3. For Congregation or Personal?
There will be worship songs you write that are intended for you to sing to God and some that are for a congregation to sing in corporate worship. Listen to Christian radio and you will find this to be true. One giveaway is the use of the word, “we” or “our” or “us”. “We give you praise, oh Lord”, “How Great is Our God”, “Shine Your Light Upon Us”.
These are obviously for corporate worship. Writing songs in the first person can be either for your own personal worship or congregational. It depends on the song. God will lead you to write both. Listen to the Spirit.
I believe He will lead you in the direction the song should go. I’ve heard some beautiful worship songs that are not necessarily meant for a congregation. But these songs lead me into a worship experience when I sing them to God.
4. Choose a Topic
Whether you come up with a topic for your song of worship deliberately or it arrives “out of the blue” when you least expect it, be sure to stick to that specific topic throughout the song. For example, if you decide to write about God’s forgiveness be sure to support that topic with your lyrics.
Don’t write the first verse having nothing to do with God’s forgiveness even though it may be a great topic to write about. Just write about it in another song. The verses should all point to the chorus which communicates the general theme of the song.
5. Create a Great Hook/Title
Now that you have your topic picked out it’s time to come up with a catchy title or hook. This is a very important, maybe even the most important element besides the biblical accuracy of your topic that you can come up with. It is what others will remember the most.
A majority of the time the hook is the title. Even if a listener doesn’t remember much of the song. they should have that title along with the melody stuck in their head. If you need help understanding how to write a hook I’ve written an entire article dedicated to the subject, “What is a Hook in a Song”.
6. Choose the Song Structure
The way you structure a worship song can vary depending on the intended participation. If you’ve chosen to write it as one person worshipping God that could be different than intending to have a congregation worshipping. You may want to have short repeatable phrases that are easy to sing for a congregation.
The chorus which is your main idea or topic of the song may be repeated more often than say a “one person” worship song. Try and make it memorable and singable. There is a reason that only a few verses of some of the great hymns are sung in church. If you can keep it short, sweet, and full of meat!
7. Write the Lyrics and Melody
The words you use should paint a picture of worship. You can tell God what you think of Him, how He has changed your life, what He means to you, but do it in a way that “shows” God and not just “tells” Him. God could have said to us He loved us, right? And He has in several ways.
But as I’m writing this on Easter I’m thinking about how He showed His love for us. He sent His son to die on a cross in our place. What a picture of love! Are you moved more by someone saying they love you or showing their love by actions? Show God how you feel by painting a picture with words about how and why you feel that way rather than just telling it.
An example of what I’m talking about can be found in Chris Tomlin’s “Nobody Loves Me Like You”. The very first lines of the song “show” how God “shows” His love for the singer”.
Morning, I see You in the sunrise every morning
It’s like a picture that You’ve painted for me
A love letter in the sky
The melody you use also depends on the intended singer. For a congregation, you don’t want to have too wide of a melody line. The congregation is made up of so many singers of various abilities.
Pick an easier melody line that everyone can follow even if not everyone will be on key! If it’s easier to sing the worshipers can concentrate more on what and to Whom they are singing rather than how uncomfortable some of the notes are to hit.
8. Request Feedback From Your Church Leader
First of all, if you are writing a worship song to be sung in your church it is advisable to let your pastor or other church leader know of your intention. They are the ones people will hold accountable for whatever is communicated to the congregation whether it’s their sermon or something someone heard in one of the songs.
Believe me, someone, somewhere, at some time will find something they don’t agree with. Don’t let it be your song. Or at least do everything you can to not let it be the song. Your pastor can let you know of any questionable areas in your lyric.
You don’t want the lryics to conflict in any way with scripture. Your Pastor can point things out that might cause confusion. It’s another set of eyes, and trained eyes at that, to help spot and maybe help correct anything that might raise a red flag to somebody.
9. Rewrite the Song
I have heard of writers claiming that their song “wrote itself”. I believe there are cases where someone had the inspiration for a song and it flowed out perfectly from pen to paper. I also believe that is the rare occasion and that the vast majority of songwriters need to edit their songs. Look for places where you can improve the message.
Is there a word or phrase you can tweak that will make it just a little bit easier to sing? Have you heard of alliteration? Read my article, “Alliteration in Songwriting”. How about the rhyme scheme you used in the song? Is there a variety to the rhyme pattern and the pattern repeated throughout the song?
Are the pronouns used in the song consistent? These are all important things to consider. It’s one thing to write a secular song. This is a worship song that is intended to be sung to God Himself. We are to bring God our best, right? Writing a worship song should be approached with that mindset… or heartset!
10. Play the Song for the Congregation
You’ve finally reached the point where you are ready to present your song to the congregation. I would suggest introducing it as a new song. Don’t tell them you wrote it. If they know you wrote the song you will get biased feedback. Just introduce it as you normally do any other new song. You want to see their reaction.
Do you find that most of the people are singing along by the time the second chorus comes around? Are people reacting in a way you envisioned or do they seem bored? Don’t get discouraged if you don’t witness the reaction you hoped for. If you’ve followed all the previous steps you have poured your heart into a song for God and that is the most important thing.
Some pastors prepare a message, one that has been inspired by God, only to find little reaction to it. That doesn’t mean the message was no good. It just could have fallen on deaf ears, hearts, or maybe there was one soul who was moved by it. Judge the reaction, ask for feedback after the service and then tweak the song more if it needs it based on the feedback. Move on to the next worship song as you get inspired.
Well, if you’ve read this far you obviously have an interest in writing worship songs. Good for you. I hope this article has helped inspire you as well as set you on a path to be successful at it. I’d love to hear what you think. Sent me a note. Here is my contact page.