Have you experienced Jesus in a way that makes you want to lead others into His love? Do you long to write compelling songs that help your church experience Jesus in deeper, more meaningful ways? Do you dream of your songs impacting an even larger audience someday? Here are three things I’ve learned in order to write compelling, memorable, and singable songs for my church and to impact people worldwide in worship.
The first thing I wanted to do when Jesus invaded my life was to write a song about it. I had only written one or two songs in my life at that time, but I experienced an overwhelming desire to write for Him that’s never left me. The sheer power of experiencing His unconditional love, acceptance, and approval of me as His child was enough to set me on a course of songwriting that has endured for three decades – now it’s your turn!
Keep it simple. Simplicity is almost a lost art these days. Society as a whole and our lives individually are complicated, complex, and often overwhelming. We’re overloaded with trying to survive and figure things out on spiritual, relational, and financial levels while juggling all that’s happening globally. What we and congregations really need is simplicity, not even more complexity. When we make our worship songs long and include tricky extra choruses or rangy melodies, we’re actually putting roadblocks in front of them they simply don’t have the energy to jump over. If you can reduce the number of hurdles, speed bumps, and obstacles to understanding how to enter into worship with your songs, people will feel engaged and want to sing with you. Keeping it simple will go a long way towards helping people enter in.
Make it singable. The word “chorus” actually means “many people singing together.” One of the biggest complaints in the church today is the lack of singable songs for worship. This can be challenging for the worship writer because we often want to exercise our creative “chops” and show people how clever and inventive we can be in our songwriting. We admire artists and writers who work in genres that are different from congregational singing, so we try to incorporate things they can get away with but that don’t work well for us. An example of that is excessive range or extra sections in songs that are different from the “normal” verse and chorus. Making your song singable by the largest number of people is the fastest way to get them singing along with you. It’s humbling for a high tenor to lower the keys, but often that’s the one thing shutting everyone else down. They just can’t hit the high notes.
Make it vertical. In my coaching and masterclasses, I often talk about the difference between talking about worship and actually worshiping. I work with songwriters who can write pretty lines about going into the throne room of God, but they never actually take me there. Think of Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin’s now classic 10,000 Reasons. It actually starts in worship with one of the greatest lines in the Psalms (Psalm 103:1), “Bless the Lord, O, my soul.” They didn’t start with merely talking about “blessing the Lord.” They just started blessing Him! Every line in that song is addressed to God – they’re vertical. A great worship song isn’t a song about worshiping. It worships. Making your worship songs worship will go a long way towards drawing your people into worship with you.
Get even more power tools for songwriting on April 21st by registering here for a FREE online songwriting masterclass called WRITE BETTER SONGS NOW (And Discover Seven Secrets Pro Christian Songwriters to Make Your Songs Stand Out from the Crowd). It’s a very long title, but you get the point. It’s a free 90-minute masterclass that will give you more power tools for songwriting with practical, actionable steps, and a lot of insights and tips on how you can become the songwriter you long to be.
John Chisum is Managing Partner for Nashville Christian Songwriters, a long-time Christian music industry professional, prolific songwriter, publisher, and song coach. He is the former Director of Song Development and Copyright for Integrity Music and the former Vice-president of Publishing for Star Song Media. He is a much-loved worship leader worldwide with over ten worship recordings and over 400 songs professionally published. He and Donna have been married for 36 years and they have a lovely daughter, Aly. John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out NashvilleChristianSongwriters.com for more information on the NCSMASTERCLASS happening online April 21!