7 Tips For Writing Better Congregational Worship Songs

Congregational songwriting is a beautiful and mysterious work that I think all worship leaders should attempt. I want to share with you some points to remember as you write songs for your congregation to sing. Tips and tricks have limited usefulness, but I’ve found that principles that hold up over a long period of time can be a great starting place. So, think of these as starting places. You don’t always have to abide by every principle that proceedeth from the content of this blog, but if you want to write some songs, this might be a good place to start.

  • Write some Scripture songs: We are not grounded enough in the Bible, in part because we have moved away from the Scripture song. Try your hand at putting the Scriptures to melody.
  • Write melodies, not chord progressions or rhythmic patterns. Melody is king, so crown him with all your creative energy and thoughts. Happy Birthday is not a hit because of the lyrics...it’s the melody that makes it stick.
  • Reach across the gap between your artistic brain and the analytical brain of most people in the congregation. Most artists feel misunderstood because they do things that most people don’t understand. Common ground without compromising artistic integrity is hard, but must be reached for the good of the congregation. “Seek to understand more than you seek to be understood.”
  • Write your prayers and put them to melody.
  • Give them hooks! People love hooks because they need a place to hang their hat. Andy Stanley is a one-point sermon guy and he is known as one of the best communicators in the country. He hammers a theme and makes it stick. A strong hook will leave them singing and and thinking about the song.
  • Write songs with a specific form. (VERSE, CHORUS, VERSE, CHORUS or VERSE, VERSE, VERSE with similar melody) Don’t lead people around and not give them a clue where you’re going. Form is a very helpful component of congregational songs.
  • Keep it simple. Don't dumb it down. Be Thou My Vision is one of the most simple melodies but it’s stunningly beautiful. The lyric is simple and plain but deeply profound and personal. Shoot for that mark. Mastery of a craft has ultimate form and function.


After taking my wife and sons across the country in an RV for 35 days, I wanted to express a lesson from our trip that defined it and helped add another dimension to living as we returned to normal life. We have a brilliantly created planet to enjoy. Being with my family in many of our nation’s national parks refreshed my sense of wonder and awe; we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). One of the themes from the trip that interested me is the early exploration of the American west and how a few brave people risked everything to explore and then live to tell the story. Many expeditions carried with them painters and photographers to capture, as best they could, the wonder of these rarely seen places. I love the story of a young painter named Dellenbaugh who spent a summer in the early 1900's in Zion Canyon in Utah. He worked at painting the landscapes he saw. When he began showing his work back in the art galleries of the east, no one believed the paintings depicted a real place. They thought he'd tried to paint a fantasy world. Ultimately though, the paintings of these wild places ignited a desire in many to go themselves and see in full what the paintings had conveyed in part. The artist's work had been to explore and then simply create a picture of what they saw.

For my life as a Christian, the work is similar. Explore the depths and heights of who God is and as His glory unfolds, try to capture it in a song or a word or an act of love. We share in hopes that those who see it will want to go there themselves and find the same wonder and beauty revealed to us. We might have a hard time convincing people at first, there will be skeptics and the cost of the exploration will be high but what we receive from the journey is worth it: joy for our own souls, knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:19) and having a story to tell about how great and awesome He is; a story that other people will want to experience for themselves.


Poetry and Painting sublime and purify thought, by grasping the past, the present, and the future--they give the mind a foretaste of its immortality, and thus prepare it for performing an exalted part amid the realities of life.
Thomas Cole (American Painter), Essay on American Scenery 1836