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Musicianship

7 Starting Places to Consider When Writing Congregational Songs

Carl Cartee
January 13, 2017

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.
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