I recently stumbled upon a recorded workshop with Stuart Townend entitled “The Principles of Songwriting“. I found it very helpful, inspiring and convicting whether your writing original songs or selected songs for a set. So the purpose of this blog is to share some of his major points.
Townend defines a great worship song as “one that stirs, inspires, and enables an individual or congregation to worship in spirit and truth”. He also states that writing songs is about serving the church, not having a place to try out your creative projects. Along this topic, he also stressed that promotion comes from the Lord; meaning that its not our job to push our songs on other people/churches/artists. This is quite humbling. The Lord will use a song in the way he wants. Townend believes there are 4 purpose for a worship song. It can be sung: 1.) Around the world 2.) In a network of churches 3.) Local church 4.) Personal time with God. Not all songs are going to be sung by every believer. Some songs will deeply impact the lives of a local church and that is the sole purpose God has for that particular song. Some songs minister only to our own hearts. So its important to remember that the Lord will use original songs in his own way, and being open to that can save you a lot of spiritual headache.
So what makes a good worship song? Townend offers 8 Thoughts.
1. Declares Biblical Truth. Pretty simple here. Songs that focus on God, not us and explore the character of God.
2. Allows People to Say Something – When people hear the song and sing along, they think, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m trying to say to the Lord, but couldn’t quite figure out how to say it”. Being it touch with the congregation helps tremendously.
3. Facilitates Response. This gives people a chance to respond to what they’re singing.
4. Singable. Pretty straight forward here. Singing melodies that aren’t boring but also are not too complex. Remember, writing worship songs isn’t about proving our musical creativity.
5. Strong All the Way Through. The desire to avoid “filler” sections in lyrics and overlook the importance of every line.
6. Says Something Others Don’t. Look at the songs you typically sing. Are there any themes/characteristics of God that are sung about. If so, write songs about them. Townend mentions there are not many songs that written primarily about heaven or the unified Church.
7. Too Many Songs Trapped in One Style Can Be Limited. Being open to other styles/sounds that may be slightly out of your comfort zone.
8. Doesn’t Use Cliches. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Look into expanding your vocabulary by reading, listening to great songwriters and reading poetry. He also cautions against allowing rhymes to shape the direction of a song.
Hope this encourages you as much as it did for me.