Finding new songs, especially fast ones, that really minister to your congregation and are Biblically sound can be a bit challenging.
I don’t know about you, but I have spent hours pouring through new releases on iTunes, worship leaders forums, YouTube, and other Christian music resources only to come away with a handful of songs that were great for worship and our church.
Churches go through seasons, our pastors all have their own unique visions for certain times, and each church has its own special style based on the make-up of the local congregation.
So, who better than you and your church to write songs for your worship service and choir?
I know, I know… it is an extra work load and can seem a bit intimidating at first…
BUT, it’s also a great way to get more people in your congregation involved, fellowship with one another, and create Biblically sound music that specifically minsters to your local congregation! Besides, the time spent writing can be time NOT spent scouring the internet for new music!
So! If I’ve convinced you start up a songwriting team at your church, then here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind!
First, talk to your pastor!
Share your vision for the songwriting team and create a mission statement! Go in prepared with a well-thought-out plan for starting the team, who you’ll recruit, and how the team will minister to the church. See what your pastor thinks and ask him if he will pray with you about it for a week or so and then get together and talk about whether or not your should proceed.
If not, that’s ok! Ask your pastor if you can approach him about it in a year to see if his thoughts have changed and start doing some personal songwriting in the meantime.
If your pastor says yes, then go for it!
Start building a team!
The first people you should talk to are those already on your praise team, both the singers and musicians. I would recommend having a small, informal meeting and sharing your vision and mission again. Explain to them that this would involve an extra commitment of time and creative energies. Let them know that it’s ok if they’ve never written a song before! Their input is still valuable and they may discover that they are fantastic songwriters!
Next reach out to other members of your church! Talk to the choir, other ministers, poets, people who are great with words, and give them an opportunity to be a part of this new ministry.
Every potential member should know that they have the opportunity to bow out gracefully down the road if they realize that songwriting is just not their thing. It’s not for everyone and that’s ok!
Lay some ground rules!
After you’ve assembled a team, you need to set some boundaries and protect the group from division and hurt feelings.
Songwriting is an emotional thing and putting your ideas out there for criticism is tough! Putting some rules in place will help create a safe environment for your team to work and grow in.
- First, you have to learn to not get too attached to your ideas. Some of them may be great and simply need to be put on hold for a bit. Other ideas might be terrible and need to go. Just because they’re our ideas doesn’t mean we need to stubbornly fight for them with the risk of causing division, hurting feelings, and/or sacrificing the potential quality of a song.
- Second, every comment made to another member of the team, especially when expressing unease or dislike for an idea, lyric, or melody, must be done in love and in a positive way! Instead of saying, “That’s a stupid idea!” or “I don’t like that!”, use phrases like, “Maybe we look at this idea another time.”, “What if we take this approach to your idea.” or “I like this word or phrase, what if we use it this way.” Remember that the group is created to work together, so encourage and build one another up! Focus on each person’s strengths and what they bring to the table! Create a positive atmosphere!
- Third, everyone needs to know upfront that not every song will make it into a worship set. The team can’t get too emotionally attached to a song or allow their feelings to get hurt.
- Last, have fun! Laugh at yourself! Share every idea (even the bad ones!) and enjoy being a part of such a great ministry!
If there are only 2 to 4 members in your new songwriting group, then get to work!
However, if you managed to get 5 or more people to join this new ministry, then you’re going to want to create a rotating group schedule. You really don’t want more than 3 people writing together, because it can make for a long writing session and a lot of different ideas to weed through!
If you separate into groups, it’s also good to mix up the groups every so often! This limits the idea that one group’s songs are getting used more, or that someone is stuck in a group that isn’t producing and so on and so forth. Everyone should get the chance to write with everyone in the group at some point. If members decide to get together with certain ones that they feel they write well with on their own time, then that’s great, too! You should always encourage the members to bring songs they’ve written outside of the team get togethers!
Cowriting also means that every writer takes ownership of the song, no matter how big or little the contribution. Just make sure that the team members know that they are expected to give their best and not just ride on everyone else’s coattails.
However, it is polite to put the name of the songwriter who brought the idea, or meat of the song, first.
Learn as much as you can about songwriting!
Now that you have a group together, some boundaries in place, and an understanding of how cowriting should work, you and your team need to start learning about songwriting!
There are several ways to do this!
- Browse the internet for blogs, ebook, YouTube videos, etc.
- Read books about songwriting.
- Take an online class or workshop.
- Bring in a professional songwriter to do a workshop with your team.
- Analyze a few of your church’s favorite worship songs.
- Encourage your team members to do some research on their own.
There’s really no excuse for not learning and developing the craft of songwriting! There are so many resources at our fingertips these days!
Be sure you learn how to write for praise and worship or choir. If you’re writing songs for a worship service, you need to understand the components of the praise and worship genre. Once you know, keep the focus on the genre that your team is writing for.
Ideas can come from so many different places! I get ideas when I’m driving, in the shower, trying to go to sleep, listening to the preaching, and more!
It’s best to have your team come into a songwriting session with ideas already! Have the group start tossing ideas around and then jump on one that everyone connects with.
Keep in mind that you’re writing for praise and worship or choir for your church and try to write songs catered to that! Remember, the idea behind starting this new ministry is to better minister to your church and the seasons they experience, along with promoting the vision of your pastor.
A very important note: Always start your songwriting session with prayer! All of this is for God and His glory, so make sure He is at the center and directing the writing of each song!
Get final approval of the songs!
You need to have a process in place for approving songs for use in a church service. I recommend having a small board, the leader and a couple of people that you trust, that reviews each song and makes the decision about whether or not it’s usable in a service setting.
After you have your first song (or several!), let the board review it. The songs that make it through should be,
- Singable (melodically and lyrically)
- Doctrinally sound
- Appropriate for the context (praise and worship, choir, etc.)
- Fitting for your congregation
If it meets these standards and gets a stamp of approval, try it out with your praise team and see how they connect with and respond to it. Play it for some of your musical mentors (worship leaders, songwriters, musicians, etc.) and get some feedback.
Use the new, original song!
Introduce it to your church just like you would with any other new song! Remember to use it several times before you make a final judgement on how well it goes over.
I’ve personally found that the church connected more with the songs they knew their own people wrote. It made them proud of their worship team! So don’t be afraid to let the word out that your church now has an awesome songwriting team!