Top Ten Ways to Write Bad Worship Songs

Saturday, November 01, 2008
Another addition to my top ten's of worship. It makes for easy posts. Songwriting is something I've been trying to work on to varying degrees of success. This is the top ten ways to write bad worship songs which was blogged here on This is a top ten I can relate to!

So if you want to write bad worship songs, follow these simple tips:

1. Aim to write the next worldwide worship hit.It’s already been done, and you can’t control the results. Who are you writing for, anyway?

2. Spend all your time working on the music, not the words.Does it really matter what words we sing? God thinks so. We should, too. If God thought music was the most important aspect of a worship song, we’d have recordings of King David singing and playing the Psalms.

3. Spend all your time working on the words, not the music.Don’t be concerned about melodies, rhythms, or harmonies. After all, only the words matter. Really? Consider this: great theology set to melodies that are bland or impossible to sing won’t be remembered for long. If at all.

4. Don’t consider the range and capabilities of the average human voice.You may have a three octave range but most people in the congregation are comfortable in the range from a low A to a high D. Also, they probably can’t sing the alternate melodies and inflections as well as you can.

5. Never let anyone alter the way God originally gave your song to you.Why mess with divine inspiration? Well, because we see in part and don’t always get it right the first time.

6. Make sure the majority of your songs talk about what we do and feel rather than who God is and what he’s done.Why clutter up our songs with clear, specific, and compelling descriptions of God’s character and works? Why not just emote and talk about how passionate we are? Because an emotional fire that has no doctrinal fuel dies about pretty quickly or ends up trying to feed on itself.

7. Try to use as many Scriptural phrases as you can, and don’t worry about how they fit together.This is what Nick Page refers to as “fridge magnet poetry.” It sounds biblical, but no one quite understands what you’re saying.

8. Cover as many themes as possible.Unless you’re writing 17 verses like some 18th century hymn writers, you probably shouldn’t try to deal with creation, the fall, Israel’s history, the incarnation, Jesus’ life on earth, the last supper, the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, the pouring out of the Spirit, the church, ministry to the poor, salvation, holiness, the second coming, and heaven all in one song. Great lyricists like Stuart Townend and Mark Altrogge can weave numerous themes around a consistent focus. But most of us aren’t Stuart or Mark. Stay focused during your song, and make sure you have a good reason for one line following another.

9. Use phrases and words that are included in 95% of all worship songs.You bore my loss/upon the cross; you took my shame/I praise your name; you came to save/me from the grave; my filled my soul/and made me whole; thank you for your love/that came down from above. Believe it or not, those phrases and rhymes have been used before. They’re fine words. We can probably think of more creative ways to use them, though. We can probably think of other words, too.

10. Forget about Jesus and what he accomplished at the cross.Make it sound like we don’t need a mediator

Worship Central UK Tour - Birmingham

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
On Saturday night a friend and myself went along to the Worshipcentral UK tour as it stopped in Birmingham. For those not in the know, WorshipCentral is an Alpha/HTB initiative to promote worship in the local Church lead by Tim Hughes and Al Gordon, and I’m regular reader of their website and blogs. So to say the least I was looking forward to seeing what God would do and have a time were I could receive.

Overall it was a very encouraging night where Tim lead worship at the start, Al and Tim gave an encouraging talk on passion, purity,perseverance and we were lead into a time of ministry by Al leading worship. It was just what the doctor ordered! Brilliant message about perseverance. It was also great to see so many young people passionately worshipping God.

Though most of the night I had to fight with my cynicism and the event really highlighted several concerns I have about the trend in worship.

Commercialism – On Saturday night as we entered hall for the event we were bombarded with ‘resources’ to buy including Al and Tim’s latest CDs. Why just the lastest CDs? Tim has two other previous albums which are filled with great songs to resource a church. Why not other worship artists? I’m sure there are other worship leaders in the UK that could resource the church with good songs. Also when Tim led worship at the beginning he used all his own songs with the exception of one. Al did better when he led using only 2 or 3 of his songs.

Definition of worship -- If you were Jo Blogs off the street who knew nothing about worship and worship styles, you would have defined worship on the night as guitar driven Coldplay-ish soft rock songs played by trendy beautiful people in their 20s leading a majority crowd of even younger people in an concert like setting. Don’t get me wrong or mistake me for a rainbow guitar strapped bearded Kendrick tambourine lover, this is my style of sung worshipping. I love it but I’m concerned that an initiative to encourage worship in the UK and indeed the world is promoting a one dimensional view of how we can worship. Should we not be trying to broaden the definition into the different music styles, genres and methods.

Congregational singing -- As the band was so loud for many of the songs I couldn't even hear the person beside singing. This meant it felt like a very individualistic experience. Again don't get me wrong I like loud concerts and I've been to and enjoyed many rock/metal concerts . The best time in the whole night was when we sang 'How great Thou art' with very little instrumental accompaniment. It's always great to feel part of a body, to hear a group of people lift their voices to worship the great 'I AM'. See my post on the Death of congregational singing.