A good worship song has legs. Three of them. Like a stool.
A solid worship song, like a sturdy stool, has to have three equally strong elements in order to hold our worship. This (pun alert) understanding was important to me not only as a songwriter but as a worship leader who wanted to know what the best songs were for his congregation to sing on a Sunday morning. What was it that made certain songs classics? What is it that makes many songs meant for the worshiping crowd unusable? And why do I have to analyze everything?
The first element is obvious. A good worship song has to have meaning. The lyric in a worship song is what sets it apart from a song about your lover or your tractor (or both if it's a country song). A good lyric doesn't just say “praise the Lord, praise the Lord...”, “O Worship Him, let's dance and sing...” etc. etc., but it gives you a reason to worship – it doesn't push you before the throne, it draws you. A good lyric will inspire awe, generate thankgiving, or give hope.
The next element is not as obvious but just as important. A good worship song must be memorable. Have you ever had a song that you absolutely hated stuck in your head all day? If nothing else the song was at least memorable. In music verbiagiosity (?) we call that a strong “hook”. How much easier is a song to learn if it has a memorable melody line that fits the lyric like a glove.
And, of course, a song must be singable. There's nothing more frustrating than 100 or more people trying to sing a complex syncopated string of phrases that sounded great when the worship leader sang it solo on the CD. (Ever watch a large group of people try to sing the second verse of “Trading My Sorrows” by Darrell Evans?) People will just stop singing when they encounter a song like this and, as we worship leaders should know, participation is more important than fancy schmancy unique boutique.
Any song can be strong in one or two of these elements, but the classic songs have all three in spades. We owe it to our congregations as worship leaders and songwriters to give them the very best with the limited time we have to lead them.
Jun 18, 2007
How true Al! It's funny that you would post this, as I spent the whole weekend hearing the Holy Spirit tell me I am about to re-enter a time of song writing. Hopefully your good advice and influence will have an effect!! Praise God that it isn't difficult to find a reason to worship Him.