Writing a song can be difficult. Even the best musicians can be clueless when it comes to knowing how to write song lyrics for Christian music. On one hand, you don’t want to come across as cheesy. While on the other hand, you know how difficult it can be to stick complicated theology into a song. It can be a difficult high wire act of being faithful to God’s word and understandable by today’s audience. That’s why we want to give you a few things to think about as you begin (or continue) to write songs.
Pull From Scripture
Not only is the Bible the inspired word of God, it is one of the most beautiful books to be passed down throughout history. We learn about God, go through the grieving process of Job, see the suffering and community of the early church, witness the healing power of Christ, and so much more. How can we know how to write song lyrics for Christian music without the Bible? It has taught us essentially everything we know about God!
Aside from the knowledge of the Bible’s historical record, you can also read through the Psalms to try and get an understanding of what real worship looks like. We see through the Book of Psalms what elements the Israelites incorporated into their praise and where the focus was placed. On top of mere inspiration, the Psalms themselves have been adapted by modern artists. Chris Tomlin and Shane and Shane are just two of the many artists who have used exact words from this book of the Bible to create songs of worship. We should celebrate David and other early songwriters and thank them for laying the groundwork on how to write song lyrics for Christian music.
Use Your Own Experiences
Authenticity is very important to the writing process. If you’ve never experienced something, it’s doubtful that the words you share will sound all that impactful. However, if something is coming from the heart, it better translates to a wider audience. One of the best examples of this is “I Can Only Imagine” and MercyMe singer Bart Millard. As you can see from the recent film by the same name, there were years of a struggling career and a lifelong relationship with his father that was complex all packed into that song.
For the audience, this leads to quality music they can identify with, especially if they have struggled in a similar area. The consumer isn’t the only one who gets something good out of this, though. A musician can look at a carefully crafted song that tells of his struggles as a form of free therapy. Sometimes it just feels good to get all of your anger, pain, and helplessness out in the open. The Bible has plenty of proof backing up just how important this can be.
Read and Sing Old Hymns
Just as we should respect the psalms of the Old Testament, we should learn to appreciate the centuries of hymns that precede today’s worship movement. “Amazing Grace” was written in the late 18th century by a slave trader-turned-clergyman. Despite being published 219 years ago, it continues to be one of the most popular religious songs of all time. (This goes back to our earlier point about writing from experience. John Newton was so outraged by the evil he had done, his only solace could be found in the grace of Jesus.) Though this song is often used by our culture, it is only one of hundreds of great hymns that can fuel your own creativity. Our most remembered hymns are those that top into a certain feeling of grace, despair, or love that is universally understood. Instead of trying to write something that will sell, think of what aspects in faith you struggle with and filter that through the patterns you see in old hymns. This is easier said than done, but in the worst-case scenario you’ll still end up reading and listening to powerful songs of worship.
Be Actively Pursuing God
This may seem irrelevant in a conversation about how to write song lyrics for Christian music, but this is actually the most important item on this list. How we can attempt to write songs about our faith if we are not actively pursuing God Himself? It would be like trying to write a love song about a fictional person you know nothing about: you might be able to finish the task, but there is a noticeable lack of conviction. When we are studying the Bible, praying to God, having community with other believers, and helping out in our communities, we have a better understanding of who God is and what the Christian journey is like.
You’ll never know how to write song lyrics for Christian music if you haven’t put in the time trusting in God and doing all you can to learn more about Him. It would be like a single college student writing a book on marriage. You haven’t fought the battles of such magnitude as fertility issues, joblessness, or raising a family. Why would anyone care to hear about your hypothetical advice on marriage? Actively pursuing God is good for your soul and your songwriting. The closer your relationship with Him, the more powerful your lyrics will likely be.
Listening for Inspiration is the Best Method for How to Write Song Lyrics
The funny thing about music is that one song may take years to write while another jumps out onto the page in a matter of minutes. No matter if you’re a touring artist or someone who just plays a little at coffee houses and open mic nights, listening for inspiration will lead to music that connects with an audience. Like we’ve already said, it’s hard to fake something in your songs. Even if you’re a charismatic person who is talented with an instrument, most people know the real deal from someone who is pretending. During trials and victories in your life, there will be moments when you are overcome with emotions that lead to honest, breathtaking lyrics that reach inside listeners. If you are struck with inspiration by a melody or phrase that you can’t get out of your head, don’t let it go by.
How to write song lyrics for Christian music depends on what kind of message you want to convey. Are you looking to write a worship anthem? A song of brokenness? Something pop-friendly expressing the joy you found in Jesus? Using these tips, you can be well on your way to crafting a song that says everything about faith you’ve ever felt in your heart.
For musicians who are just starting out or want to improve the skills they have, one of the best ways to do so is by attending a program like Camp Electric. We bring in some of the biggest acts in Christian music for classroom instruction, special concerts, and workshops. Become our student today and you’ll be able to learn from musicians who tour the country with your favorite singers and bands.