Why are only a few people’s songs used in church?
This is the question I received recently as a result of a survey I am currently running. (Do check it out here)
The person asking the question mentioned that she was a successful recording artist and that she personally knew that several people had not only been touched by her music but had actually become born again as a result of her music.
This got me thinking.
Why is it that we only sing a handful of songs from a handful of people when there are so many great and talented worship song writers out there?
I’ve never really thought about this question before, but I guess it comes down to a couple of things:
- The Worship Music Industry
- The quality of the songs we are writing
Like it or loathe it, the Worship Music Industry is a real thing.
There are real people, making real money from selling worship music.
It’s a fact.
I’m not going to debate whether it’s right or wrong in this post. That can be done another day…
Truth is that, like in any industry, there are very successful “products” and there are less successful “products”. When an artist gains popularity, their songs travel, people buy their music, listen to their music and, due to the fact that they write congregational worship songs, these songs then get used in local churches all around the world.
As there is only a finite time on a Sunday morning, only the songs that most speak to our congregations will actually get used. For many, the songs that most speak to us are the ones that we listen to in our personal worship time.
This means that often songs that are not commercially available end up not being used in our Sunday meetings, thereby perpetuating the “cycle”…
How can we, as local songwriters, change this?
I am a strong believer in the fact that there are many many songwriters out there, writing songs for the local church. Many of these songwriters write amazing songs that serve their congregations in ways that we could never imagine.
Unfortunately many more songwriters are writing songs that simply do not get heard.
When it comes to writing songs I have noticed a couple of things:
As songwriters we often hold on to our songs too tightly. We refuse to listen to feedback and are not objective about the true quality of our songs. It is very rare for a song to be perfect on the first draft. We need other people to offer us feedback, advice and help. Our songs are our babies. Find someone who is willing to tell you that your baby is ugly, and listen to their advice.
Many of us give up too soon. In the last 20 years I have written over 70 songs which I thought were good enough to be sung in church. (I’ve written many more that never got to the stage where I thought they were good enough…)
Of those 70 songs, only a handful have actually been used for more than a season. Some were sung just once. Some were sung for a short time and then forgotten. Others have stood the test of time.
Writing songs is hard. It takes work. Songs need to be not only written, but also crafted.
So take your time writing your songs.
Write for your local church with no other motivation other than helping your local congregation discover more of God and enter into worship with songs the mean something to them.
When you do this your songs will become accessible, relevant and will serve your local church incredibly well.