Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on February 1, 2010

Before we move on, let’s discuss an aspect of the music business unique to the Christian field. Christian Copyright Licensing, International (CCLI) has been a great blessing to many writers and owners of songs used in ministry. Under copyright law, permission is required from a copyright holder for the reproduction of a song. Think of the trouble this used to be for churches wanting to print worship choruses in their bulletins or project them on their screens. To remain legal and honest, someone was supposed to write each publisher for permission every time a copy of a song was made—an impossible task that rarely got done. This problem was solved by the formation of CCLI, an organization that represents hundreds of publishers and tens of thousands of their songs. For a modest annual fee, any church may make legal copies of song lyrics for congregational use. Churches report their use on a specified schedule, sampling is done, and royalties are paid to the participating publishers to share with the writers. It’s a win-win situation; it saves the churches a lot of trouble and expense, and it keeps publishers in business and blesses songwriters with fair remuneration for their labors.

What I look for in a new congregational Worship Song

Craig Dunnagan, VP, Music Publishing and Church
Resources, Integrity Music

When I’m listening to new songs from writers there’s always a sense of anticipation. Could this be the next “Open the Eyes of My Heart” or “Here I Am To Worship”? It’s a privilege to help writers take their Holy Spirit inspired ideas, craft them and then offer them like new born babies as gifts to worshippers wanting to express their hearts to the Lord in a fresh, exciting and accessible way. There are many paths to powerful worship songs but there are some key issues for me as a publisher that I consider.

When listening to songs for the first time I try to turn off my brain and turn on my heart. A song can break all the normal rules of songwriting but bear such a touch of God that you can’t ignore it. There are many songs being used by God in the Church that are not perfect but are powerful. With all that said, let me share some key practical and spiritual considerations for new congregational worship songs:

Singable Melody —Is the melody in a range that the typical church member in the pew can sing? This range varies based on the key the song is written in. Also, are the intervals and melodic flow such that the person in the pew can feel comfortable with the song? A song too challenging melodically is sure to become a “solo performance” by the worship leader and team.

Accessible Lyrics—Does the lyric present a clear and understandable concept? Is it well written and crafted? Does the lyric represent a unique expression of a universally beneficial and useful idea such as scripture, expressions of praise, worship or prophetic statements that move people closer to aligning with the Word and will of God. Obscure ideas or complicated poetry that require explanations before the songs can even be presented, indicates that the writer was more interested in the “art” of the song than the “heart” of the song.
Memorable – A song can be easy to sing and accessible lyrically but be very ordinary. The incredible challenge in writing worship songs is to take singable melodies and accessible lyrics and craft them into an extraordinary and unique musical and spiritual event. Fresh expressions of worship, testimony or praise in a unique melodic or musical setting are what sink into my heart.

I’m not looking for good songs or even “great” songs; I’m looking for transforming songs. The songs our congregations embrace are adding to the liturgy of the Church. Let’s give them songs that convey the Truth and bring us into life-changing encounters with God’s Word and God’s presence.




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