Worship Songwriting for My Church… and Your Church?

Our songs made available got me thinking

Transposable audio and chord charts for “How Glorious You Are” are now available on WorshipTeam.com! Worship directors, if you don’t use WorshipTeam.com consider using it to manage the craziness. It’s a better, more musical version of Planning Center.

It’s life-giving to lead your own church community in songs you create. It’s a gift and a wonderful feeling as an artist. I pastored the songwriters at VCC in Marietta GA for 18 years; we wrote 100’s of songs people actually liked and needed. We would press CD’s and make our songs available on the web with the hope that someone else would listen and enjoy what they heard.

If we are honest, in the worship songwriting world, the big “win” is learning that some OTHER church is singing your song… whoa! Not just listening… but teaching YOUR SONG to the drummer, putting the words you wrote in their power point, and encouraging others to sing along. It’s nice to know that we don’t just have to wait for the suits at the big Chrisitan record labels to spoonfeed us the next sugar sweet hit. This church songwriting thing is pretty life-giving and exciting. Hopefully, those songs are forming people rightly, making souls that think and act more like Christ. 


That previous sentence is the “right” answer and it took me a long time to get there. In my youth, my secret desire was to acquire a big house or more guitars with the success of my songs. At the core, what I really wanted was respect, honor, and influence. Some smart person told me I could get that stuff from other, more realizable sources! Now I’m just happy someone, anyone is listening – and maybe singing along 🙂 

Check out WorshipTeam.com for a FREE TRIALDownload, listen and sing to “How Glorious You Are” on iTunes and Spotify 

 

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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Recording as Discipleship

The Making of How Glorious You Are

FINISHING THE RECORD 

I co-wrote, produced and played on a live recording for my previous church in August 2015. Four months into production, I was let go from the church. Much of the process of finishing the album revolved around my ability to mix the songs on the cheap as an employee, so needless to say it was delayed. Working on this record after my departure felt like I was writing a love letter to an ex-girlfriend and having to mean it. Ultimately I had to finish it, because so many, including myself, had already invested so much. I want to share a little about this album and the creative community behind it to encourage churches to create record their own expressions of worship.

Creativity flourishes not in certainty but in questions. – Sue Monk Kidd

A WORSHIP TEAM WITH A NAME  

When the church planted 20 years ago we named the worship band “Poured Out Like Wine” because it sounded more sustainable than “Mike’s Praise Band”. Over that time we recorded 6 full lengths albums, 5 EP’s, and 5 singles. We built a studio in the church and trained hundreds of musicians, songwriters, and recording engineers over the years. You might call it “recording as discipleship”. We have has some limited success with royalties and labels publishing our songs, but we never had anything you could call a “hit”. No substantive reviews, nods or buzz. A long, slow, ordinary creative flow with hardly anyone noticing other than our church. This is where it gets interesting. In our little church, the worship leaders and songwriters have been saying something new for almost 20 years. With hundreds of our own songs weaved into the typical modern church liturgy, we have lived the dream week by week. Most artists would kill to have a couple hundred people in a room singing along to your song. It’s been good for all of us.

Each name on this CD jacket represents hours, months and years of discipleship. The songs have formed us, but more importantly, the hours spent creating together have formed us more into the image of Christ. 

SINGABLE VISION 

The preachers preach and the songwriters listen. We summarize the message into something memorable and singable. As the community embraces seasons of rejoicing or weeping, the songwriters are the attentive storytellers coming alongside the church to give voice.

HOW GLORIOUS YOU ARE 

This slow kingdom coming peeks into the world a little today the release of “How Glorious You Are”; the title track was written in between theology classes when I realized once again the centrality of Christ in worship. JR Rund and Wilfred Cuthbert bring their country leanings on “Songs of Joy” and “The Steadfast Love of the Lord”. Lauren Kamal wrote and sang (8 months pregnant) a deep reflection on the presence of God on “We Can’t Contain You”. “Oh Jesus” was written by our sound guy turned bass player tuned songwriter, Jonathan Hicks – it’s the most ‘Vineyardy’ song on the record. “Come Holy Spirit” is my favorite worship song I’ve ever written or recorded. It just says and does all the things I want a church song to do. I wrote the first song “One True God” when a really good friend told me he had quit Christianity – it’s the wrestling of doubt and faith against a Tom Petty chord progression. This is a very vocal record with all 6 singers (worship leaders) pretty much singing all the time.

For this recording, we used ALL local church people except for the drummer and mastering engineer. We made a 20K album for 3K! So many musicians gave up time at work and rehearsed hours and days to make this happen. We labored over the songs for months before setting them free.

You can buy the record HERE

You can STREAM the record everywhere

You can download the chord charts HERE

 

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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A WORSHIP LEADER’S GUIDE: Surviving and Thriving This Christmas {VIDEO}

Ten years ago, leading into the Christmas season I had a nervous breakdown as I was frantically preparing songs, dramas, and choirs for our medium sized congregation. The pressure of making Christmas “extra-special” for everyone nearly broke me. Below is a video of my story and a few ideas of how I reclaimed the Advent season. This is a VIDEO re-post of a previous text blog from last year.

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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A Worship Leader’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving this Christmas

From Grinch to Glory

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As the Christmas season approaches the demands for those overseeing the worship experience in our faith communities multiplies exponentially. Just like others, our calendars fill up with parties, pageants, and family gatherings but unlike everyone else, as musicians, we are responsible for adding the soundtrack to the season. That means recruiting more volunteers, more prep time, more rehearsals, and more stress. If you are like me, EVERY Christmas in memory (since I was 5 years old) has some sort of production attached to the season. Every. Single. Year. This yearly rhythm can steal our joy and get us into a mode of just surviving the season.

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A Local Church's Songwriting Story

Starting this week, the worship ministry our my church, Poured Out Like Wine, will be doing pre-production for our next live record at Vineyard Community Church in Marietta GA. For over 15 years we have experienced that even in our small church context, the musicians can gather to make great recordings of original worship songs. We don’t have a record contract or mass demand for our “product”, but we love to make new things together. Our church celebrates with us as we tell their testimony through song. We are a broad mix of young and vintage souls seeking God, co-writing songs together and doing our best to tell the story of God in the midst of our worship journey. I LOVE to see local churches (large and small) create new things, awaking the heart to worship!

Check out our story here:

3 Worship Songwriting Tips

Does your local church write worship songs that reflect your unique journey as you retell the story of God? If you have tried and got discouraged or you would like to start here are a few quick ideas to get you thinking boldly about local songs:

1. Co-write. 

Churches are full of “Christian Artists” using the church stage as a platform for their next career move. When you co-write worship songs from scratch using the people in your church, it will turn that idea on it’s head. It’s now more about edifying the church than just one person’s dream.

2. Say What the Pastor Says (in a song) 

As songwriters, we should always be listening for ideas for songs. One of the best place for you (and your team) to do this is during the sermon. Listen and take notes. Preachers get fired up and often say incredible truths in creative ways that usually don’t come out in day to day conversation. Listen for little phrases that stick out and sound like song ideas. Along with scripture take these phrases and make some new songs. Share those songs with the Pastor and encourage one another in the journey. Write. Re-write. Tweak. Remember that it’s the song that will remain, not so much the sermon, in people’s hearts and minds.

3. Try A Simple Scripture Song 

Instead of always carrying the burden to craft doctrinal and theological masterpieces, try taking a simple Biblical phrase and building a melody around it with a few chords. Here are the words to what is probably the most sung worship song in the world  taken from Psalm 188:24:

This is the day
This is the day
That the Lord has made
That the Lord has made
I will rejoice
I will rejoice
And be glad in it
And be glad in it

For 17 years, writing worship songs for our local church has been a joy and pleasure. Our pastor and people have always championed new songs. We see them as monuments in our journey as the gathered family of God. Check out a bit of our story HERE