Resources for Hymn Writers

Someone once said that our hymns are the music of those who are not musicians and the poetry of those who are not poets. Hymns are the spiritual language of the church set to song. Every generation needs to express its faith through song, and every generation does. More importantly, every generation needs to express that faith in an impactful way. However, few are able to compose original music that is suitable for congregations of all demographics.

A good hymn is not written by accident, but by dozens of hours of concentrated studying, writing, and editing. In some cases, a hymn is edited off and on for years before it is published. Though there are exceptions, the vast majority of good (lasting) hymns have 100+ hours of editing, and hymns with less time investment are likely needing a lot of scrubbing by an editor (or committee).

If you are interested in trying your hand at writing a hymn, or growing as a hymnist, you may share the experience I had–frustration at the apparent lack of resources for aspiring hymnists. A Google search and a visit to a book store might not yield many results, but there are more resources than you might think.

Every aspiring hymnist should have a reading list. The word of God should be perpetually be on that list, but there are also several very helpful books on the fine art of hymn writing. Here are a few that have blessed me in my journey as both an author and composer:

In addition to this reading list, there are some annual events where you can gain experience on writing lyrics and music:

  • The Hymninar – hosted every year on the beautiful University of Missouri campus in Columbia, MO. Dr. Craig Roberts hosts the event and uses his book, “A Good Hymn” as the primary textbook. Every hymnist (lyricist or composer) should go at least once. Every serious hymnist should go as often as possible. www.sumphonia.com/workshops/
  • Foundation School of Church Music – Founded in 1968, this annual singing school covers a wide range of topics from music theory fundamentals to worship leading to hymn writing. It is held in Buda, TX, just outside of Austin. www.foundmusic.org 
  • Texas Normal Singing School – The oldest running annual singing school in business. Like Foundation, they cover everything from worship leading to hymn writing. www.singingschool.org

Finally, if you’re on Facebook, there is a tremendous resource of a group called, “Church of Christ Hymnody”. The Hymnody group is a forum for hymn writers, worship leaders, hymnologists, and those who just love to sing. However, it is first and foremost a place to post and review new hymns, lyrics and music. The Hymnody group is one of the most active forums for hymn writing in the world today. Please join the discussion at www.facebook.com/groups/312787618749659

Happy writing!

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