The Art of Hymn Writing

2014 Doxology and Theology Conference


What makes a good hymn or worship song? In this 21-minute session from the 2014 Doxology and Theology Conference, Keith Getty shares three goals that guide his hymn writing. Keith Getty and his wife, Kristyn, are singer-songwriters and recording artists best known for their composition of modern hymns. The hymn “In Christ Alone” was co-written by Keith and first recorded by the Gettys.


Keith described how his Presbyterian background shaped him as a musician. What is your church background, and how has that shaped you as an artist?
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Keith is passionate about writing hymns with three goals:

  1. Content: Does the content of this hymn teach theology?
  2. Congregation: Is this hymn written for congregational worship?
  3. Timeless: Will this hymn carry someone through decades?

Describe your experience writing hymns or worship songs. In what ways do your songs share these goals? How might these goals influence what you write in the future?
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Keith said, “I will give my life, all my energy, to see a new generation write good songs that feed the global church. But I am deeply concerned with people who think it is easy, who so devalue art, devalue their congregations, as to try to write songs that are really not very good. If we are going to be critical about our theology, we have to be critical about our art as well.”  

What are your personal goals or criteria for songwriting and selecting songs for worship? How do you know when a song is good enough to be shared with your congregants?
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List your favorite hymns. Why are they your favorite? What makes them timeless?
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May we lead our congregants to the throne with hymns and songs so rich in truth and beauty that they not only teach, but carry the people of God through life.  


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