There are tons of great new hymns and new hymn arrangements being written today! Here are some writers and arrangers whose material I’ve used frequently in corporate settings, and I would heartily recommend to anyone who is looking for depth and clarity in what we sing as a church.
This husband & wife songwriting team are best known for their marvelous hymn “In Christ Alone”. Their hymns are intended for corporate worship, and feature a powerful combination of singable melodies and weighty lyrics. All of their albums are worthwhile, but see especially Hymns for the Christian Life and Awaken the Dawn.
Often a songwriting partner of the Gettys and Matt Boswell, Townend is the author of the familiar hymns “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” and “The Power of the Cross”. His recent album Creation Sings provides unique arrangements of some of his songs previously recorded by the Gettys.
This collaborative effort led by Bob Kauflin involves many hymn writers who have produced modern arrangements of older hymn texts like “Before the Throne of God Above” and “Now Why This Fear“, as well as new songs such as “All I Have Is Christ”. Most of their albums are available for free streaming through their Bandcamp page., along with a handful of Spanish albums with many originals. Here’s one of my personal favorite:
Based out of Louisville’s Sojourn Church, this group produces arrangements with more of an indie rock flavor. Recently they have been churning out updated versions of the hymns of Isaac Watts.
A collaborative resource from a handful of local church pastors, Church Works Media writes doctrinally-rich, Christ-centered hymns and psalms for corporate worship that are all free and reproducible. A incredibly valuable resource for churches that lack some of the required financial options that are necessary for comprehensive CCLI Licensing.
This California-based band writes some of the more musically-interesting hymn arrangements out there, such as “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus”. Their albums are available for streaming online through their website. The first volume of their Hymn Sessions is a highly recommended album!
The group grew out of ministering to college students, primarily through Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). Students began to taste more of the depth of the gospel and the richness of the hymn tradition, discovering that worship is formative, and that it does matter what we sing.
A no frills duo, these guys make Scripture truly sing! I’ve never been more affected by and moved when I heard them perform some of their songs from the Psalms album. Straight Scripture, poignantly captured in beautifully haunting melodies.
Originating as an outgrowth of the music ministry of Anglican College Ministry at the University of Virginia, the music of High Street Hymns can be heard in churches across the United States every Sunday morning. By combining ancient Christian hymnody and poems with the sounds of folk, rock and hip hop, High Street Hymns has helped to reclaim the long forgotten songs of the Church, and has brought them into incredibly diverse worship contexts.
Red Mountain Church specializes in writing new tunes for old and all-but-forgotten hymns. They have released 6 albums to this point, many of them relating to a particular theme: Christmas, Heaven, the hymns originally collected in the hymnal of William Gadsby.
With quite an odd name (taken from page 116 of a copy of The Magician’s Nephew by C.S.Lewis), you might be turned off right away. But in reality, they are a little bit more like Indelible Grace, writing new tunes for much-loved hymns (or creating slightly adapted but contemporary versions of the traditional tunes).
Church Music Resources
It’s one thing to hear good hymn arrangements; it’s quite another to be able to play them in your church! Here are some of the most helpful locations to acquire arrangements that are playable by musicians of all skill levels:
PraiseCharts — Here you’ll find full orchestrations of thousands of songs from a variety of Christian artists, as well as original “house” arrangements by the PraiseCharts staff. Most of these arrangements are written to follow the studio recording precisely; it’s very helpful for your rhythm section, but many require a greater level of skill from your other players than you’ll find with other arrangers.
HymnCharts — These hymn arrangements offer tremendous flexibility; most work equally well whether accompanied by a solo instrument (piano or guitar), rhythm section, or full orchestra. The parts are easily accessible for most high school players and “weekend warrior” church musicians.
LifeWayWorship — Ever since the revamped website launched about less than three years ago, LifeWay’s arrangements have gotten better and better! The “SongMap” feature is a great tool, and I like that many hymns are offered in multiple musical styles (e.g., traditional, contemporary, jazz, etc).
CCLI SongSelect — Most churches already use CCLI to navigate issues related to copywrite laws. Another helpful tool is their “SongSelect” feature. This allows you to instantly generate a leadsheet for nearly any song, in any key you like. For churches led primarily by a rhythm section, this is typically all that is needed.
On Church Music & Worship Leading
Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, by Bob Kauflin
Perspectives on Christian Worship: Five Views, ed. by J. Matthew Pinson
Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice, by Bryan Chapell
Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns, by T. David Gordon
True Worshippers, by Bob Kauflin
On Hymn Stories
The Complete Book of Hymns: Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs, by William Petersen
Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories, by Robert Morgan (see also Vol. 2 & 3)
What Wondrous Love Is This: Hymns of Wonder and Worship to Remember His Love and When Morning Gilds the Skies: Hymns of Heaven and Our Eternal Hope, by Joni Earickson Tada, John MacArthur, and Robert & Bobbie Wolgemuth
On Theology for Beginners
Christian Beliefs: 20 Essentials Every Christian Should Know, by Wayne Grudem
Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples, by Michael Horton
Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God, by Bruce Ware
On Family Worship
Family-Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk With God, by Voddie Baucham
The Family Worship Book: A Resource Book for Family Devotions, by Terry Johnson
The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago
On Discerning Hearts
Worship Song Ratings, from the Apologetics Coordination Team. Not perfect, but offers good discerning thoughts.
All this barely scratches the surface of the great resources available to those who want to encourage the worship of God through the singing of hymns. Leave your favorite resources in the comments!