Not every church has a huge worship band.
Drums, electric guitar, keys, and horns are luxuries often reserved for larger churches or well-established music programs.
And even if you have a band, sometimes it’s nice to plan an acoustic Sunday. That gives you a chance to focus on worship instead of the production.
The good news is that one of the ten commandments isn’t “Thou shalt have a drummer.” You can lead worship using acoustic worship songs and very minimal instrumentation.
Whether you are in a new church, youth group, or even a small town in Africa, there’s a good chance all you have is an acoustic guitar or old piano with which to lead worship.
The good news is that one of the ten commandments isn’t “Thou shalt have a drummer.”
But not all songs work in acoustic worship sets. Some songs contain pronounced lead guitar parts or heavy synths. Playing them acoustically doesn’t sound exactly right.
That’s why I put together the best songs for acoustic worship — ones that really work well with just a guitar or piano. For each song, I found a great acoustic arrangement to get you started putting together your own acoustic worship set at your church.
Heart of Worship – Matt Redman
The story behind Matt Redman’s “The Heart of Worship” reminds us why we should be intentional about doing acoustic worship services, even if we have big bands and fancy sound systems. Crosswalk.com tells us how this song came to be: “There was a dynamic missing [in worship], so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” Redman recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.” That’s exactly the place from which the lyrics came: When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come / Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart / I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus
The Blessing – Elevation
This is a newer song from the folks at Elevation, with songwriting help from Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes. The full-band version of this song is crazy powerful but I almost like this simple keys-based rendition better.
Way Maker – Bethel ft. The McClures
This is one of those songs that unexpectedly takes the world by storm. Nearly every worship band and major Christian artist has covered it by now, and it will continue its rise in 2021. It works with a big band or just a guitar or piano. Your church will worship like never before when you play it.
In Christ Alone – Stuart Townend, performed by Lauren Daigle
This Stuart Townend song works whether you have a huge band accompanying you (as Kristian Stanfill did for a Passion album) or simple acoustic instrumentation. Lauen Daigle puts an acoustic spin on this classic, and it’s no less powerful than the many other versions of this song.
Never Lost – Elevation
I heard this song recently led by Israel Houghton. I was surprised to hear that this acoustic version keeps the soulful vibe intact though it’s stripped down instrumentally.
Lay Me Down – Chris Tomlin
I’ve always liked playing “Lay Me Down” because I can really drive it on acoustic guitar. You can get people clapping even without drums, just because it lends itself to a solid, heavy strumming rhythm.
I Could Sing of your Love Forever
If you were around in the ’90s, you remember this as being a standard song for many years. Well, guess what…when I re-introduced this song recently at my church, it turns out people still love it. (To prove the songs enduring power even to younger people, note that pop star Justin Bieber performed it at a 2016 concert, and had thousands of kids singing along). It’s no surprise that this song works well acoustically.
Everything and Nothing Less – Chris McClarney
This is one of my all-time favorite songs, even though it’s just a few years old. On the full version, McClarney has not one, but two lead electric guitars going. But in this clip he shows how wonderful the song is in its stripped-down version.
Graves Into Gardens – Elevation ft. Brandon Lake
This is a newer song by worship music’s leaders, Elevation Worship. I was happy to see there was an acoustic version. Love it!
See a Victory – Elevation
Elevation seems to put out songs that work in almost any context. This is a good example of a song that works with a big band or just a few instruments.
What a Beautiful Name – Hillsong
“What a Beautiful Name” was released in 2016, but it’s already the most popular worship song as of the time of this writing, according to CCLI. As this video shows, an acoustic guitar is all you need to lead worship with this song, and it sounds great on piano, too.
Nothing I Hold Onto – Will Reagan
In this recording, it sounds like a group of friends got together and started worshiping, and this is what came out. The beauty of this song is that you can be super spontaneous with it. It’s just 3 chords — seriously. So you don’t have to worry about memorizing complex chord progressions. And the lyrics are almost as simple. If you have a guitar, piano, or keyboard, you can lead worship with this song.
Holy Spirit – by Bethel, performed by Abigail, Nathan & Peta
I love this song, and this rendition of it shows how powerful it can be with just an accompanying guitar. This trio will inspire you to do your own acoustic version of this tune!
Your Love Awakens Me – Phil Wickham
“Your Love Awakens Me” is proof that an upbeat praise song can be done acoustically. At my church, we use this one for a fast-tempo opener, complete with drums, electric guitar, and the works. But the song’s writer, Phil Wickham, and Jesus Culture member Chris Quilala show us how to make the song just as exciting with only two acoustic guitars.
O Come to the Altar – Elevation
I love this rendition! If you lead a small group or youth group with no sound system — no worries! This video clip shows how amazing a group of worshipers sounds, even with very little accompaniment. This idea works for any song that can be done acoustically. In modern times, the worship leaders and singers are often too separate. But I think in the first years of the early church, this is how Christ-followers worshiped together. There’s no reason that we can’t continue this tradition today.
Special word from Brad May of AcousticWorshiper.com
As always with worship music, there are two sides involved: the music side and the spiritual side. With acoustic worship sets, it’s a chance to drastically simplify the music side of things, and breathe new life into the spiritual side of a song.
Don’t feel like you have to exactly duplicate the original song somehow with fewer instruments and effects. It won’t sound right, and you’ll be missing the point. Right now, if you close your eyes and sit still for a few minutes, you’ll start to notice sounds or smells that you didn’t notice while your eyes were open. When we close off one sense, the others pick up.
The same principle applies to acoustic worship songs. We tone down the musical elements so we can amplify the lyrics and the heart behind the song. That’s what worship is all about. Worship is focusing on God first and giving him something from our lives with our whole heart behind it.
There’s a lot more that can be said about techniques and philosophies on how to do the musical side of acoustic worship songs (on my site), but I think the “why” is always more important than the “what” or the “how”. If you can first orient your heart in the right direction, that will be your rudder to keep you on course. The music stuff will come.
Build My Life – Housefires
I love Housefires. They are so authentic. Though they are not doing anything unique — playing acoustic guitars is nothing new to worship music — they bring a fresh spirit and voice to worship. This song is a recent favorite of mine, and it’s a perfect candidate for an acoustic worship set.
Good Good Father – Housefires
Speaking of Housefires, here’s another huge song of theirs. You might know it as a Chris Tomlin song, but it originally came from these guys. This tune will work fantastically for acoustic worship.
King of My Heart – by Sarah McMillan, performed by Austin & Lindsey Adamec
“King of My Heart” is a sleeper hit among worship songs. You may not have heard it, but whenever we’ve done it at our church, the congregation engages with it and worships. It’s worth trying out acoustically, or with a full band.
Greater than All – by Hillsong, performed by Shaun Easton
This is one of my all-time favorite Hillsong tunes. It’s one of the few worship songs I enjoy listening to still, even after playing it dozens of times at my church. The acoustic version is surprisingly full and engaging.
You Are My Strength – by Hillsong, performed by Calvary Church
It’s no surprise that this song works well in an acoustic worship set. The original version by Reuben Morgan is acoustic guitar-led. Strip out the other instruments, and it’s essentially the same feel.
Do It Again – Elevation
One of the reasons I love Elevation Worship songs is their emphasis on melodic electric guitar lead lines. Those really carry the theme and feel of the song. But what’s also great about their songs is that they work even without their ingenius instrumental lead lines. Lead them with a guitar or piano, and they don’t lose their power.
Yes & Amen – by Housefires, performed by Chris Tomlin
Chris Tomlin covers one of Housefires’ first hits, “Yes & Amen.” He does it justice here, rocking it with just a few acoustic guitars, a shaker, and a box drum.
Our God – by Chris Tomlin, performed by Jason Waller
“Our God” gets pretty loud and rambunctious with a full band, but you can also strip it down to the essentials and have a fun and engaging worship song.
Irish band Rend Collective brings a Mumford-and-Sons-esque upbeat acoustic praise song with “My Lighthouse.” At its core, it’s driven by an acoustic guitar, so it makes sense that it still works with most other instrumentation stripped out.
Give Me Faith
This is a song we’ve led with many times at our church. We’ve always done it with a lead electric guitar, but it’s certainly not required if you don’t have that. This rendition is proof that the song is still effective in its most basic arrangement.
God is Able – Hillsong
This website is frequented by new worship leaders, just starting out on their worship journey. Many are discouraged, and don’t know where to start (which is why I recommend checking out my post “How to Get Started as a Worship Leader.”) Some new leaders reading this post want to find acoustic worship songs that they can use when leading alone or with a couple other people in their youth group or church.
That’s why I’d like to close this post with, for one, a great example of an easy acoustic worship song; and, second, an encouragement that “God is able” to take you down the worship leader’s path if you are faithful to keep at it, and taking every opportunity to learn (as you are doing now). May God bless you in your endeavors to find the top acoustic worship songs, whether it’s for your playlist, or because you want to lead God’s people in worship!