Is Your Church Singing? Send In A Canary!


canaryTaking a canary into a coal mine served as a warning system in the earlier days of mining. Canaries are especially sensitive to methane gas and carbon monoxide making them ideal for detecting a dangerous build-up of gas in the coal seam.

The canary would begin to show signs of distress in response to small concentrations of gas before it became detrimental to the miners. The first sign of imminent danger was when the canary stopped singing.

If certain generations, cultures, or even the majority of your congregants have stopped singing, it is a warning sign of danger ahead. Check out this great related article link written by my friend, Kenny Lamm. Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship

The idiom canary in a coal mine has continued as a reference to a person or thing that serves as a warning of a looming crisis. Enlisting trusted individuals from your congregation to regularly ask questions not only about the worship singing of your congregation, but also about the way you are leading that singing could alert you and your congregation to imminent conflict while there is still time for restorative care.

Intentionally adopting an early warning system is a pre-emptive process of enlisting congregational canaries to ask questions before it is too late. It is vital to enlist those who love God, love the church and love you enough to honestly evaluate your leadership and assess the level of congregational participation.

The humility necessary to initiate a process such as this can only occur if you also love God, love the church and love the people enough to trust their assessment and have a willingness to sacrifice your own interests for the greater good of your church.

Sample Congregational Singing Questions:

  • Is our congregational singing passive or participative?
  • Are idiosyncrasies or characteristics of our leaders encouraging/discouraging congregational participation?
  • Do song selections include a balance of familiar and new?
  • Are the songs vertical and horizontal, celebrative and contemplative, comforting and disturbing?
  • Is the song text theologically sound and does it affirm scripture as foundational?
  • Is the text trite or archaic, repetitive or diverse?
  • Are song selections culturally appropriate for our congregation?
  • Do our songs encourage conversational worship that includes God’s words to us as well as our words to God?
  • Are leaders incorporating musical elements that distract our attention from that conversation?
  • Does our worship space encourage/discourage participation in congregational singing?
  • Are transitions smooth, tempos satisfactory, volumes appropriate and keys singable?
  • Are physical actions actively encouraged/discouraged?
  • Do the songs give our congregants an opportunity to connect with one another?
  • Are guests able to participate in the congregational singing without confusion?
  • Is our singing a worship asset or liability?

3 Responses to “Is Your Church Singing? Send In A Canary!”

  • Don Skidmore Says:

    only one thing is killing the worship in our church… the music is too loud coming from the stage. Concert style worship is passe… people want to be part of the creation of the sound coming from the room.. LET US SING TO GOD TOO…. all that can be heard is the stage. our voices do not matter.

  • Ann Says:

    Thank you for this article. This is a good idea! God bless!

  • Gene Thompson Says:

    This is a question I frequently ask myself. There are times when our congregation doesn’t seem to be engaged in worship through the music. I don’t know if it is a heart problem with us or its that the music selections for that day were bad choices.

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