Worship Planning: Refining Your Song Canon

Your Canon Should Have Flags

I like to view songs as flags.  Just as flags mark ownership and territory, songs often reflect the desires we have for the Lord to take deeper ownership and territory of our hearts.  Many of us have flags from the past, songs that marked a season of our lives where the Lord did something special in our walk with him.  For many Christians who have walked with the Lord for any amount of time, they’ve raised a number of flags along the path of their discipleship.  Churches have flags too, songs that resonated deeply with a congregation and became a soundtrack for their corporate journey.    

Part of being a “keeper of the song canon” is the pastoral responsibility to identify and occassionally raise the flags in your canon that reflect the work of God in the church you serve.  Sometimes these flags will be older songs that reflect a significant move of God in your congregation, other times these flags will be new songs expressing the new thing God is doing in your church.  The only way to determine these flags is to be in relationship with your congregation and those who were there before you.

One of the wisest flags you can raise are the songs close to your lead pastor’s heart.  Your lead pastor is the chief worship leader and God-ordained captain of your flock.  You can be assured that God will add his blessing to your worship leading when you come under his authority and serve his vision.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to simply ask, “Pastor, what are the songs that have been significant flags in your spiritual walk?”  God puts wind in the flags raised by the leaders he’s called.  You honor the Lord and the authority He’s placed you under when your song canon makes room for some of your lead Pastor’s flags.

Refining Your Canon

God is always moving and wherever there is a new move of God, new songs follow.  A well-developed canon should be anchored but never stagnant.  A refined canon ought to be open to embracing new songs of worship, retiring songs that have reached their current shelf life and re-incorporating past songs for new seasons of life and ministry.  

In our tribe, our worship staff gathers once, sometimes twice a year for a DRTC (Define and Refine the Canon) meeting.  In this meeting we welcome new song suggestions, discuss the shelf-life of current songs and using the above mentioned criteria on how to define the canon, collectively (and prayerfully) decide if there are songs that ought to be added or removed.  It’s also an opportunity to identify what types or themes of songs may be missing from our worship diet and how we plan to address those deficiencies.

Whether you lead a small or large worship ministry, don’t do this alone.  God speaks through community.  This is a great meeting to invite another worship team member to attend, perhaps someone you are developing into a leader.  Additionally, this is also a great meeting to invite your lead pastor to, maybe even an elder or another member from your pastoral staff.  An invitation is not an obligation to oblige to their suggestions, but an opportunity to listen and consider their input.  Having input from staff and leaders you serve with will not only help make your song canon stronger, but will increase buy-in as you seek to lead both them and your church in worship with excellence and intentionality.

Next Week: The Worship Leader’s Most Important Staff Relationship


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