Let’s Talk About Choirs

Beautiful organ music, robed singers, harmonies. These are all things that come to my mind when I think about worship music. Anthems and arias sung by a choir while the congregation looks on, blissfully listening to the music being provided by these semi-professionals who practice weekly to provide something special for Sunday.

What happens then when your choir takes a nosedive?

That is the problem facing my church. We don’t have enough people to sing on Sunday. Those that have the talent don’t have the time and though I am trying hard to remind people that you don’t have to have perfect pitch to sing praise, it just isn’t working.

Thankfully though, this is one problem that we are working through with some success. Instead of twisting arms and threatening the end of days if no one sings, we let that time sit empty when we need to. Or, even better we have filled it with something different.

Our worship committee has invited people to share whatever they want as an offering to God on Sunday morning. We have had people come up and share stories or poem that they or someone else has written. We have people singing solos. Our music leader sometime fills in.

I think this has made our worship more authentic. We are letting those who would have nothing to do with music know that they still have something to give. Sure, on Sundays when the choir does sing we have people who sit and wistfully wish that they would come back next Sunday, but I am not sure I would want them too.

When did an anthem become the only acceptable way to give praise on Sunday? How do you deal with this in your church?

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About collinwpc
I am the pastor of a small church in Columbus, OH. Over the past three years I have learned to give-up my pride and be a partner with my church, not a dictator. I am hoping to do the same here.

3 Responses to Let’s Talk About Choirs

  1. marciglass says:

    We don’t have quite the same problem. Our choir is great. We don’t have musicians who can do any sort of contemporary music in a good way. So we often bring in contemporary music at the beginning of the service. We have a “video meditation” spot at the start of worship. Often it includes the scripture text for the day interpreted in pictures. We also use videos from “work of the people”. It is a great site. I have a few volunteers who know and love more contemporary music, so they create the slide shows and videos for us.

    In the summer, our choir takes a break, and so we have a sign up list for summer music. People sign up. Or they don’t. When they don’t, we just skip the special music spot in worship.

    Another church I served had trouble getting people to choir practice, so they had a sunday morning choir. People came 30 minutes early on Sunday and rehearsed anthems the day they sang them. It worked pretty well.

    And whether you’re talking about music or anything else in the church, I’ve been trying to convince the congregation I serve that if people don’t sign up for something (coffee hour, whatever) then perhaps we need to let it rest. It isn’t the job of the officers of the church, in my opinion, to make coffee if people in the church won’t sign up to help with it. I keep trying to tell the fellowship committee to work to recruit people, but on the days when nobody signs up to help, put the sign up list on the table with a note that says, “coffee hour needs you”. Everyone is busy. We need to help them find where their passion is so that people are doing what gives them life. Too many people get burned out because they are instead doing what they feel they need to do.

    • collinwpc says:

      Marci, I am moving the congregation toward that idea of sign ups and if they don’t then we don’t do it. I actually have a post on that coming up.

  2. Emily says:

    We have similar problems Collin – though we are working to see them as opportunities. Our choir averages 6-7 during the school year. They are a Sunday morning choir that meets 30 minutes before worship to practice their 2 songs. The choir director does email them during the week for input on the 2 songs, so most will know at least the name of the song before coming in on Sunday mornings.

    It’s harder for us to get special music during the summer. People here like to be asked to sing. The choir director (who is in charge of filling the special music slot during the summer) just wants people to approach her and offer to sing or play an instrument. The deal I’ve struck with her for this summer, is that she has to ask everyone who can sing or play an instrument to do so this summer. If, after asking for a particular Sunday, no one can do it, we sing an extra favorite hymn in that spot. And all this is easier than it sounds in a small church.

    I like the way you expanded it to include even more than music!

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