Most choir directors spend time thinking about how to keep their group vital and thriving. This usually involves the recruitment of new members from your congregation and community. Keeping things fresh and vibrant is a true challenge, and sometimes competing with the rest of the world to help grow your ministry can be tiresome. Here are some ideas about how you can invest in your ministry and grow in important ways.
Giving someone the opportunity to express themselves is a huge gift. Personally inviting them to join your group is priceless. Most singers, and people who like to sing, have insecurities about their voices. By giving people a chance to express themselves in a safe environment and to become a part of something greater than themselves, you can help facilitate positive change. Putting all of that in the context of ministry and the role of the choir within worship brings the meaning of what they are doing to a deeper level. Letting people know that they and their gifts matter is paramount.
Everyone bring one – Designate a rehearsal day or dates to have everyone bring at least one person to rehearsal. Plan to have fun and work hard so that people get an idea of what they would be investing in. Have time for prayer and a devotion; do warm-ups, and balance all of the elements of a successful rehearsal while always remaining positive. Have some social time at the end to promote fellowship and allow newcomers to ask questions.
Invite extra people during bigger seasons like Advent and Christmas or Palm Sunday and Easter – Asking prospective singers to add into the choir for a four- to six-week period is an excellent way to allow people to participate in your ministry without committing to the entire season. This also shows people that your group is open and flexible, which is essential in attracting new members. That attitude will carry through into your ministry during worship.
Relationships – Relationships with staff, church members and choir members will help you with recruiting. If people speak positively about their experiences with you, that will become a magnet for new members. If you keep in close touch with the staff, they can let you know about congregational prospects for various ministries you offer. These relationships are essential to your success. What happens if you personally meet every new member and get to learn about their lives? What comes from the question “Have you ever played an instrument or sung?”
Visitation – I once heard composer Hal Hopson talk about how he and his wife visited every choir member and every prospective choir member together. Anyone who knows them knows that they are a great team. I’ve found that this interaction is essential to truly getting to know people. There’s rarely adequate time at rehearsal for meaningful socializing, so setting aside a specific time with just a few people in the group can reap huge benefits down the road.
If you are an introvert and this is hard for you, I get it. Try coming up with a few icebreaker questions to get the conversation going. Maybe it’s as simple as taking an extrovert with you.
Communicate clearly and regularly – Reinforce with emails, signs and newsletter articles, but don’t believe that these alone are effective recruiting tools. We want to build energy around the thought of participating – so much energy that people will feel like they are missing out if they aren’t involved. Everyone is valuable, and everyone deserves to be valued. We show singers this by inviting them to experience something with us that they can’t get in the outside world –the opportunity to use their gifts to lead God’s people in worship.
Rehearsal options – If we expect people to participate in our choirs, we need to offer a variety of opportunities to rehearse. If we say everyone must be at choir rehearsal at 7 p.m. on Wednesday nights, there may be many people who will be left out due to raising children or their work or school hours. If we want multiple generations to be represented in our group, we have to be willing to meet them where they are. Maybe a rehearsal during the day or just after work with babysitting would allow them to participate with the regular choir on Sunday mornings. This is a part of our challenge in the modern age. To expect people to adapt to an old model will not breed success.
Quality childcare during rehearsals – If you want younger generations in your choir, you have to provide reliable childcare – not just for infants but for all ages. This might require two people, depending on your choir – one person for the young ones and one for the older children. Encouraging kids to bring things to do will make it easier for the caregivers.
The childcare option is especially important during a daytime rehearsal. An hour and a half to sing free from the responsibilities of children can be a real gift in the middle of the week. Might you have a senior citizen or two who would be willing to help, or a group of seniors who could rotate? This offering increases the opportunity for younger generations to participate in the music ministry.
Quality and a positive attitude – Happy choir members and having fun are a part of a high-quality music ministry. Choosing music that is balanced between old and new, fast and slow, with a wide variety of musical styles is also important. People’s hearts are moved by different styles. For us to impose our preferences on them means we limit their participation in worship at our church. Don’t try to be something you’re not, but don’t get stuck in a comfortable rut, either.
Coda – A church choir is a group of people you are tasked with shepherding. I always imagine myself behind the group nudging them gently in the direction I think God is calling us; rarely do I feel the need to grab a flag and say “Follow me,” expecting everyone will just be there for the ride. Those who sing with you are God’s children, flawed and beautiful. Our calling involves gathering and pointing the way through musical and spiritual goals. Preparing people to lead meaningful worship is not for the faint of heart; it requires the heart of a servant leader.