Will you join the choir? While I have been blessed with more faithful musicians than I can say grace over at times, some choirs languish. Let me say at the outset that this not an article on how to choose music or a magic formula to double your choir. There are, however, certain practices that can lead to health and growth in a church choir. What exactly are some things that help?
1. Above all, love the Lord and love your congregation
It just doesn’t come any closer to Wesleyan sanctification than attempting to fulfill the two greatest commandments. They can tell when you are genuine in both. Build relationships, even with those who have no intention of joining your choir. Work extra hard to love those who do want to be in your ensemble.
Although I don’t always succeed in writing handwritten notes as much as I’d like, there is nearly nothing else that says “I love you” in quite the same way. That’s because no one writes notes anymore. We text, we email, and we delete. But when I get a thoughtful, handwritten note in the mail from someone, I save it. For this reason I make a valiant attempt to write a postcard or note to every individual who takes the time and energy to sing in one of my choirs.
2) Choose music that will help them succeed
If you have a volunteer choir like mine, this can be difficult. Some read music but many do not. It is important to choose music styles that will be flattering for your particular group, but at the time, don’t be afraid to challenge them from time to time, and be intentional about focusing on musical growth as a group. They will only be as good as you allow! if you give them a variety of styles, the really good singers will help the inexperienced ones come along at a better rate.
3) Be properly prepared
Nothing will inspire the desire to join a team more than excellently-produced, uplifting music itself. People want to be a part of something they can be proud of. But this involves the director being prepared for the rehearsal, and the director and other worship leaders being adequately prepared for the service.
My choirs generally work on a song five to six weeks before they present it on a Sunday, though there are exceptions if it is a very difficult song or an exceedingly simple one. Choose your other service music carefully and have at least a general idea of what verses you intend to do. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Give God your very best in preparation and in service.
4) Actively pursue new members through team engagement
In addition to affirming and challenging the musicians under your care, pursue new ones by inviting them to join the choir. Tell your choir members about the people you’ve been inviting, and ask them to target the same people. Also, ask your choir who might be a good addition. They might have connections or know about members that you don’t. Think of it as prevenient grace with a musical twist!
5) Be attentive to problem members
Every now and then there will be persons who join your ensemble that are a detriment to the group. This may mean their attendance is sporadic at best, which sets a poor example for others. They may sing loudly and tremendously off-key. While each situation is different, my first recommendation is to address it with personal prayer.
Is there a reason this person is in the ensemble? Why is their behavior abrasive? Is there a way this can have a positive outcome for all parties involved? Is there another area of your church family that would benefit from the time and energy this person has to offer? Only once in 25 years have I had to directly say, “You cannot come back to choir.” As much as it’s possible, live Psalm 34:12-14: do good, keep your tongue from evil and seek to live in peace.
Growing a choir requires a lot of hard work, dedication and preparation. It means admitting that you try things that sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. But the end result? It’s beautiful music to my ears.