First, let us address the ways that choirs can minister effectively during congregational worship.
Church choirs can add so much to a service of worship. Here are seven reasons that choirs can joyfully serve as worship leaders to strengthen and bring life to the ministry of worship.
* 1 * A Choir can help to support congregational singing, allowing the congregation to sing more confidently and join their voices with those who are already singing. In this way, choirs are helping to lead in worship.
* 2 * A Choir will help the congregation to know when they are supposed to sing.
When arrangements for the congregational singing are lead by a praise band, worship leader, and praise teams, sometimes people in the congregation become uncertain about when they are supposed to sing along. When one praise team singer is singing the first verse of a worship chorus, does that mean that it is a solo which everyone should just listen to rather than joining in to sing? The choir can help to prevent this type of confusion. When the choir is properly prepared to help lead a worship service, they will know when a verse or chorus is supposed to be sung as a solo. The congregation will begin to take their cue from the choir about when they are supposed to sing, knowing that the choir will only sing during congregational worship at times when the entire congregation is supposed to join in.
* 3 * Choirs can also provide spiritual encouragement and inspiration to the church family.
When the life stories and faith journeys of the people who make up the choir are coupled with their faithful commitment to praising the Lord and leading in worship, the choir serves as a collective testimony of walking by faith. The presence and praise of an individual who is walking through a trial and yet chooses to remain faithful as a choral worship leader can be a powerful message in itself. Although the musicians who make up the praise band often spend enough time in rehearsal that they don’t have the opportunity to serve in other ways through their local congregation (especially on Sundays), choir members are often some of the busiest members, serving in mission opportunities, teaching in Sunday School and Bible studies, working with children and pre-schoolers, and being vitally involved in church life. This fact allows their ministry and testimony to have personal significance for a greater percentage of the church body.
“O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the people. Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him; talk of all His wondrous works. Glory in His holy name; let the heart of those who seek the Lord rejoice.” ~ Psalm 105:1 – 3
The 280 voice Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Brooklyn, NY, under the direction of Carol Cymbala, recorded 2 CDs in 2013, “Redeemed” and “Love Lead the Way”.
* 4 * Church choirs can share messages of praise, reverent worship, testimony, exhortation, encouragement, comfort, thankfulness, and perseverance through the songs (both anthems and congregational worship songs) that they sing.
Choral anthems often have lyrics that are full of scripture and of Biblical truth, so the choir can share a message in song that is full of meaning and that can have even more impact than the spoken word because of the marriage of music and lyrics that amplifies the truths being shared.
“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of Him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord.” ~ Psalm 104:33 & 34
* 5 * As worship leaders, the choir can also help the congregation to learn new songs and worship choruses by preparing them through rehearsal before they are introduced to the congregation. The choir can even help to introduce some of the new songs the first time that they are shared with the congregation. The fact that choirs are often made up of young, median, and older adults also communicates the message that the new song is a vehicle of praise and worship for the entire congregation, regardless of age. As members of the worship leadership team, choir members have invested time in preparation for worship, both musically and spiritually as they have learned the new music. Because they have rehearsed and lived with the lyrics of the songs being shared (both Anthems and congregational praise), choir members have the opportunity to internalize these messages of truth and to communicate them meaningfully, as a group that is visually representative of the church body rather than as professional musicians.
KEY: Ideally, the worshipping choir will be both spiritually and musically prepared to praise the Lord and to encourage and inspire God’s people.
The Mount Pleasant Christian Church Choir in Indianapolis, IN, directed by Brian Tabor, September, 2013.
* 6 * There is nothing else like the sound of a well-prepared choir, and the secular music industry often employs a choir to maximize the impact of a powerful ballad or to visibly and audibly celebrate with an upbeat song. Choirs are often seen in the music videos and television appearances of pop stars, on music specials, and at events where the entertainment is an extravagant production, such as an Olympic opening ceremony or even a Super Bowl halftime show. If secular entertainment still values the impact that a choir can make, those of us who love and worship the Lord should realize that choral singing could be a an effective testimony of God’s goodness that can touch the hearts of a congregation and of others who hear them when they sing in public places.
KEY: Church Choirs do not have to be considered an out-of-date, poorly prepared relic.
They can be a living, vibrant team of worship leaders, messengers of hope and praise.
“O come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of the hills is His also. The sea is His, and He made it; and His hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” ~ Psalm 95:1 – 7a
* 7 * There is Biblical support for choral worship ministry.
A. Since there are many Biblical accounts of choirs, and since 55 Psalms are written to the Choir Director or Director of Music; there is certainly a Biblical precedent for choral worship.
The First Baptist Concord Choir, Knoxville, TN, directed by Jeff Lawrence.
B. In addition, the Biblical exhortation to use our gifts to honor and bring glory to the Lord calls for opportunities for those who are a part of our congregations and who have musical gifts to serve and contribute to the ministry of worship.
What these service opportunities may be in an individual congregation depends upon the musical gifts that are present among members who are willing to faithfully serve in worship ministry. A smaller congregation might have a choral ensemble rather than a full choir, in addition to their praise band or accompanists. Larger churches may have a full choir and perhaps an instrumental ensemble or orchestra in addition to their rhythm section, praise band, and / or accompanists. Some churches may use a choir to help serve as worship leaders, but the choir may sing a choral anthem only occasionally. Some churches also use choirs only seasonally (for a special Christmas program, for example).
Every congregation is different, and no one can prescribe what your church should be doing in musical worship from the outside. Your ministerial leadership is more in tune with the musical and spiritual gifts of your congregation and to the music that speaks to the hearts of your congregation as well as to the visitors and seekers that your church can reach. This article is not being written in order to bash churches that don’t have a choir but rather to encourage the ministry of choral singing in those places where it can be shared effectively to praise, encourage, inspire, lift up, exhort, challenge, and worship.
“Above, the hosts of angels sing praise; below, men form choirs in the churches and imitate them by singing the same doxology. Above, the seraphim cry out in the thrice-holy hymn; below, the human throng sends up the same cry. The inhabitants of heaven and earth are brought together in a common assembly; there is one thanksgiving, one shout of delight, one joyful chorus.” ~ St. John Chrysostom
First Baptist Church of Duluth Adult Choir, December, 2013, Duluth, GA, directed by Travis L. Boyd, singing the upbeat final song in the Travis Cottrell Christmas worship musical, “Joy of Every Longing Heart”. Note: Many of the choir, orchestra, and praise band members are out of the frame in this photo, taken by a member of the congregation.)
KEY: Church choirs can stil minister and serve and bring glory to the Lord when they have the commitment, support, and prayers necessary to do so.
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
~I Corinthians 10:31 NASB
Although choirs have been eliminated in some congregations, existing choirs can strengthen their ministry. New choirs can focus on effective ministry from the beginning. Below, you will find some suggestions for helping to keep church choirs alive and serving in the 21st century.
“Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wonderful works to the sons of men! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His deeds in songs of joy!” ~ Psalm 107:21 & 22
For Members of the Congregation
If you are a member of the congregation in a church that has a choir, here’s how you can support and encourage their ministry:
1. Pray for your church choir. Pray for individual members if you know them. Pray for unity of spirit and faithfulness to the commitment of singing in choir. Pray for God to use them as they seek to minister and lead in worship, and pray that God will speak to their hearts as they prepare spiritually and musically. Pray for them as they stand to sing. Pray for the congregation as the choir sings. Worship and praise the Lord as you are listening and praying! If your church’s worship ministry has a facebook page, “like” the page so that you will know better how to pray for your church’s overall worship ministry as well as for the choir.
2. Listen attentively when the choir shares a message, whether that is a Choral Anthem or a worship chorus that is being introduced by the choir. Remember that everything your church does in ministry is constantly being evaluated for effectiveness. Therefore, one of the best ways to support a choral ministry in your church is to allow the choir to minister to you and to praise the Lord in your heart right along with them.
3. Encourage! If a message shared by the choir was particularly meaningful or worshipful to you, let that be known. Speak an “amen!”, share a word of encouragement, or send a note or e-mail to the choir, Worship Minister, and / or Pastor expressing how the Lord has used that ministry in your own heart and life. The people who sing in choirs are not seeking accolades. (If that was their motivation, they probably would have given up long ago!) Choir members would rather hear about the spiritual impact of their ministry than about the beauty of the music. They love the beauty of the music as well, but they mainly want to know that what they are doing makes a difference for the Kingdom!
4. Be faithful in your own attendance in congregational worship. Not only are you being faithful to the Lord when you worship along with His people, your presence is also an encouragement to others. In addition, your presence allows for everything that is done in worship to be done more effectively as you are praying throughout the service that the Lord would be glorified and personally worshipping Him.
5. Attend any special presentations that your Choir and Worship Ministry have prepared, and invite others to come as well. At most churches, there are special musical worship opportunities such as Christmas and Easter programs and worship musicals only a few times a year (usually 2 – 4 times annually for the Adult Choir). These events are wonderful opportunities to invite your neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers. Invite the clerk who checks out your groceries. Invite others at every opportunity. Your worship ministry team members have been preparing to share messages of hope and faith and praise to the Lord for several weeks leading up to any special worship event. Attend these events expecting a glorious time of worship, pray for those involved, and bring others with you. Put these special events on your personal calendar as soon as they are announced, and make them a priority. If you want your church to have worship events such as these and to continue to have a worship choir, your presence must testify that this is important and meaningful to you.
6. Support the worship ministry at your church through your giving. There are expenditures that are necessary for a vibrant and effective worship ministry. Sound and lighting equipment, media equipment, sets and seasonal decorations, music for worship ministry participants, musical instruments, piano tuning, CCLI (the service that allows your church to legally put song lyrics on screens), and salaries for paid personnel such as your Worship Pastor and accompanists, are all a part of the financial cost of worship ministry support. Your faithfulness allows all of the ministries of your church, including worship ministry, to function and to minister within the congregation and to reach out to your community and beyond.
7. Let grace abound! Don’t expect musical and technical perfection. Give your worship ministry team the grace of realizing that they are human and that they are participating in this ministry as volunteers rather than as professional musicians and technicians. Music and productions that you hear on the radio or see on TV and in the movies are very highly produced and involve much expertise, equipment, and time that is not available for local church ministry. Many times, the sounds that you hear on radio or TV cannot be produced at the same level of perfection in live performance, even by the pros. One recorded song may be a result of dozens of “takes” and hours of recording and re-recording. In addition, remember that every worship song, hymn, or choral anthem may not be your personal taste; but it is still your joy to worship the Lord through all that is spoken and sung. Pray for others. Look around you. What may not be your favorite worship expression may be ministering to the hearts of others. Pray for those around you throughout the worship service.
* IMPORTANT NOTE: For greater understanding about the importance and meaning of worship and for help with preparation for teaching about worship, see our Addendum at the end of this blog article, where you will find links to articles on worship found on our blog and on TheWorshipCommunity.com , on the online magazine, ChurchMag , and on ChurchLeaders.com (or recommended on WorshipLinks) .
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
~ Colossians 3:17
The Adult Worship Choir anchors the worship ministries of Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, FL, directed by Dr. Doug Crawley.
For Pastors and Ministerial Staff
Here’s how you can help to support the ministry of the Worship Choir at your church.
1. Pray for and encourage the worship team members and Worship Pastor at your church. Pray for your congregation and for yourself as worshippers.
2. Live a life of worship, seeking to intentionally give God glory in all that you do.
* NOTE For greater understanding about the importance and meaning of worship and for help with preparation for teaching about worship, see our Addendum at the end of this blog article, where you will find links to articles on worship found on our blog and on TheWorshipCommunity.com , on the online magazine, ChurchMag , and on ChurchLeaders.com (or recommended on WorshipLinks) .
3. Whatever your responsibilities and concerns may be during a worship service, make an intentional effort to let them go (as much as is possible) and personally worship the Lord.
4. Attend special worship ministry programs, and invite others to do so as well. Speak with enthusiasm when sharing announcements about upcoming Worship Ministry events.
5. When doing calendar planning, recognize that each ministry decision impacts every ministry. Remember that above all, every Christian is (or should be) a worshipper, and do what you can to strenthen all of the ministries of your church, including worship ministry.
“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
~ I Peter 4:11
For Choir Members & Worship Team Members
What is needed? Prayer, passion, preparation, flexibility, clarity, commitment, faithfulness, and authenticity!
1. Pray for your Worship Pastor and for all of your ministerial staff. Pray for their families. Pray for the congregation to worship the Lord and serve Him with all of their hearts. Pray for your own testimony and spiritual walk. Pray for other worship ministry team members and for the worship ministry as a whole. Pray through the order of worship, and pray during the worship service.
2. Be faithful in attendance at rehearsals and in every congregational worship service. Unless your are too sick to go or out of town, be there. We all understand that seasons of life occur, such as when you are caring for a loved one who is ill. However, if there’s nothing keeping you from being there, please be faithful! Your passion for the Lord and for serving Him through worship ministry is the thing that makes you a choir member. Others sit in the congregation every week who could be an asset in worship ministry, and yet the lack of passion for serving in this way prevents them from making that commitment. If your passion has begun to wane, ask the Lord to revive it within you so that you may contribute week by week, worshipping with passion in spirit and in truth.
KEY: Your presence, more than anything other than your prayers, allows your worship ministry to effectively reach up to glorify the Lord and reach out to encourage and inspire others.
If you want your church to still have a choir a year from now, 5 years from now… 10 years from now, make it your priority to be there!
If you say that you love singing in the choir, love having a choir, and love the sound and the impact of choral music, you need to be one who will be there faithfully. When the choir suffers from low attendance week after week, the level of excellence suffers. The director has difficulty choosing what to sing, not knowing who may be there. The choral sound is less than it could be without you and others there. After weeks and weeks of low attendance and less than stellar sound due to the low numbers, how much support can we expect from church members and leaders for the continuation of choir? In other words, if you want to have a choir, you have to be committed to it.
3. Be spiritually prepared. Do all that you can do to walk closely with the Lord. Abide in Him. Spend time in private worship. Learn all that you can about Him and about what true worship really is. Listen to worship music often. Love the Lord and find joy in His presence.
4. Be musically prepared. Attend every rehearsal that it is possible for you to attend.
* Even if the choir is going to be singing music that you know well, your presence and participation can help others to learn the music. Having the full choir present helps with things like balance, interpretation, and choral tone, as well as with division of parts, marking any changes in the music, and unifying vowel structure.
* If your director sends out an e-mail with links to the music you will be singing, spend 15 minutes listening to the demos a couple of times during the week.
* If you know there’s a part that you’re not getting during rehearsal, speak up and ask the director for help. Often, as your section (Altos, Sopranos, Basses, or Tenors) sings through a passage a couple of times, the re-inforcement of hearing your part played will help everyone.
* If you have a piano and can play a tricky part yourself, take your music home to spend some time working on those hard to hear parts.
5. Remember that every Sunday’s worship is important. The special programs can be a wonderful time of worship, but every Sunday needs to be just as important. The Lord is the same year-round, and He deserves our best every week (in terms of commitment, passion, faithfulness, and effort). Make it a priority to be there, be prepared, pray through the service as you worship, and do your best to bring glory to the Lord in every service of congregational worship that you are able to attend. Pay attention when your director goes through the order of worship for next Sunday’s service during choir rehearsal. You can help with leading in worship most effectively when you are able to share with clarity because you know what is going on.
Never forget that God is the one who created music, gave you a voice, saved you, and gave you something incredible and eternally glorious to sing about!
“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart: I will tell of all Thy wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in Thee, I will sing praise to Thy name, O Most High.” ~ Psalm 9:1 & 2
Never take the opportunity to use your voice to glorify Him within the congregation for granted!
“Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Let them exalt Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders.” ~ Psalm 107:31 & 32
6. Support the worship ministry through your own giving. You can give financially as well as giving of your time for rehearsals, personal prayer time, and worship times. You can give and redeem your time in worship ministry when help is needed in preparation for a special program, ministry opportunity, or mission trip. You can give time to working with worship ministry groups for children and youth, investing in the lives of these future worshippers and worship leaders.
7. Be well groomed. Here, I am not talking about the cost or name brands of your clothing. Just make sure that your appearance is well-groomed and not distracting. (Well-fitting clothing and well-groomed hair are a must.)
8. Invite others to come to know the Lord, to come to church, and to attend services and special programs. Encourage the faithfulness of others through your own faithfulness (which is a silent witness) and through verbal encouragement, letting them know that you are glad to see them and that their presence is important.
9. Invite others to sing in the choir or to participate in some other area of worship ministry when you know that they have the special gifts to contribute both spiritually and musically. Take some time to talk with them about the blessings of serving in worship ministry and how much it means to you. When new members come, welcome them! Don’t be stuck in a rut as far as who you have to sit beside. Make sure the new member feels comfortable.
10. Don’t fossilize! Be flexible and open to change when it is needed.
* If a change in schedule (or letting the choir leave the loft to sit with families after the musical worship portion or your service is over) allows more people to participate, be open to that change.
* When new music is introduced, be open to it. You will likely grow to love it! Even if a song is not your favorite, worship the Lord as you sing it!
* Be open to wearing robes or not wearing robes (depending upon what works best for all of the considerations at your church).
* Be willing to sit or stand anywhere that you are asked to be, in both the loft and in the rehearsal room (unless you need to be seated for physical reasons).
* Be willing to let go of traditions and procedural routines that may no longer be effective.
11. Communicate visually as well as musically. Remember that only part of the choir’s presentation of any song or participation in worship is the sound component of choral ministry. The other component that can be observed is visual.
* In order for the messages that you are proclaiming to be as effective as possible, choir members need to communicate through their facial expression and posture as well. People want to know that you are authentic in your beliefs and that you are passionate about your beliefs and your relationship with the Lord… passionate about Him! Your face should reflect the message that you are singing. Your posture should not look stiff and formal.
* If your director or Worship Pastor wants you to memorize a song in order to communicate it most effectively, do it! (Hint: being there at every rehearsal and listening to demos or working on your own a little bit helps!)
* If you are holding a music folder, hold it high enough that you can see your director just over the top of the music. Get your head and your eyes up as much as possible. No one wants to look at the tops of everyone’s heads or at a choir whose eyes appear to be closed because they are looking down all of the time.
NOTE: Our choir sings from memory as often as possible, and we have recently begun utilizing an on-stage monitor with lyrics. Although we have used screens at the back of the worship center for the lyrics to congregational music and anthems for many years, we can include information on the on-stage monitor that it not meant for the entire congregation to see. We utilize a different color of print for cues to the choir that precede a section of lyrics. These on-screen cues are often very brief and include: “Men” when only the tenor and bass are singing (could also use “TB”); “Women”; “Unison”; “4-part”, “2-part”, “2X”, “3X” or “4x” to show the number of repeats; and even cues for dynamics. Notes that are held for a long time can be indicated by using a line after the word (Example: “love___”)
12. Participate and worship in the entirety of the congregational worship experience. Remember that you are not there just to “perform” a “special” piece of music. You are there to worship! You are a believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and and worshipper of Almighty God! Every song, scripture reading, testimony, and message is important! Seek to bring glory to God in all of it. Come to worship ready to give to the Lord the praise and thanksgiving of your heart, the honor and glory He deserves, the obedience and open-ness that are a sweet offering to Him, and the entirety of who you are. Seek His face and reflect His joy.
* IMPORTANT NOTE: For greater understanding about the importance and meaning of worship and for help with preparation for teaching about worship, see our Addendum at the end of this blog article, where you will find links to articles on worship found on our blog and on TheWorshipCommunity.com , on the online magazine, ChurchMag , and on ChurchLeaders.com (or recommended on WorshipLinks) . http://www.worshiplinks.us/2013/09/devotions-praise/
“Whatever you are doing, let your hearts be in your work, as a thing done for the Lord and not for men.”
~ Colossians 3:23 (Weymouth New Testament)
University Presbyterian Church Choir, Seattle, WA, directed by Dr. David Gardner
For Choir Directors, Ministers of Music & Worship,
and Worship Pastors
What is needed for you? The same priorities for worship as your worship team: Prayer, passion, preparation, flexibility, clarity, and authenticity!
“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn! I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples, I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your steadfast love is great above the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth.” ~ Psalm 108:1 – 5
1. Pray for your fellow ministerial staff members, the congregation, and all of your worship ministry team members.
Pray that people will understand the importance of worship as a way of life (Romans 12:1 – 2, I Corinthians 10:31 ). Pray for personal passion for ministry and worship. Pray for holiness and obedience, both personally and collectively.
2. Make personal worship a top priority.
Seek to lead as a fellow worshipper. Let your passion for the Lord and for worshipping Him be clearly evident. Every word, every song, and every moment should be focused on the eternal: worshipping God, praising and thanking Him, and testifying of His goodness, grace, mercy, love, and faithfulness.
“Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forever more! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! The Lord is high above all nations, and His glory is above the heavens.” ~ Psalm 113:1 – 4
3. Function as a Pastor whose primary responsibility is worship ministry.
People are more important than notes and rhythms. Minister accordingly.
4. Function as an equipper.
Teach and equip your worship ministry team. Teach them about worship and discipleship. Teach them about music and techniques. Teach them about effectiveness as worship leaders (spiritually, musically, visually). Teach your choir that true worship is giving (giving praise, honor, glory, blessing, our hearts, and all that we are). Build excitement about the ministry potential of choral worship.
* IMPORTANT NOTE: For greater understanding about the importance and meaning of worship and for help with preparation for teaching about worship, see our Addendum at the end of this blog article, where you will find links to articles on worship found on our blog and on TheWorshipCommunity.com , on the online magazine ChurchMag , and on ChurchLeaders.com (or recommended on WorshipLinks) . http://www.worshiplinks.us/2013/09/devotions-praise/
5. Be a good steward of your time.
Plan and prepare effectively, praying for guidance as you do so. You can make the most of your limited rehearsal time and allow team members to be well prepared for congregational worship when you have:
a. Made sure that the order of worship is clearly understood by all participants in worship ministry, providing each person with a copy containing all of the information needed.
b. Prepared a weekly newsletter, poster, or white board with the order of your rehearsal so that music will be ready and you can make the most effective use of the choir’s rehearsal time.
c. Made sure that all music is available to your choir and that they have sharpened pencils to mark anything necessary in their music.
d. Made sure that your accompanists have all needed music in time to play through and prepare themselves for rehearsal.
e. Made sure that your tech team has all needed lyrics and any media or videos that you intend to use, as well as orders of worship with any special notes they may need.
f. Made sure that your ministerial staff has copies of the order of worship (not just the bulletin, but your expanded version for worship ministry that specifies such things as the number of verses or repeats for a given songs, which staff member is doing the welcome, etc.).
6. Encourage your choir and other worship ministry participants.
Make rehearsals as fun and joyful as possible. Try to keep the mood light and yet focused on preparation for worship as well as on worshipping even as your rehearse. Let your choir and accompanists, praise teams, praise band, and tech team know that they are loved and valued by you and by the Lord. Use the rehearsal time very wisely so that your choir members and other worship ministry personnel do not feel that their time is being wasted (this communicates value as well). Share any positive comments or notes you’ve been given about the choir with the group.
7. Expand your Choir’s vision of their role in worship ministry.
Help them to see that they are there to do more than just produce an anthem each week. Teach them that they can serve as worship leaders for congregational worship.
8. Keep a realistic timeline in mind.
When you are preparing for rehearsals, don’t try to cram too much music into one session. Confusion and poor preparation will be the result. Do allow several weeks of rehearsal on any new music that requires some time to “settle in”. Plan an adequate number of music rehearsals and tech rehearsals when preparing for any special program. Our choir often has Sunday afternoon rehearsals in addition to our Wednesday night rehearsals to help us prepare in the weeks leading up to a Christmas, Easter, or worship musical. We usually rehearse about an hour, beginning at 5:00 p.m. That’s the time which seems to work best for our group, but your group may have a different preference depending on factors like other schedule considerations and how far away they live from your church.
9. Provide and encourage training opportunities for your choir and all worship ministry personnel.
Make sure that your tech team has adequate knowledge, and provide periodic training for them (bring in a specialist to teach and work with them for a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon). After all, your choir could share an anthem beautifully, but it’s the tech team who will make sure it can be heard. Take worship ministry team members to conferences and concerts when possible. Encourage your worship ministry team to listen to contemporary Christian radio (at least occasionally). If you want to inspire multi-generational worship and a greater open-ness to new music, do what you can to introduce new music that can unite the generations in worshipping the Lord.
10. Use media to enhance the worship experience.
If your church has screens, make sure that the lyrics of your anthems are on screens as the choir is singing. Use scenic or spiritually meaningful background photos for the text, and make sure that the text is in a color, size, and font that shows clearly all the way to the back of your worship center. After all, you have carefully chosen this music because of the message that it conveys. Whether your anthem has a message of praise or testimony, encouragement, affirmation, or exhortation, the words are important. Let’s be honest. Sometimes the most beautiful choral settings can make the text difficult to understand.Seeing the lyrics visually on screens employs the sense of sight to imprint the message your choir is sharing on the minds of your congregation more vividly. Your congregation is more likely to take away from the service something that has meaning to their walk as a Christian when every means has been utilized to enhance the worship experience, simply but effectively communicating visually as well as aurally. If you have the capability to make videos of lyrics that can employ photos as background for lyrics and perhaps snippets of video (something like a few seconds of video of a running stream when singing a message about living water), do that. However, keep in mind that it can be very difficult to stay with a video tempo-wise without a click track for the director and in-ear monitors for him or her and for key personnel such as accompanists or praise band (rhythm section) members. If your church does not have media capability, make sure that your anthem choice reflects this fact and that lyrics are as clearly understandable as possible. Use low tech but effective visual means to communicate what your choir is singing visually when possible (perhaps a banner proclaiming “Jesus is Lord” could be displayed when you are singing about the Lordship of Christ). Employ some talented people in your congregation to form a banner ministry and create visual representation of the names of God / Jesus that can be used for regular as well as special services to visually re-enforce the messages being sung and shared.
11. Choose music carefully.
Here are two of the most important considerations when choosing music.
a. Keep the capability and number of your singers in mind.
b. Know your congregation.
The choir certainly seeks to glorify God in their ministry, but it is also important to encourage God’s people through music that is carefully chosen to reflect the make up of your congregation. In most churches, it works well to chose anthems which reflect a variety of styles. For example, you might choose a ballad style or more reflective anthem for one service and a more upbeat and celebratory anthem for the next. You might occasionally include an anthem that has a more southern gospel type style. Don’t neglest newer, more contemporary choral arrangements. You may be stretching your choir’s preferences when you introduce choral arrangements of contemporary worship songs, but this is one of the very things that will allow your choir to be more relevant to the hearts of all generations within your congregation. Remember that when God inspires new songs for His people and His church, they are often a revelation of truth or a truth stated in a new way. New songs are God speaking to hearts just as the new songs of 50 years ago did.
c. Pray for wisdom, and procede with care in every decision about music choice.
d. Make sure that the music has a clear message and is not too difficult.
In making the difficuly decision, consider more than just the capabilities and confident vocal ranges of your Choir. Consider the difficulty of the accompaniment and the tech capabilities for making your choir heard.
e. Avoid “big ending syndrome”.
Some Choral Anthems would not be as effective without a big ending. Just make sure that every single anthem does not end that way. Look for some anthems that fit your choir and have a great message with a more reflective ending. Have you heard the one about the little boy who asked his Mom, “Why does every song the choir sings end like this…?” (He demonstrates, with mouth open wide, tongue hanging out,…”AHHHH”)
f. Support any special emphases at your church with your music selection when possible.
(For example, a special emphasis on prayer would be a great time to sing an anthem that is a prayer set to music or an anthem that talks about God’s faithfulness in hearing our prayers.)
g. Be open to newer music yourself, recognizing it as a sign that God is still at work in the hearts of His people, young and old. Remember that both your choir and your congregation represent a variety of musical tastes. Continually stretch your own musical tastes and those of your choir and congregation by including new music in your repertoire that may be more contemporary in nature but has a message that will speak to the hearts of everyone who is there as a true worshipper. Worship should unite the generations. If your focus is on giving glory to God, using the best of more traditional music in various genres and the best of what is new as well, your choir will be more likely to grow, to include younger singers, and to minister more broadly to your congregation as they bring glory to God through their worship and praise. There is a lot of wonderful, God-honoring and exalting music out there in a wide variety of musical styles. If your choir sings wholeheartedly, no matter how many years (or months) ago God inspired the writing of their music, worship wins! God is honored when His people place worshipping Him and consideration for others above their own preferences.
Note: For further reading on the subject of new songs, see our post entitled, Singing a New Song
Here, we’ll offer a few suggestions of more contemporary choral settings that will be enjoyed and be very meaningful and worshipful, even for more traditional choirs and congregations.
1. “Blessings” Try Heather Sorenson’s arrangement of Laura Story’s song, “Blessings”, published by Shawnee Press / Hal Leonard. http://www.jwpepper.com/10292259.item
2. “Who Can Satisfy?” Our choir and our congregation both love a fantastic arrangement of Dennis Jernigan’s “Who Can Satisfy” by Gary Rhodes (Lifeway). The arrangement has a really strong choral setting of the chorus, “There is a fountain / Who is the King / Victorious warrior, and Lord of everything / My Rock, my Shelter / My very own… / Blessed redeemer, who reigns upon the throne”. The brief a cappella section during one of the repeats of the chorus is incredibly powerful (when sung well, of course). Our congregation loves it so much that they are now singing along on the chorus when Travis turns around to direct them. Here’s a link to the anthem: http://www.lifeway.com/Product/who-can-satisfy-satb-anthem-min-10-P001220705
There is not a listening link with the anthem info, so here is a Youtube video of the song being shared during a worship service, performed by Riverview Baptist Church Worship Choir, Bixby Oklahoma. ~ January 30, 2011. (Note: This is not our choir but just a video we were able to find with the same arrangement we use. There is also an arrangement of this song by Russell Mauldin for Word.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3brh8Bjcvc
3. “We Have Met to Worship” by Travis L. Boyd from Worship Sounds Music
This is a contemporary, guitar and piano driven, setting of the traditional hymn, “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship”, arranged for worship choir, praise band, and congregation with the addition of Travis’ chorus, “For He’s Worthy”. There’s also a full orchestration. Our congregation (all ages) loves it and took to it right away. You’ll find it on our Worship Sounds Music website’s “Solos / Worship Songs” page (info copied from the website is below).
Serving as a bridge between traditional hymns and modern worship songs, this arrangement features the hymn “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship,” combined with a new, contemporary chorus.
* Worship Pak, $15.00
(includes PDFs for the Choral parts, piano accompaniment, rhythm section parts, and a string reduction for keyboard, with permission to make an unlimited number of copies, as needed for your groups)
* Full orchestration, $25.00
(Bundled PDFs include Conductor’s score and reproducible parts for strings, winds, & percussion).
* Accompaniment Trax, $10.00 (MP3 download)
NOTE: At Worship Sounds Music, all of our music is downloadable, and there are never any additional “per copy” fees.
The cost for the PDF master copy (and your printing costs) are all that you will pay for as many copies as you need to make. Our goal is to be an affordable resource for worship choirs, soloists, and congregational worship, helping others to bring glory to God through their worship ministry.
Our demos can’t capture the live worship experience with the full choir, praise team, and musicians. Just imagine the choir singing these parts along with you (as worship leader) and the entire congregation.
Here’s the link to the “Worship Songs” tab on our website where you’ll find the purchasing link for “We Have Met to Worship”:
SOMETHING ELSE FOR CHOIR DIRECTORS AND MINISTERS OF WORSHIP TO CONSIDER:
Georgia Minister of Music Greg Burrell (FBC, Barnesville) makes a good point about music selection and about extending the reach of choral worship ministry with this comment and the follow-up conversation from Facebook:
“Wow… comprehensive article! People LOVE a good choir, period! But what I’m learning is that we can’t relegate the choir to the “traditional” service, or it will become extinct.
We have to make a choir work in the service where the younger people are, or it will age itself into oblivion.
If Bruce Springsteen performs with choirs, certainly we can make it work, too.”
Very true, Greg. There are a lot of great choral arrangements of contemporary worship songs.
And everyone loves black gospel. And once a month [in a more contemporary service, whatever frequency works in your situation], a truly powerful traditional anthem can reach people who never thought they liked that sort of thing… IF it is really done well! Anything a choir cannot do well, they shouldn’t be doing in worship. I’m speaking of adult choirs here; I don’t think anyone expects youth choirs to always be wonderful. (Editor’s note: Hopefully, most congregations will extend a lot of grace to student choirs who are just learning how to contribute as worship leaders and to sing in a choir, giving the youth an opportunity to grow through the experience.)
Note: To further clarify the point about the necessity of only sharing with the congregation that which can be performed with excellence… whatever the genre may be, Greg offers this example (paraphrased here):
“If the director loves “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place” and wants to show his congregation “what real music is”, then takes that song [choral anthem] into the worship service and it is only mediocre, he has only hurt his cause, not helped it. However, if he has time in [choir] rehearsal to play with “How Lovely…” and give his choir the great experience of getting to know the song, the investment of time can be valid, even if the song never makes it to the service.”
(Thank you for the feedback and for your permission to add it to the article, Greg.)
12. EXTENDING YOUR WORSHIP MINISTRY INTO THE COMMUNITY
FINALLY, take your choral worship ministry (and other worship ministry groups) outside the walls of the church and into the community and beyond as frequently as possible. Contact the facility and find out who to speak with about your group. Possible locations for ministry include: your State Capitol (optain permission through your Representative), nursing homes, assisted living facilities, rehab and long term care facilities (some do regular worship services, and some allow groups to come at other times), juvenile detention facilities, local arts festivals, a shelter or non-profit, a mall or shopping center (with permission – make sure that they will turn off their Muzak), a community or county-wide national day of prayer or patriotic observance, resorts or public entertainment venues (permission must be obtained, and some only permit outside concerts). Make sure that your music is appropriate for the setting. Performance is less important than ministry (by far!). Your choir might sing an anthem or two at the nursing home and then join residents in singing some favorite hymn tunes.
1. Make sure that the group which will be ministering off-site is well-prepared (confident that they know the music). aware of what to wear and what to bring, and aware of any rules for visitors to the location.
2. Make a pre-trip to the site so that you can see any logistical or space challenges and then prepare accordingly (bring needed equipment, sing without risers in a room with a low ceiling, etc.). Make sure that your group is physically able to meet the logistical challenges (bring a cart to help transport equipment, scout the equipment loading entrance and a drop off point for your group). Make sure there are adequate restroom facilities and that the trip to and from the venue is well-planned, allowing necessary stops for a meal or break at sensible times.
3. Build some time into your ministry schedule for relating to the people who have listened to your group. Help with a non-musical ministry task when possible.
4. Get creative and think of ways to minister in your own community and beyond. Make this a matter of prayer for everyone on your worship team.
“And serve them with all your soul in love, as unto our Lord and not as unto men.”
~ Ephesians 6:7 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
An important note about doing choral anthems with select singers on mics:
A comment was posted on a facebook link to this post which went something like this, “Don’t have the choir’s sound covered up by a few elite singers on individual mics!”
For so many of us who are choral purists, this is a really tough pill to swallow. However, we do need to keep in mind that a lot of Directors and Worship Ministers are doing what they have to do in order to allow their choirs to survive. Given the mandate, “contemporize or die”, most of us would choose a praise team on mics in front of the choir rather than the alternative of choral extinction. Hopefully, there are many situations out there where this mandate has not yet been spoken. For directors, my advice would be to choose to contemporize (at a pace and to an extent and frequency that suits your situation, tech capabilities, and musicians) and earnestly seek to speak to the hearts of all generations on your own… before the mandate comes down (perhaps avoiding the mandate altogether). In addition, my Minister of Worship hubby mentioned that sometimes the reason for having a few singers on mics is to addresss balance issues, especially when there is an orchestra in addition to accompanists and rhythm section.
The Trinity Worship Choir from Trinity Church (Assembly of God), Cedar Hill, TX, Minister of Worship Jeff Sparkman
1. Make sure that there is a time and a place for worship ministry rehearsal and preparation. Your worship ministry team will be as flexible as possible, but they do need some consideration.
2. Make sure that there is an adequate budget for worship ministry. There are ways to manage a worship ministry as frugally as possible, but the basic needs should be met.
3. Make sure that there is child care for rehearsals. If you want to encourage participation in worship ministry, this is a key priority.
4. Listen and act (as soon as possible!) when your Worship Pastor or Choir Director says that some equipment is seriously outdated and in need of replacement.
The Prestonwood Baptist Church Worship Choir, Plano, TX, directed by Worship Pastor Todd Bell
“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” ~ Colossians 1:10
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
~ Romans 12:1 – 2
This post was written by Cynthia Boyd, with a great deal of input from Travis L. Boyd
NOTE: This post is a work in progress. Travis has contibuted to the content, but there is more work to be done. Specifically, I am going to have him refine the section on what Worship Pastors / Choir Directors can do and perhaps provide some additional guidance regarding practical matters such as song and anthem selection. In addition, we are open to the thoughts and ideas of others on this topic. Please let us know if there’s anything we failed to address in this article.
Worship Links has posted a link and recommendation for this blog post, “How to Keep Church Choirs from Becoming Extinct”, with brief commentary.
Worship Pastor and Composer Travis L. Boyd
Here’s a link to our listening page for music by Travis L. Boyd of Worship Sounds Music.
You’ll hear publisher’s studio demos (from Lorenz, Shawnee Press / Hal Leonard, and Church Street), custom recordings, and our own demos for music that is offered only on WorshipSounds.com
Click this image to go to the General Usage Anthems page of our Worship Sounds Music website.
Here’s a link to our Worship Sounds Music website, where you will find downloadable Choral Anthems, Anthem Orchestrations, Vocal Solos, Worship Paks for our Congregational Worship Music, and Accompaniment Trax for both Anthems and Solos. All of our music is designed to be practical for worship ministry, Biblically sound, musically memorable, lyrically meaningful, and very affordable.
* ADDENDUM *
Help for teaching and learning about Worship
For Worship Pastors, Pastors, and Ministerial Staff
Worship Team Members, and Church Members
* What should every Minister or Worship Team member (and every Christian) know and understand about worship? *
Here is an excerpt from our post called “Understanding Worship”:
“So many people seem to think that worship is a 25 minute time of singing just before the preaching begins in a congregational worship service. Others have actually been told that the purpose of congregational worship is to “prepare the hearts of the people to receive the message from God’s word” (preaching).
However, in reality, worship is worship! It is not preparation for anything… except Heaven!
While it is certainly true that God can use any part of a worship service to speak to hearts and to draw people to Himself, and while it’s also true that He can continue to speak through the remainder of the service, that is the work of God’s spirit. He will use whatever and whomever He chooses to use. If we are lifting up Jesus in worship, the Lord will do the drawing of people unto Himself. Remember that we are to give God glory through the way that we live all of our lives, so times of corporate worship should certainly not be the only times that God can use our witness and our surrender for His glory and for our good. However, we are not worshipping God because of what He will do. We are worshipping Him for who He is. His deeds are an expression of His being, but it is who He is that matters most.
Worship is our response to recognizing God’s ultimate worth.
The goal of worship is to give God glory!
We do not worship God in order to prepare for something else or to obtain His favor. He gives His love and His favor freely because that is who He is. He is a loving and giving God… constantly giving life, mercy, love, grace, and our very breath through His sustaining power.
Yes, when we sing praises to God wholeheartedly, that is worship. We are reverently giving to God our praise, our thanks, our prayers, our lives, and our songs.
The preaching of God’s word is worship, too, when it brings God glory!
We worship through the proclamation of the word.
Unfortunately, many people have very wrong ideas about what worship is and how the concept of worship should fit into the everyday life of every Christian.
The primary focus for every Christian should be to relate to our holy God and worship Him, and yet we are woefully under-educated about how to do the very thing for which we were created and for which the church meets together every week. What day should we worship? Every day… not just on Sunday.
In a corporate worship service and in the way that we live our daily lives, our focus should be on worshipping God and giving Him glory. We choose to live our lives in thankfulness and in the awareness of God’s supremacy over everything, constantly seeking to give our best effort in every moment of our lives so that we may bring glory to Him. He is always giving, and we join Him in giving when we live our lives in an attitude of worship. Even as we give, He continues to give His spirit through us so that we can do all things through Christ. He blesses us with assurance and peace in His presence. He never stops giving.
However, when we view God only through the lens of our own lives, what we want Him to do for us, and the blessings we seek, then our focus becomes all about us.
We become more concerned about what we get out of worship and not concerned at all about what we give!
The Bible tells us repeatedly to give God honor, glory, blessing, praise, worship, exaltation, joyful singing, thanksgiving, reverence, awe, and all that we are. Just as He is constantly giving, we seek to give.
THIS IS THE KEY:
Worship (our response to our holy, almighty, and supreme God) is about giving!
It is not about us, or about our preferences, or about what we get out of the experience (although true worship does give back abundant blessings when we give Him the glory due His name!).
Worship is about seeing God for who He is…
the Creator of everything that is,
the Sustainer of Life,
the Holy and Righteous One,
the God of grace and glory,
the Merciful Father who sacrificed His one and only Son out of love for us!
Our response, then, becomes an effort to GIVE all that we are to Him, seeking to bring Him glory in all of life.
“Honor and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness; fear before Him, all the earth.”‘ Psalm 96:6 – 9
That is worship… worship as a lifestyle or way of life, seeking to bring God glory through giving Him all that we are… even our hurts and scars.
That’s what Jesus did and how He lived. He lived to bring glory to God through giving every moment as a sacrificial offering to His father, choosing obedience and God’s will over His own.
“When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
I glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which You gave me to do ;
and now, Father, glorify me in Your own presence with the glory which I had with You before the world was made.”” ~ John 17:1 – 5
(The teaching on worship above is from “Understanding Worship” on the Worship Sounds Music blog)
If you disagree with the teaching that the act and the heart attitude of worship is one of seeking to glorify God as a result of recognizing who He is, giving Him all that we are, please read some of our other articles such as “A Lifestyle of Worship”. It’s relatively short and is a static page. You will find the title above the header photo (mountain scene) on our blog. The title is a clickable link to the page. In addition, read “Worship… It’s all about Giving!” and “The Missing Piece… ” (see info and links below).
Would you like to read some of our other articles on Choral Worship and on worship in general?
Here are some links for you:
1. “The missing piece…What Every Christian Should Know About Worship”
2. “31 Days of Praise (Scripture Devotions)
This post has been recommended on Worship Links @ http://www.worshiplinks.us/2013/09/devotions-praise/
3. “Walking in Worship”
Note: This article has also been published in the online magazine, “ChurchMag” with its original title
and on churchleaders.com , using the title, “What Worship REALLY Means” @
* found on this blog @ http://worshipsounds.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/walking-in-worship/
OUR OTHER POSTS ABOUT WORSHIP: (Our pages, like the one on Lifestyle Worship, have titles that are always visible on the blog header. Our posts are categorized, and all of the posts on worship can be found in our category called “Worship…with Wonder!” (and the sub-categories in that topic). Here are links to 7 of our most widely read posts about worship.
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