I’ve had the tremendous privilege to serve in several Kentucky Baptist churches since I surrendered to the ministry in 1999. I’ve served as part-time, interim, full-time, and in the combination role. Each of these roles has presented different challenges. One challenge has been to offer seasonal choral presentations on a limited budget. Many of us don’t have the instrumentalists to pull off a “live” Christmas or Easter cantata. This means we must purchase split-track accompaniment discs which routinely run $90. If you factor in $60 for rehearsal tracks and another $200 for books, you can easily spend $350-400 on the bare essentials. For some of you, that may be your whole budget (on one musical)! I’ve served in places with music budgets ranging from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand. I know the pressure you feel to produce a meaningful seasonal choral presentation but not have much of a budget. Here are a few ideas for navigating the demands of operating a music program with limited resources.
- Borrow music from other churches in your area. Most churches don’t use the same musical every year and would be glad to let you borrow their materials. At least half of the musicals I have led were borrowed.
- Plan with a fellow music minister at another church. What if you and your friend selected two different musicals and traded next year? Or alternated between Christmas and Easter? Plus, it is good to get to know other ministers in your area.
- Do a combined musical or cantata with another church. Do a presentation at your church one week and the other church the next. You can split the cost and it provides an opportunity for your church to do something with another local body of believers. In 2004, my dad and I combined our church choirs for a Christmas musical. The local newspaper did a piece on it because they thought it was newsworthy that two churches would work together. The reporter said, “We thought churches were in competition with each other?” How sad that the community sees churches like that! When was the last time your church did anything with another like-minded church? Music doesn’t have to be divisive; it can actually be used to bring people together around what unites us – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Plus, it’s always good to have a bigger choir and it makes your people feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. I’ve done this 3 times and highly recommend it!
- Skip a seasonal presentation and just do a song or two. Maybe do an Easter presentation this year and a Christmas one next year? I didn’t do a Christmas musical this past year which was the first time in 12-13 years of ministry. Last time I checked, we still celebrated Christmas! Seasonal presentations are good but they should never be allowed to achieve “sacred cow” status. If we HAVE to do something it has probably become an idol and needs to be torn down.
Remember you do not own the music budget at the church; God does. You are just the one entrusted to be a good steward of it!