Dos and Don’ts: Worship ChoirBelow are ten dos and five don’ts for the Worship Choir. They are a result of my experiences leading choirs and gleanings from scripture.
- Keep The Rehearsal Moving: There are those times when the choir gets stuck on a section or a measure that they, for whatever reason, cannot master. There are many factors for this, however, in order to keep rehearsal moving and to keep morale out of the depths, move on, at least for the moment. You can always come back to that section later in the rehearsal or next week (if time permits).
- Ask yourself this question: “When I opened my mouth tonight to give the choir direction, was it absolutely necessary?”: This speaks volumes to me; I tend to want to talk too much. I always thought it was ok because I had the right intentions, edification and better musicality/understanding. However, just the opposite took place. Because of my incessant instruction, dialogue, preaching, and explaining, we lost precious time to make music and to SING! (After all, that is what we are here for.) Therefore, I try to solicit advice from a VERY FEW members (one of whom is my wife) to pick their minds on how the rehearsal flowed that particular evening. Since this realization, I ask myself this question each and every week in order to hone my instructions and to acquire the most amount of singing time that I possibly can.
- Plan ahead, way ahead: Plans can always change and be altered, but without plans it is hard to accomplish anything more than the simple week to week songs. There will be no big picture or goal; stagnation will reign. Also, it is my personal belief, that within the plan lies the best chance for the Holy Spirit to move—why? Because you are prepared; there is a knowledge base to draw upon. Without this base of knowledge/experience then the Holy Spirit is limited by lack of preparation.
- Devotionals with your choir: You are not just the music director or song leader. You are the Pastor in all things musical—whether your title says it or not! These do not have to be long. Five minutes is more than sufficient if you are prepared.
- Lead your choir in prayer: Again you are their Pastor in all things Musical. They are your largest cohort of worship leaders. Lead them so they can lead others.
- Let your choir lead you in prayer: It is good to feed your choir spiritual food. That is why devotionals and prayer are important, but this is also a two way street. Let them also feed you. Besides your personal edification, this will test their skills in edification and show you where your work in their lives needs to be accomplished.
- Solicit the choir for information—“ I do not know everything, especially the history of this choir.”: This is especially true when you start work in a new ministry. When I started at FBC Paris, there was no way, when I walked into the front door, that I could know the history of the Choir—other than asking. It is important to note, that it is extremely important to ask the right question to the right person. When you want to know the choir’s musical style and taste preferences go beyond the library, but do not ask the person who only loves one type of music and cannot separate their preferences from the need of the church. Wise counsel is best—as always.
- Challenge, but not all the time: Make the choir eat their musical vegetables, but do not deny them their dessert as well—especially when they are working hard on their vegetables.
- Sing the Gospel: This is paramount! The choir is meant to praise and lead the congregation in worship. The reason we worship is because Jesus came, lived, died, sacrificed, bore, paid, finished, died and rose! We worship because HE has saved us to the uttermost! So, sing the message that, as Romans says, “Is the power of God” (Romans 1:16). Proclaim that power in the power of song; do not neglect the message that saved your soul.
- Have fun—in light of the Gospel you are singing: I recently told my choir to have fun while they sang a particular song. The song is drenched in the Gospel and the Word of God—even quoting it at times. Was it right to exhort fun? YES! The Gospel gives life, life eternal and freedom. If life and freedom in Christ do not inspire fun in Jesus’ name then we have missed the point. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…..against such things there is no law.”(Galatians 5:22-23)
- Have just one option: If two heads are better than one, then having two options is a good idea.
- Assume that they will not like a piece because it is different: It is true that the choir will probably not like the different piece—at first. Wait—and urge the choir to wait as well—until they have the entire picture of the song before passing judgment. On the other hand, they just might enjoy it. This is precisely the case, when I tried some music from Prestonwood (Prism Music) for the first time. There was little immediate feedback, so I feared the worst—too my discredit. As is turned out—while they would not enjoy a steady diet of Prestonwood style music they enjoyed singing it.
- Neglect the preaching—when necessary. So many times, you and your choir will get bogged down in the technical aspects of the song and never get to the Gospel in the song. Do not let this occur. While I have admonished the cessation of talking, it is imperative to make sure the choir understands and “gets” the message in the song. That message includes the lyrics and the musical treatment. Show the choir what the composer is doing in the music that supports the text/Theology.
- Try to be perfect in front of the choir. We are all real, imperfect people; so is your choir. It is fruitless to try and impress one another. Seek to impress Christ. Some say that mistakes are a lack of preparation. I say, mistakes happen, even in the wake of good preparation. Let the choir laugh at you—you will be surprised what good that will accomplish.
- Be afraid to throw out your schedule if it is not working: Just because you schedule an anthem for a particular Sunday, does not mean that it must stay. If the choir needs more time, or if a key musician will be absent, it is ok to shift the plan. We are, after all, imperfect; we fail to see all ends.