The Music Ministry is a vital ministry in every church. In all reality, visitors and members “experience” the music program of your church before the preaching. First impressions are lasting impressions. The type of music ministry that you have will tell others many things.
First, it will tell others what type of church you are. Just like the type of clothes that a person wears makes a statement about who they are, their likes and dislikes, etc., so does the music make a statement about the type of church that you are.
Secondly, it tells how prepared and organized the rest of your services will be. Remember, first impressions are lasting impressions! If your song service lacks organization, it reflects badly upon the Lord Jesus Christ, your church, and your Pastor.
It also tells others of the type of preaching to follow. Hot preaching should not be preceded by a liturgical chant! Good Bible preaching should be preceded by good, solid, Scriptural preludes, choir openers, congregational singing, choir specials, offertories, and other special music. Many times, people who have visited our church have left during the song service because they knew by then that our church was not the type of church they were looking for… and that’s OK!
In order to accomplish the proper role of the music ministry as discussed, much planning and organization is required in various facets:
Consider these ideas to help organize your congregational singing.
- Ask your Pastor to go through the songbook and approve the songs that can be led in your church services.
- Create a spreadsheet of all of those songs listing their title, page number, and a place to mark the “last date sung.”
- Schedule a time to pick out the congregational songs in advance of the service. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you in selecting the proper song/s. Waiting until the last minute OR almost the last minute is a lack of improper planning and can be noticed by the congregation.
- Create an “order of service” card that lists all of the events of a service along with details if necessary (Song title, page number, number of verses, etc).
- Pass this “order of service” out prior to the service to all who take part in the service.
- Update your spreadsheet on a weekly basis. Try not to use the same songs over and over again! Just because you like a particular song does not mean everyone does! Likewise, just because you don’t like a particular approved song doesn’t mean that everyone dislikes it as well!
When considering organization within your choir, consider the following helpful ideas that I have learned from others and from experience.
- Be in thought about your song selections several weeks in advance.
- Of course, your choir practice should be a time of preparation for the next service. In addition, it is helpful to be preparing on a weekly basis for services beyond the next service. It would be a good practice to be working on three to four selections a week. This keeps the practice from getting stale, but also stretches your choir to learn more music.
- During practice, always ask if there are questions. The members should know that at a certain time, they will be given the opportunity to go over a part that they may be struggling with. If you are ever asked a question that you do not know the answer to, don’t act like you know the answer! Simply let them know that you are not sure, and that you will get back to them. Then research it!
- Choir practice should be a fun time. Choir members should feel like they are part of a unique family.
- Always be on the lookout for songs that would make great choir openers. Often times, you can use the chorus of familiar, peppy songs out of the songbook. Many churches have the choir to open with the chorus of the first congregational song. At our church, we have done it many ways. Currently, we are trying to rotate our choir openers once a month. We purchased a great book published by North Valley Publications called “Evangelistic Choir Openers” and are singing from that book every Sunday morning and Sunday night.
- As always, log the choir openers that you use, how long you use them, and when you use them.
- Do your best to have a good repertoire of songs for your choir to sing. By this, I mean within the realm of proper music! Don’t have all fast choir specials or a majority of songs on a particular subject. Be balanced in the types of songs that are selected for your choir specials.
- Be balanced in difficulty of songs that your choir learns and sings. Do not bore your choir members in practice with all basic songs. Have different difficulty levels.
- Do your best to completely organize the music your church has to a point that at any moment, someone could ask you for music to a particular song, and you could find it. This, no doubt, is an ongoing process!
- Occasionally, have a try-out for those who are interested in the possibility of singing or being in a singing group. This works best when announced publicly and there is a place for all of those interested to sign up.
- At the try-out time, have a form for them to list their contact information and any prior music experience that they may have had. It is also wise for the church to have a set of guidelines laying out the requirements for anyone to be involved in their music ministry. This too should be given out at this meeting.
- If possible, have someone else (besides the pastor or music director) be the one listening to voices. Have this person to list on each person’s form their particular strengths or weaknesses.
- Start out with everyone singing a familiar song such as “Victory in Jesus” just to get them warmed up. During this song, watch to see who is singing out. This will help you later in the try-out.
- Call up a particular group of folks up to the piano (such as sopranos) and ask them to sing a familiar song together. The person in charge of the try-out should pick the song. Listen to their voices, and make notes. Continue this process with each “part” giving them an opportunity to sing their part with others. Do not require solo try-outs.
- After try-outs, sit down with the one who conducted the try-out for you and see who you can put together as a group, come up with group names, group leaders, pianists, and present your ideas to the pastor. The pastor should approve the groups IN ADVANCE of anything being made known to those who tried out.
- Once approved, announce a meeting for the results to be made known. Create a personal letter detailing the results of the try-out, seal it in an envelope, and simply pass out the envelope at this meeting. Make yourself available during this meeting for anyone with questions.
- If possible, have a music director and a music coordinator. It is possible for the music director to cover both positions, but as your music ministry grows, it would be to the music director’s advantage to have someone under him who oversees the scheduling of the special music while the music director oversees the entire music program.
- Have an assigned group leader for each group. This gives you a contact person for each group and also gives the group leader an additional place of service.
- Have an assigned pianist for each group.
- Create a name for each group. This instills a sense of pride for the group.
- Allow your soloists, duets, trios, and ensembles to progress in the services that they are “allowed” to sing in. Be careful not to start a new group off with their very first special at a conference or Sunday morning service. Other than for obvious reasons, this could fill them with a sense of pride. At our church, new singers start out on Wednesday night, then to Sunday night, then to Sunday morning, and then to special services. Of course, this takes time, but can be adjusted with the pastor’s approval.
- Assign a time and a place of practice for every group.
- Create a list of all of your singing groups detailing their group name, group leader, pianist, time and place of practice, and church capability.
- From this list, create a music schedule. One side can list the service and who is singing. The other side can be the “nuts and bolts” of the actual schedule and show when who is practicing, when and where.
- It is wise to assign a “substitute” on this schedule each week. This person should be prepared to sing at the drop of a hat should someone cancel, even up to the last minute.
- Post this schedule! Email this schedule! Make this schedule available to as many people as possible!
- Starting from scratch? Begin with an informational meeting for those who know how to play an instrument or who have a desire to do so. See what is available within the membership of your church. Many times, people will have learned an instrument while in High School and have laid it aside, but still have their instrument.
- There should be “orchestra member guidelines” that the potential orchestra member must agree to meet. At PBC, these are the same guidelines for those who want to be involved in the choir or special singing groups.
- See if the publisher that you purchase your song books from has their song books in orchestrated form. Ask those who are interested in joining the orchestra to make the investment of purchasing this song book.
- Start slow! We started with four instruments! Perhaps you can begin with the orchestra accompanying one of the congregational songs once a month on Wednesday nights. Schedule a practice the Sunday night previous (ours is before Adult Choir practice) to see how they are doing. As they progress, allow them to take more part in the service and advance to additional service opportunities.
- Once a quarter, schedule a meeting after a Sunday PM service with all of those involved in your music program. Use this time to remind everyone of upcoming events, to instruct in areas of music, or even just to praise them for all the time and effort that they put into the music ministry of your church.
- You may also use these quarterly music meetings to focus on specific needs. For instance, instead of meeting with the entire music department, you could meet with all of the pianists, all of the group leaders, all of the parents of the children’s choir, etc.
The music program of your church is a very vital ministry. Scripture tells us in I Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” This also includes your music department! May we put so much preparation and organization into our music programs that it will be something that reflects well upon our church, our pastor, but most importantly, our Saviour Jesus Christ!