A new hit by Christian artist Zach Williams will surely set church choirs’ toes tapping. Musicians From Madison sing and orchestrate to capture the sound of classic church music while remaining accessible to modern congregations.
LOVE–The greatest reason a volunteer choir shows up week after week is love. Love for the music, love for each other, and most importantly, love for their Savior.
A choir performs as a team. Like a sports team, the choir requires a leader or conductor who provides direction and guidance throughout rehearsal. The director sets the overall musical vision, coaches the group through difficult passages and provides cues during a performance. The director also holds the group accountable for its performance and provides feedback on individual singers. The director must be able to communicate clearly and efficiently with the group both verbally and visually.
In addition, the choir must be able to follow direction quickly and accurately. This requires all members to be able to read music well, to arrive at rehearsal punctually and prepared, and to carry their part through the entire piece of music.
Singing in a choir can be very rewarding, especially when given the opportunity to go solo during a performance. However, this can be very intimidating for a new musician. Most new music students and amateur musicians experience stagefright when they are asked to perform solo. When a choir member is given the opportunity to perform solo, it can be an excellent confidence booster for that person. In addition, performing with a choir can help them to develop better tempo control and improve their vocal technique.
Most church choirs are made up of volunteer singers. The director must be able find ways to reward their efforts and motivate them to practice consistently. One way to do this is to hold frequent performances. Another way is to offer incentives such as food, drinks or gifts.
Choirs often rehearse in a formation that allows them to be easily directed by the conductor. This may include a block of voices (tenors, altos, sopranos) or a circle of singers who can be pointed to by the director. Some directors even try to switch up the formation from time to time. This helps to keep the singers on their toes and ensures that they are not getting too reliant on being in certain positions.
The choir should also be able to work together effectively in the face of distractions, such as when an audience or church staff interrupts a rehearsal. In addition, the choir should be able to communicate with each other outside of rehearsals in order to make sure that all members have received and are acting on the instructions they receive during the rehearsal.
The choir’s main role is to facilitate worship. It leads the people of God in their song and contributes additional music to meet the liturgy or pattern of worship. The pastor has more to do with the choir’s ministry than is often acknowledged, and he should always be in dialogue with the choir and choirmaster. He should also provide ongoing monitoring and give instructions. The pastor should always encourage the choir to be faithful to Scripture and Church teaching concerning music.
In addition to the musical aspect of worship, the choir also demonstrates the physical expressions of worship (raising of hands, postures of prayer, clapping). This helps to inspire and encourage the congregation to do likewise. This can be especially important if the pastor has not given any specific invitation to worship after he has spoken.
Another role of the choir is to introduce and support special offerings or other activities in worship. The choir teaches the people of God to give as they are led, so that they do not feel like they have been “robbed” of an opportunity to give generously.
A choir also serves as a way to disciple more people in worship leadership, either through their singing or their ability to lead other forms of ministry. Any follower of Christ who is willing to sing can join the choir, and that opens up seating for others who aren’t quite ready to serve in other roles.
Finally, a good choir is a model of Christian community in its love for and loyalty to the pastor and the congregation. Nothing will so inspire a choir to do its best as the genuine feeling of togetherness and mutual desire for spiritual advancement generated by a pastor who loves and cares for his choir and for whom they truly work for in partnership. This can be nourished through regular times of prayer and conversational dialogue, particularly before the service. This will ensure that the pastor and choir are on the same page as to their goals for worship and ministry. It will also help to ensure that the pastor and choir are in full communion with the Church, through their worship of Jesus Christ.
Lastly, because of their devotion to the pastor and the congregation, a strong choir serves as an example of Christian community. A pastor who genuinely cares for his choir and for whom they work in partnership can create a genuine sense of togetherness and mutual desire for spiritual advancement that will inspire a choir to perform to the best of its abilities. Regular prayer and conversational dialogue sessions, especially prior to the service, can nourish this. By doing this, it will be guaranteed that the pastor and choir have the same objectives for worship and ministry. Additionally, it will support the maintenance of the pastor and choir’s complete communion with the Church via their worship of Jesus Christ.
A choir has much more responsibility than simply making music. Ideally, it can become a dynamo of spiritual energy in the worship life of the church. Under pastoral guidance it can be a visible microcosm of God’s dealings with the whole church, a channel of His grace and glory, and a corporate respondent in the call to holy living and fuller commitment.
But too often it becomes an unhelpful annoyance, distracting from the main business of worship and, in fact, interfering with it. It is a disservice to the congregation to turn a church service into a musical performance. The choir’s primary role is to help and animate the congregation in its celebration of the liturgy, and it should occupy a position of leadership in the front of the worship center.
The choir also models worship for the congregation (under pastoral guidance). It should exhibit a worship in spirit and in truth that encourages the congregation to do the same. This primarily happens in the way it sings. In addition, the choir should not take off its robes until after benediction is pronounced.
A secondary function of a choir is that it opens seating in the worship center for others. This is particularly important if there are no singers ready or willing to serve as worship leaders, and it is often helpful in the case of a large church.
Choirs should also be available for altar work and prayer support at the invitation given after the sermon. This is an opportunity for them to minister to the congregation and open it up to the gentle and unhurried movement of the Holy Spirit.
The most critical task for the choirmaster is to teach the choir how to edify and enliven the congregation by its singing. This is most easily accomplished as the choir grows and matures in its role as a worship leader. It is only when the priority is placed on this that a choir will truly bless the congregation in its worship. A shift in this emphasis will free church music creativity from a self-serving aestheticism and nihilistic pragmatism.
Teaching the choir how to use its singing to edify and enliven the congregation is the choirmaster’s most important duty. As the choir develops and becomes more experienced in leading worship, this will be the easiest task to complete. A choir will only genuinely bless the assembly in its worship when this is given top priority. A change in emphasis will liberate church music creativity from nihilistic pragmatism and self-serving aestheticism.