While band-driven worship continues to increase across the evangelical worship landscape, worship-leading choirs are trending back in. Because churches generally are worshipping together less frequently during the week, many choirs are moving to a multi-generational model, including the participation of youth and older children. A number of churches, after pulling the plug on their choir several years ago, have decided to restart the choir ministry.
The planets seem to be aligning! Here’s why:
- In every congregation there will be at least a remnant of folks who really, really love to sing. But not everyone can serve on the select vocal team. If the praise band leads on a rotational basis, even your very best vocalists will not have the opportunity to lead every week. A worship choir provides the possibility for diverse worshippers to join hearts and voices, to give God an extra special offering of praise. I believe the Lord is pleased with things that bring us together! Your church will benefit too.
- As survivors of the worship wars, we have learned that “you can have your cake and eat it too.” Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs all have their place in worship. In a like manner, band-driven worship can sweetly and harmoniously co-exist and co-lead with a worship choir. If done well, the choir actually can serve to increase the effectiveness of the vocal/instrumental worship band. Unless the ugliness of pride gets in the way, one presentational design does not have to be at the expense of another. II Chronicles 5:11-14 gives us a beautiful picture of unified worship utilizing lots and lots of worship leaders.
- We have become the beneficiaries of a worldwide renewal of interest in the choral arts. School choir programs here in Mississippi are thriving. I’m amazed at the level of excellence I hear at our choral festivals. The students are dialed in, have worked hard, and really, really love to sing. As worship pastors, the challenge for us is to find an entry point into our churches for this type of expression. Oh, by the way, the parents of these students, many of whom are musically talented themselves, are super involved in the ongoing support of the school choirs…..Selah.
- The “blueprint” for your worship choir is what you (and God, and your Senior Pastor) decide it should be. Just sing to the Lord, and sing often! Be open to learn everything you can from the worship life of other healthy churches, but don’t be a copycat. Keep it Scripturally-based, bathed in prayer, honoring unto the Lord, and established from the outset with an ongoing plan for worship choir discipleship.
- We are made in the image of God, with a God-breathed creativity that is to be employed to bring Him glory! That includes all of God’s children, each one gifted, talented, and all with the potential to offer unto the Lord a sacrifice of praise. The body of Christ is not designed for spectator-based worship. As a representative part of the whole congregation, a worship choir can function as a huge driver and influencer of participatory worship.
- You and your Senior Pastor get to decide when the worship choir will sing that extra-special offering of praise, the song the choir has prepared that will serve to bless the Lord and His gathered family of faith. Be creative with the placement of this in your worship flow. If your Senior Pastor preaches for a long time each week, perhaps it might be a good idea to consider planning for the choir to sing as the congregation gathers. They will tune in if you take the right steps to segue properly into this moment.
- As stewards of the powerful, God-given gift of music, we are commanded to be faithful to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Yes, it is unbelievable to me that my life’s calling involves singing, playing, and orchestrating musical moments of worship! I love music, I love the Lord, and He called me and equipped me to do something I love for His glory. But it’s not just about me. I’m called to share the gift, to teach, to train, to make disciples, and to build the church unto the fullness of Christ Jesus. I believe you will find that worship choirs can be an incredibly effective extension of your worship ministry!
Slater Murphy has been the Director, Church Music, of the Mississippi Baptist Convention since August, 2011. In addition, he continues his love of leading worship by being the conductor of the women of the Mississippi Baptist Singing Churchwomen and the accompanist for the men of the Mississippi Singing Churchmen, conducting the Mississippi Baptist All-State Youth Choir & Orchestra, and currently serving as the Interim Worship Leader at North Oxford Baptist Church. Slater and his wife, Marsha, live in Jackson, MS. Slater can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via his Facebook page.