A little over one month from now I’ll be leading a small gathering of worship leaders and/or choir directors in Atlanta, centered around the theme of growing healthy, worshipping, intergenerational choirs, and partnering those choirs with worship teams.
I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t grow up a “choir guy”, I never sang in choirs, I don’t conduct choirs, and for many years my only experience with church choirs was that they were dwindling. I’ve seen choirs that are extinct, or dead, or hostile, or performance-minded, or divorced from contemporary music (with occasional awkward family visits at Christmas and Easter), or grasping at straws. The National Study of Congregations (Duke University) showed that in a 14 year period, between 1998 and 2012, the utilization of choirs in mainline protestant churches dropped 30%. And from what I’ve seen – in the last 5 years, that’s continued to drop.
Some churches strong, growing, stable choirs. But that’s the exception, not the norm. The trends are downward. Why do so many of us (even people like me, who aren’t your traditional “choir guys”) care that we continue the ministry of choirs?
Because a choir provides the Church a unique demonstration of the gospel – in that people from all tribes and tongues, generations, races, backgrounds, and skill levels – are redeemed and joined together to the praise of God’s glorious grace, they are not merely a decoration to be saved from the trash heap of musical yesteryear, but are a vehicle for TODAY’S CHURCH to display a microcosm of God’s ransomed people, joined together as the worshipping body of Christ.
God has planted in me – and my colleagues at my church, and many worship leaders and choir directors around the world – a vision for choirs that are:
- Made up of “trained” singers and “amateur” singers
- Able to sing difficult, classical pieces
- Able to sing modern music with vigor
- Meaningfully engaged in worship
- Part of a unified team alongside the band
- Such a welcoming family that people can’t resist joining
- A worship leading engine, pointing the congregation to Jesus
One of the churches that demonstrates this kind of choir – and has been demonstrating it for several decades – is Mount Paran Church of God. It’s a different kind of church from the ones I’ve attended and served, it belongs a different denomination (which is VERY different from my stream of reformed Anglicanism in many many ways), and I had never even heard of it until about 10 years ago. But oh how wonderful – and how broad – is the Body of Christ. And this church had something to teach me about what choirs could do. This clip shows something most Anglican churches would never consider doing with a choir and band. And maybe that’s part of our problem. God may have more for us, and more for choirs, than we think.
If you have a passion for growing healthy, worshipping, intergenerational choirs, and partnering them with worship teams, then join us in Atlanta next month. All the details can be found at: https://worshipleadergathering.com.