The Case for the Summer Choir

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The summer choir. It's a hot topic among church choir directors everywhere. To sing or not to sing? To have "special music" all summer or no anthem at all?

Some directors feel strongly about giving their choir time off so they'll come back refreshed and renewed and ready to get to work in the fall. Others are worried people won't come back after an extended break.

Some directors feel that the choir sets an example for the rest of the church and by not participating (and likely attending), others in the church may follow suit. Others enjoy the slower pace of summer services and a short break from the weekly choir routine.

This is a not a right-or-wrong, good-or-bad kind of decision. In fact, I'll admit that the summer choir may not work and may not be what's best for certain churches. But for those of you who are on the fence about it and those who are considering adding a summer choir this year, here are a few of the benefits I've seen: 

1  |  It adds to the worship experience.

I feel strongly that the choir is an important part of the worship leadership team.

Each week, they add to the worship experience by preparing music for an anthem, offertory, and/or sung responses, and play a significant role in leading the congregation in song. If your choir sits at the front of the sanctuary, there's an added visual element: their presence each week communicates faithfulness, dedication, and strong leadership.

In contrast, the choir's absence during summer months may send the message that (1) summer worship is not as important as worship during the year, (2) worship-planning is more of an after-thought, and (3) regular attendance is not expected.

Okay. So, you don't want to give your choir the whole summer off, but you also don't want to continue weekly rehearsals all summer. Is there a happy medium?

Yes, I think so!

As you draw near to the end of the school/church year, add in a few easy-to-learn, familiar anthems that you can use over the summer. For the summer months, plan to gather 30-45 minutes before the service to review the anthem of the day.

Summer is also a great time to do a men's and/or women's choir anthem. (This gives part of the choir a break without taking away from the worship experience.)

2  |  It fosters community among members year-round.

As directors, you know how much goes into building and fostering community among your choir members during the year:

Caring about each other and asking about those who are absent.
Praying together and sharing your joys and struggles as a group.
Planning fun social gatherings that provide fellowship opportunities and foster friendships.

Some choirs may be able to pick up where they left off after a summer away, but for others, the long break every year may hinder or negatively affect the community you are trying to build. Some people may feel that since choir is only a part-year commitment, it is also a part-time, surface-level community: they show up, they sing, they leave. No one will notice if they take a week off here and there.

However, we all know the power of a strong community - feeling connected to a group of people who genuinely love, care about, and serve one another. We belong to each other, we take care of each other, we are responsible for each other, and that kind of community cannot be part-time.

3  |  It keeps people connected.

For many, choir is more than an opportunity to sing and make music. It's more than a social gathering with friends. It's a place to belong, a way to participate and serve and minister and give back.

And without it, some members may feel disconnected. They may not know how to sit in the congregation on Sunday morning. They may feel like they belong.

In addition to keeping people connected to the church, the summer choir offers a way to keep people connected to choir. After all, it's much easier to step away after a three-month absence. Keep your singers connected and engaged by giving them a way to participate and a place to serve year-round.

4  |  Faithful attendance = faithful giving.

On the practical side, faithful attendance - for choir and congregation members - is important to the life of the church. People tend to give more faithfully and keep up with their pledges when they attend in person (vs. remembering to mail a check or give online).

The choir can set a strong example for the rest of the church by continuing to attend and participate in worship during the summer months. This sends the message that ministry happens year-round, not just during the school year.

5  |  It provides opportunities for new members to join.

Summer is a great time to invite new members to join the choir!

Here are a few examples:
Bryn Mawr Presbyterian
Middle Collegiate Church
Bellevue Presbyterian
Madison Avenue Presbyterian
Birmingham UMC
Woods Memorial Presbyterian
Tenth Presbyterian

Summer services tend to be more relaxed and laid back, giving new members an opportunity to learn as they go and get comfortable with the new choir routines. It also gives people an opportunity to try it out for a short period of time without making a long-term commitment.

Organize a pick-up choir for a month (or all summer) and invite people to come to a short rehearsal before the service each week. Choose 2- or 3-part anthems if you're worried about parts or create your own "instant" anthems.

Does your church choir sing during the summer? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Read more:
No-Fuss, Instant Anthems for the Small Church Choir
Instant Choir - Just Add People