Growing a church music program is an important part of what we do as directors and leaders. In building a program, we’re building a place where people of all ages and walks of life can come and learn and grow. We’re creating a safe environment for them to explore and discover and feel loved and supported and encouraged.
Most of you likely inherited your church’s choir program and are building year to year on that foundation. Others of you might be starting from scratch—building a program from the ground up.
Either way, we’re always building, right? Trying new things, finding new things to offer, creating new opportunities for people to come and grow in their faith and knowledge of God, learn about music and develop musical skills, and find new ways to connect to worship.
Some of our biggest challenges as church musicians are recruiting people to be part of the ministry work we do and sustaining that ministry for years to come.
Sound familiar? If so, this post is for you!
Today, I’m sharing five effective tips and strategies for recruiting for your church ministry and outlining several things you can do to help sustain your ministry, now and in the future.
It’s an important part of the job, but one we don’t often talk about. We’d rather focus on things like choosing new music and teaching people how to sing and getting the choir room organized.
But recruiting is vital to the work we do, to ministry. It’s a combination of inviting, reaching, encouraging, welcoming, and engaging new people, getting to know them, and giving them a place to serve and connect with others.
Feel like recruiting is a little bit outside of your comfort zone? I get it. Instead of thinking about recruiting as a fast-talking, salesy sort of thing, think about it in terms of sending out invitations to a party you’re planning. Think about it as a ways of putting out a welcome mat and inviting people in, setting another place at your table, so to speak.
Stuck on ways to recruit for your choir this year? Here are a few ideas and strategies that might work:
★ Send personal invitations. A personalized note goes a long way and is a great way to generate excitement around what you have planned for this year! A good time to do this is over the summer (building up to the first rehearsal of the year, a Christmas kick-off party, or a choir retreat) and again in January, after the busy-ness of the holidays has died down.
★ Connect with others in the community, perhaps friends of families in the church, children who have attended VBS or visited on Sunday mornings, members of the community chorus, etc. Make a phone call or send a personal email or note inviting them to be part of choir this year.
★ Write a short announcement for the bulletin and church newsletter, post information on the church website, and post fliers at schools, the library, and other places around the community. Share with others you may know - music teachers, college professors, and community ensemble directors - and ask them to share the information with people they know who might be interested.
★ If you don’t have a lot of (potentially new) singers in your church right now, consider creating a community choir that sings both in church and out in the community throughout the year. Choose a variety of repertoire and focus on the educational benefits of singing in a choir when you reach out to invite people.
★ Hold an open rehearsal at the beginning of the year. Encourage your current members to bring a friend and invite people to come sit in (without making a long-term commitment). Choose some fun warm-ups that will get everyone laughing and easy-to-sing repertoire that will be accessible for new folks and build their confidence. Make sure to have some extra music folders prepared in advance and make visitors feel like special guests. Hospitality is key! Have some refreshments afterward to encourage people to chat and visit with one another.
Once you’ve invested time, energy, and resources into building a church choir program and taken initiative to recruit and promote the program to people in your church and community, you can begin to focus on ways to create momentum for this year and things you can do to help sustain the program for years to come.
Here are a few ways to help sustain your church music ministry:
★ First, it’s important to make choir fun—a place people want to be every week. Create an environment that’s exciting, engaging, and meaningful—a place where people feel like they fit in, are accepted, and can contribute in some way. Encourage everyone to do their best at all times and be respectful of people’s time by keeping a good pace (with a little humor and lightheartedness, for good measure) and always starting and ending on time. People who enjoy singing in the choir will go out and tell their friends about it (the best form of recruitment!).
★ Take time to really get to know each singer—their name, their family, their interests, their experiences, and their birthday (send them a card or sing to them in rehearsal). Talk to them when they come into rehearsal each week. Send an email (or for children, a note in the mail) when they miss several weeks in a row.
★ If you’re working with children, make sure you take time to get to know the parents and/or guardians, too. Learn their names, understand their living situation (is it a divorced family? Are there grandparents or other family members that play a prominent role?).
★ Learn about each person’s musical background and experiences. Do they play an instrument? Who is their music teacher? Attend concerts and musical things they’re involved in, as you are able. Build relationships with them throughout the year, and hopefully, for years to come
★ Learn about each person's voice—what they’re capable of, the qualities of their singing voice, and areas of strength and weakness. This will help you choose repertoire that’s a good fit for your ensemble and guide the warm-ups and other vocal exercises you use to continue developing and training the voices in your group.
★ Do any of your young singers struggle with a learning difficulty or a medical condition that you should know about? This is important to teaching and learning and may inform how you meet that child where they are.
★ Pray together and find ways to tie in mission projects and connect with charitable organizations in your community for service projects throughout the year.
Related post: How to Pray with Your Choir
★ Encourage your singers regularly. Give verbal praise in rehearsals, send cards and emails thanking them for their dedication and time. Surprise them with a party or small gift at Christmas or brunch in between services on Easter morning.
Related post: Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for Choir Members
★ Celebrate! Create momentum through the year with a special end-of-year party or celebration and for children, offer smaller incentives throughout the year to encourage good attendance, Bible memory, and achieving other goals.
Related post: Four Ways to Celebrate the End of the Choir Year
I hope these strategies help you recruit authentically and confidently and give you some new inspiration for working to sustain your church music ministry for many years to come.
I’d love to hear: What is your best advice for recruiting and sustaining your ministry?
Looking for a few more ideas? Take a look at these helpful articles:
Practical Tips for Recruiting New Singers
How to Successfully Recruit and Maintain a Church Ensemble/Choir
4 Ways to Recruit Choir Members