Every choir needs new members. Even when the choir loft is full, almost every choir director would enjoy ‘just a few more singers.’
Let’s take a look at some ideas to help out our choir member recruiting.
Here’s an effective strategy: let your personality drive your personal recruiting approach. If you enjoy meeting new people and talk easily, go right ahead! Folks like you are often tagged as ‘evangelistic’ and ‘outgoing,’ and easily share about their experiences. Yes, you might be a ‘natural’ at asking people to sing! Are you a more quiet person, and more deliberate about your communication? Share your passion for choir with just one or a few acquaintances as you get to know them. Many long-term choristers can identify that ‘one person’ who cared enough to get them involved in choir. Are you exacting, ‘picky,’ or critical (as a musician? Couldn’t be!)? Seek out others that share your level of expertise; they will often bring valuable skills to your group.
Identifying ‘value’ helps to identify ‘why’ someone would want to be part of your choir. And there are so many reasons! Here are just a few; which ones are most obvious for your choir?
- Gain musical experience, education, and discipline
- Share your talent and develop your spiritual gifts
- Spiritual development; grow in Christ through discipleship
- Emotional support and expression
- And remember – choir members get reserved seating on Sunday!
All too often, choir member recruiting falls prey to the old adage ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’
We’re interested in the results, but not adequately involved in the effort. Instead, make a realistic and useful plan! Here are a few hints: Plan to cover your congregation and your community, and any special interest groups you can identify in your choir member recruiting. Get creative with your approach. To be honest, “word of mouth” is rarely a good foundation for recruiting – unless you’re planning a telephone campaign. Likewise, printing “Y’all come” in the weekly bulleting might not be as effective as desired Social media is a great tool and can cover a lot of ground, but don’t be weird. Be careful what you say! Toys can help. In reality, it’s not the fidget spinner with your logo, the pen with the choir name, or the cool little gizmo that attracts people to the choir – it’s the person who takes the opportunity to share their passion for choir along with the little gift. Accentuate your values. If you know what they are, you’re one step closer to finding a way to highlight that value and influence your community. Drive the personal touch. Even business cards with the choir contact’s name might help in your choir member recruiting.
Create A Farm Team
As a music director, I once asked my former high school chorus teacher for advice on how he built a long-term, successful music program. His answer? “It’s all about the farm team.” This is where the ‘knock’ aspect of choir ministry occurs – in developmental involvement beyond the choir room. Here are a few ways we can create these farm teams. In Atlanta where I live, short-term choirs are increasing in popularity, especially for community choruses. This makes sense; a short-term commitment is easier to manage and brings results more quickly. Think about these:
- Holiday choirs are a classic!
- Patriotic choirs can draw new opportunities from the community (ask me how I know).
- Event-based groups can be used to serve the community as well as the church.
- Seasonal choruses (Summertime groups in Atlanta).
Demographic-based choirs encourage a musical bond based on a shared characteristic. Consider:
- Age – this is the basis for graded choir programs and Senior choirs.
- Gender – men’s choruses and ladies ensembles are quite common.
- Location – we’re often limited by rehearsal location, maybe another would serve?
- Rehearsal time – a morning rehearsal group might work in addition to a more traditional evening rehearsal. Even Saturday morning might work; it did for me.
Style-based choirs can develop specific skills and reach gifted musicians. For example:
- A cappella
- Non-worship choirs – we can have a little fun, can’t we?
The farm team really comes to life when we align with (and possibly recruit singers from) other musical groups such as:
- School chorus
- Community chorus
- High school band
As an added advantage, these relationships might help us find accompanists and instrumentalists to fill out our ministry opportunities. Want to plant deep roots in the community? Get involved with non-musical groups! It’s not just about singing for these groups; as relationships develop, these people will see the value in participating with you.
- Sports teams
- Community events and organizations
- Charity and non-profit groups
Essentially, we must go where the people are and extend our choir member recruiting beyond our traditional efforts.
If your passion for people, ministry, and choir shine through, and if you continue to ask, seek, and knock, you will eventually experience growth from your efforts and your farm team. But are you actually prepared for new choir members? Think it through… Do you have room for a new member? A place to sit? Music? Folders? Robes? Someone to assign these? If you allow ‘followers’ or non-readers in your group, are you ready to teach them? Do you have a strong singer that can assist the new singer? It’s critically important to weave new people into the fabric of your choir and help them feel comfortable as part of the group.
- Consider small details like name badges and birthday announcements.
- Pray and fellowship together.
- Get to know the new singer, their family, and their interests.
It’s painful to admit, but we must also consider whether the current choir is ready to accept and involve new members. If there are clique issues or critical behaviors, we may need to break down those barriers. Remember, the director’s attitude is reflected in behavior of choir. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Yes, choir member recruiting can be a tall task, but rewarding – especially in those fortissimo passages! Godspeed.
About The Author: David Scott graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Music Education degrees and holds a Master of Church Music degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. David has performed with numerous choral groups and ensembles as a soloist and director and provides interim music leadership to churches. David is the Director of the Georgia Festival Chorus and is currently employed as the Principal Technical Consultant for CSG International.
Click the picture below to download a well-crafted and accessible arrangement of the class hymn ‘Abide with Me.’ Make as many copies as you wish for your choir members! You own the rights.