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Recruiting: Recruiting Church choir members

NatureDear Listers,

Thank you to all who responded to my post regarding the recruitment of
singers for church. You all had wonderful ideas and I am going to try them
all out in the future. We have made a couple of speeches and are looking
into changing the structure slightly so that the time commitment doesn't
scare people away. In any case, I think that we are in fact raising the
consciousness, and that's a good start. Thank you all again for your input!

Fabiana Katz-Eser
St. Mary's Kerrisdale
Vancouver, BC

Just saw your Saturday note to Choralist in a digest. This business of
encouraging singers from congregations to join is always hard, and usually
requires a personal touch. (I would guess a majority of our singers
joined because someone once asked them to.)
But I looked at your point #4, "a more personal and rewarding
involvement in the worship."
and wanted to add a point #4b. Which is that people that sing in choirs
find that is the best way to memorize scripture verses. A teenager in
our HS Sunday School class a year ago suggested she didn't know any psalms
from memory except Ps 23. I started quoting a favorite choir anthem, and
suddenly she had to admit she knew much of Psalm 1.
I would add a point #4c. Several of our choir members admit we stay in
the choir no matter how busy we get, because it is one of the activities
that rejuvenates us.
Jim Green, Newark, DE

Does your priest recognize the MINISTRY of the choir? Is he/she public
enough about the value of the choir in worship? Does the priest place a
high value on worship, or does he/she use (abuse) worship as a high-level
entertainment medium? In an Anglican situation, there is a liturgy of
incomparable strength. I suggest that you work with the priest first, to
arrive at a shared understanding of worship/liturgy in parish life. Do you
and your priest do the daily office together That helps a lot to build
bridges. You come to understand each other without a lot of babbling
If you and your priest come to a shared understanding of
worship/liturgy, then your (both of you) next task is to communicate it to
the parish, more by example than by word (attr to st. Francis: preach at
all times; use words only if necessary). Hold the choir to a good
standard in music (good liturgical music, simple is often better than
complex). Keep variety in the musical style, but make sure everything is
aimed at worship -- and that people know that.
It's hard to avoid getting your guard up when they come at you expecting
entertainment. Nonetheless, a cheerful countenance is important -- take
the unwelcome comments home with you and analyze them later -- don't react
badly at first. Usually these come from simple ignorance, which, over
the long haul, can gradually be fixed, again, more by example than by
word. Shouldn't carry on so in an e-mail. Get back in touch if I'm off
topic here. This does interest me as a parish musician for lots of years.
Brooks Grantier, Trinity Episcopal Church, Marshall, MI
I totally know what it's like to be in this situation. I have recently
began my tenure as a music director for a fast growing Lutheran
congregation in suburban Cleveland. The predecessor ran the program into
the ground and they have had an issue with a substitute lay choir director
who isn't formally trained as a musician. (I could go into sick detail,
but I won't)

First, you could try to show your congregation the reason for having any
kind of a solo vocal group. I have always taught that their primary
purpose is to lead the congregational song in praise of the Triune God.
It's hard to eliminate the "entertainment" factor. As an organist, I feel
awful when I have worked on a serious piece of literature only to have it
drowned out by talking! You should consult the liturgical texts of the
Second Vatican Council and learn how to reverse the notion that the
liturgy is the primary work of the people and it's their
responsibility to lead provide "human resources" to lead the song.

You should share your ambitions about what your congregation wants to do
in the field of this matter. I don't particularly see this as a "guilt
trip" if you say that you won't be able to provide such musical resources
without the people's help. I know it's hard to describe it in writing
what I'm trying to say, but any church treasurer would tell their
congregation they won't be able to provide resources if there was no
financial commitment on behalf of the congregation. I think the same can
be applied to the musical arts.

I know in my congregation, which is in a high development area (lots of
yuppies), I have to compete with parents who have their children enrolled
in college before the kid knows, I have to deal with sports, dance, piano
lessons, and parents that are living through their children in order to
provide a music program for all ages. I think it takes a great deal of
time and it needs to be serious cooperation between yourself and the
congregation leaders.

As far as the "re-covenant" issue, I believe that you need to speak to
your clergy about this issue. It seems to me that your rector is
unwilling to value your gifts and the time you invest for your
congregation. If you want any program to be successful in the
congregation, it has to be valued by all of the paid staff. I served a
church where not many of us on staff agreed with the whims and ego of the
Senior Pastor, and the result was a congregation that suffered a great

As someone who is married to a member of the Lutheran clergy, they tend to
get swept up in their "vision" for the congregation that they forget there
are other people who are working alongside them. I know this e-mail was
lengthy, but if you want to talk some more, just feel free to reply. Best
of luck and you aren't alone!
Steven Woyen swoyen(a)
You need to start with your rector and your vestry. When the top
leadership defines music as an integral part of the worship experience,
people will begin to focus on it. What does your parish mission statement
say about the place of music in worship? How much importance do your
parishioners give music in parish surveys? St. John's Cathedral, Denver,
which has an excellent music program, also has a mission statement which
proclaims that people are called to a "deeper spirituality and relationship
with God through worship, education, pastoral care, stewardship and music."
>From personal experience, I know that it is possible to build an excellent
music program in a small parish if you have the support of the leadership.
I suggest that you start there.
Jean L. Smith, President
Quodlibet Inc.
Fabiana .... as a director of music at Westworth United in Winnipeg, I
conduct a senior, a youth (gr. 7-12) and a junior (gr. 3-6) choir. I
supervise the Cherubs and the bell choir as well as our "wind ensemble".
All this music involving 150 + persons flows from a congregation of fewer
than 300 families. I think the key is to operate a graded approach. We
work for quality in tone production, and choose music that encourages each
age group to use their instrument well. It is difficult to do that in a
multi-age group. Our parents say that they keep sending their kids to us
because of the high expectations placed upon their kids. They feel that
the time the kids spend with us is time well spent. People these days need
a good reason to give of their time in this busy world in which we live.
Hope this is food for thought?!
Ruth Wiwchar
Be sure to check out ChoralNet's resources under "Rehearsal" for
recruiting ideas for both children and adults.

Have you ASKED to have the choir re-commissioned?

Maybe they should rehearse parts of the service other than the anthem.
Have them learn unfamiliar hymns or new liturgical elements (if
appropriate) so they feel they are leading the congregation musically.
Change the point in the service when they sing, depending on the choice of
music. (Have them sing an introit, for example.) Point out (at least to
the choir) the significance of the text of anthems and how it helps
interpret the readings. You may have already done these things.

I think you're falling into the entertainment trap, by trying to identify
what they're going to get out of it. That's not what church is about.
That's not how the committees in the church recruit. Church is about
doing something for others. They should sing in the choir because of what
the CONGREGATION will get out of it. Children may respond especially well
to this because most avenues of participation in church are closed to
them -- this is something they can do which the adults will benefit from.
Insist that the children's choir anthems be received with respectful
silence, just like the adult choir, not applause and "oh how cute." The
children can tell the difference. It's not about guilt; it's about
stewardship. Talk about the parable of the talents, or hiding their lamps
under a bushel basket.
Good luck! Trust in God.
Allen H Simon
Soli Deo Gloria
Some of the reasons you list for being in the choir can be attained in
many secular choirs and in school choirs. To me, what makes a church
choir unique is that the choir becomes the worship leaders. The choir
assists the pastor in setting the tone for the service. If your pastor is
willing to let the director know the sermon titles well in advance, hymns
and anthems can be selected that will lead the congregation into the
What a privilege to be used by God for this purpose! Ultimately the best
reason to join a church choir is that you get to praise God through song.
If the music is carefully chosen to reflect the word of God, we get to
sing TRUTH!! So many of the vocal lyrics for secular music do not reflect
truth. Of course we can do this by singing hymns but what a joy it is to
work with other musicians on special music that glorifies God.

People do want to have fun at rehearsals (after all, they are volunteering
their time and usually the directors are getting paid to be there!).
However, if it's only fun and not musically satisfying, they will leave.
People are attracted to quality.

It almost sounds like you don't have a music director for your church or
maybe not a director for this particular choir. If you don't, then I
suggest that your church hire a professional musician or get a very
qualified volunteer who loves the Lord and is willing to serve Him. If
everyone has a different idea about how things should go then maybe
leadership is what is lacking.
Debbie Gilbert
I have written an article "The Church Choir: Operating on Faith" which may
address some of the problems you've noted. If you would like to have it,
just tell me which Windows edition you use and what your word processing
software and version is. I can send it as an attachment. (I'm a MAC
person but can translate into something you can open.)
It is long - so if you have time/money considerations which would prevent
it, I would understand. The article speaks to the issue of purpose and
mission of the church choir. It may give you some ideas of how to lift the
focus of your prospective singers a bit higher than their own navel.
My own church choir has encountered some of the problems you cite and this
gave birth to the article. I used it as the seed for a choir retreat
which has had an amazing impact on the whole music program. We are a
growing interdenominational church with 8 denominations represented. We
have an incredible diversity of liturgical practices and music styles
which we must address, but we remain a very traditional, mainline-type
church - no 'praise teams' or Hollywood on the music menu.

There are three short books you might look at also:
"How Does Your Choir Grow?" by David F. Donathan (ISBN0-687-01075-6 (1995)
Abingdon Press

"Please Don't Ask Me to Sing in the Choir!" by Thomas L. Are (Hope
Publishing, 1985)

"Discipling Music Ministry" by Calvin M. Johansson (ISBN 0-943575-52-4,
Hendrickson Pub, 1995)

The last book takes an approach which is VERY conservative as to what he
believes appropriate music for worship. You may not agree with all he says
but he really does make a good case for turning folks eyes away from the
self-centered idea of 'entertainment'. Best wishes,

Cindy Pribble
The absolute best way to recruit others for your choir is to have the choir
members do it. Nothing works like personal testimonial. But, for this to
work, your choir members must be having a good experience. If they don't
enjoy singing in the choir, then it will be difficult to get others to
join. Also, is your choir a welcoming group? Newcomers can be very
apprehensive about joining a group that SINGS, for heaven's sake. This
apprehension can
be lessened by a warm and welcoming environment.

Many churches have some sort of information packet for new members, and
many have some sort of card for them to fill out indicating interests. If
your church has this, make sure the music opportunities are on that card.
Then check with the secretary or whoever has responsibility for those
cards, get the names and contact them.

Another idea is to print up a flyer with something people can fill out and
either mail or drop in the collection. I tried this last year and got a
good response.

There's also the old bulletin announcement. Keep the music program in
people's faces, but don't go overboard.

Regarding the choir's role in the worship service, does the choir actually
lead in worship or are they just there to sing an anthem? If the choir
participates enthusiastically in the worship service (and that includes
singing hymns and service music with as much energy and effort as the
anthems), this will carry over into the congregation. The choir's role as
leaders of worship will be obvious. It might not be a bad idea to have
some sort of commissioning for them if the powers that be are agreeable.

These are some ideas I have been working with for the last couple of
years now, and I've seen results. I've had at least one person tell me
that they never joined the choir before because they had never been asked!
Of course, every congregation is different and a different approach might
be required. Be creative and involve the current choir members in the

David A. Ensley
I must first ask you what part in the worship service does you choir(s)
play? It doesn't sound as if there is much activity or support for music
in your parish. The most obvious recruitment tool is an active and good
sounding choir that answers the need of the parish. People are attracted
to what they like to hear and see.

The second most obvious way is to ask your choir members to recruit from
their circle of friends or any one they know who can sing or has an
interest in participating.

Lastly - but certainly not the only other way - is to remind your assembly
that music is an integral part of their liturgy and prayerful response to
the worship experience.

Fred Williams
Spokane, WA
Have you thought of holding auditions? That is a sure way to get children
interested in trying for the choir. It will make being a part of the choir
that much more special and that way, you'll know that none were
"strong-armed" into participating.
-Amy Scurria
At the beginning of every choir season (Sept.) I hold a choir retreat for a
Saturday morning and afternoon. Generally, I bring in a guest clinician so
that my choir can be exposed to someone else's way of thinking, although
hearing the same things that I say from an objective 3rd party is very
helpful! Usually, this person is a local High School director who charges
nothing for 2 hours of clinic. We also go over all the new anthems for the
year, and get a taste of the Christmas Cantata. I always advertise this as
a great way to get to know whether or not you would enjoy the choir
experience and of course it's free!
Your congregation needs to be made aware of the fact that the choir part
of the worship experience. Perhaps a music-less Sunday? Or, perhaps a
Music Appreciation service? Your priest/minister, needs to affirm the
choir. And the choir needs to be made aware that this is not entertainment,
but praise and worship.
Martha Springstead
Community United Methodist Church
Virginia Beach, VA
We just had Choir Dedication Sunday in our church. All of the choirs of the
church were featured. We had a liturgy of dedication and our minister's
sermon was entitled "A Song in My Heart". Our worship committee sponsored
an appreciation luncheon for the choirs and families following the
service. It was a great day and many wonderful words of appreciation were
expressed, both within and outside the service. We have this service on
the 4th Sunday of each September, after our choirs have had a chance to
get started. We also use the time to make choir pictures of our children's
and youth choirs.
Jack Horner
First United Methodist Church
Montgomery, AL, USA
I have, as the saying goes, "been there and done that" and can sympathize
with the issue. I'd like to say a few things in response to your letter:

1) Regarding how the choir is viewed in terms of being prayed for,
re-commissioned, etc. each year: this has to come from the clergy
responsible. You alone cannot make this happen. It also needs to come
from the "governing" body of your church, be it Vestry or Cabinet or
Session or what have you. But mostly, it is the clergy who is/are
responsible. You may
have to bluntly ask for their help in this issue at which time you may
uncover some rather unpleasant attitudes, as has happened in one or two
instances in my experience (particularly with, I'm sorry to say, Catholic
churches -- who seem to positively look down on musicians as a general
ule -- especially if a significant portion of the choir members are

2) Recruiting children: I highly recommend you start with a cherub
choir -- ages 4-7; run it as an early childhood music class with singing,
movement, instruments, etc. Parents will FLOCK to you. They can learn
some simple tunes -- I often take folk songs and write my own sacred
texts -- with instrumental accents here and there. And sing not so much
anthems as other
service music or introits, during communion, etc. Short easy pieces.
What you are doing is raising a new generation of choral singers in the
church . . . these kids will get hooked on choir early in life and will
stay with it as they grow older. Not all of them, but many of them.

Another solution I've found is to have children's choir in the early
evening, the same evening as the adult choir . . . after soccer practice
and so forth are over -- I've found 6 p.m. to be quite good for this
purpose. I've staffed a "quiet room" with parent volunteers so that kids
can wait around while younger siblings have THEIR choir practice and so
forth. It has worked much better than after school or -- God help us --
Sunday morning with all its chaos and confusion.
Good luck! Glenda Cosenza, DeKalb, Illinois

Hi everyone. The response to my creative recruiting request has been
outstanding! Thanks to all who responded. In the process, I was
reminded what a great source is (see Allen Simon's

We'll see what happens. Have a super summer!


* * * * * * * * * * *
Be sure to check out ChoralNet's resources under Rehearsal
Recruiting. This question has been asked many times before, and we
try to keep answers to common questions for everyone's use.

Allen H Simon
VP for Website Development
ChoralNet Inc.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Three of the collateral benefits of singing in a church choir are:

1. You don't have to dress up--the robe hides a lot.

2. The ushers never pass the collection plate in the choir loft.

3. You have a guaranteed seat on Christmas Eve.

As for actual recruiting, the best results I ever got were with a
bounty system: a homemade apple pie to any choir member who brought
a friend to three rehearsals in a row. (Any kickback arrangements
were none of my business.)

Best wishes,

Mary Lycan

* * * * * * * * *

Good topic, and I'm glad you're interested in it. I have yet to find
any "tried and true" recruiting techniques that "always" work, but

However, I think the best way to get singers is to just ask calls or in person. I have sent out more postcards and
flyers than I care to remember. But it seems like personal contact
is the best. I figure it's a win-win situation, no matter how they
respond. If they agree to sing, that's good. But even if they say
no, I'm sure they appreciate being asked, and that's good too.

God's blessings.

Kevin Hildebrand
St. Luke Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Clinton Township, MI

* * * * * * * * *
Have you ever had business cards printed up (use both sides: one for
info and one for a clever saying "The woods would be silent if only
the best birds sang" kind of thing) and have the choir stand in the
vestibule or outside at the end of a service and hand them out with a

Or you could even put a musical joke on one side and info on the
other. If the church is Catholic or Episcopal, a holy card would
serve well, perhaps of St. Cecilia (Patron Saint of music).

The more the choir MEMBERS do and the less you do the better. That is
because people view the director doing his/her "job", but the choir
members who volunteer are doing such because they LOVE it.
(hopefully - - grin)

Can you get some pulpit time? Give a good, SHORT speech on music and
it's affect on our lives and church work. Humor would help. It's a
good way to have the congregation see you from the front!

Good luck!

Richard Garrin

* * * * * *
I have a book called, Choir Recruitment, and in it is a skit to be
performed during the service. Some choir members sit in the
congregation and give excuses as to why they can't sing in the choir.
The choir then sings a verse of a hymn that corresponds to that
excuse and turning it around. It is very effective. If you are
interested, I can send you more information on the book or send you a
copy of the skit.
Liz Kielley
St. John's Lutheran Church

* * * * * * * * * *
Hi, Cheryl,

I have always found that taking a small group of personable people
(SATB quartet, SSA group of 3 or 6, TB/TTB/TBB/TTBB group of 2, 3 or
4) etc, and offer to sing at every dinner, prayer breakfast, social
gathering, etc. You can mention "We are always looking for more
singers, we have a good time, and come and join us once. You don't
even have to audition! If you can carry a tune, come and sing with
us!" (??..depends on how badly you want new warm bodies! Some
people never join because they think that will have to sing alone
first...scary for a lot of people who may actually make great choir

Linda Spevacek

* * * * * * * * * *
Here's a fun thing to do... Have a choir robe (if you use them) on
display in your church social area (courtyard, whatever) with a sign
that reads, "What's missing?" of "Something is missing" and
encourage people to "fill the robes" by joining choir.
Diane Ford
Dir. of Music & Arts Ministry
Westminster Presbyterian Church
Sacramento, CA
--- forddlorde(a)

* * * * * *

Personal invitation will work better than any flyer or letter any
day. The usual response I get is "Oh, you wouldn't want me! I'm no
good!" My usual reply is "Well don't worry about that! You have a
good director!" Unfortunately, this doesn't work too well either!

* * * * * * *
Camp Kirkland once said that the best way to get the congregation to
respond to a recruitment plea was for the pastor to deliver
it--perhaps it gives more weight to the request.

How about a recruitment letter to be read in all the Sunday School or
Bible Study classes?

How about visiting the local community chorus?

How about a "conscription" Sunday, where each choir member goes into
the congregation and brings a member of the congregation up into the
choir loft to sing the congregational hymns with the choir.

I look forward to seeing your compilation!
Tony Bernard, Music Ministries Director
St. Andrew United Methodist Church
3455 Canton Rd.
Marietta, Ga 30066

* * * * * * * * * *

Most of these won't be suited for your church choir, but this is the
"Top Ten List" for our community choir and perhaps it can inspire

Top Ten Reasons to Join Spiritful Voices Philharmonic Chorale

10. It's true: If you're a tenor, you're a babe magnet!

9. Because we meet on Monday evenings, choir members are
automatically granted coveted "express written consent" of the NFL
Commissioner to tape Monday Night Football games in the fall

8. Choir members share fifty percent of the tip money earned by the
accompanist at her other more lucrative job as substitute organist at
the Redhawks' games

7. Rehearsals provide a relaxing couple of hours away from the grumpy
spouse and wild kids without the need to nurse a hangover the next day

6. You say you can sing the melody loudly but can't read music? Two
words--soprano section!

5. Let's face it--you might as well volunteer to sing since nobody's
ever going to pay you to do so

4. It's exactly like singing in the shower, except you're not naked
and people are actually listening

3. You'll be among the first to see who Vladovich ticks off this week

2. Since you never became a pharmacist, you'll finally get to put to
good use all those years of studying Latin in high school

...and the number one reason to join Spiritful Voices Philharmonic Chorale:

1. It's the only time you can hold your own octavo in public and not
get arrested!

Let music live!

Sam P. Vladovich, Music Director
Spiritful Voices Philharmonic Chorale
PO Box 720468
Oklahoma City, OK 73172-0468 USA
Office: (405) 753-9134
Fax: (405) 753-9135
E-Mail: spiritfulvoices(a)

* * * * *
From: Sandra Tyer
Subject: recruitment
To: cheryl.cox(a)DRAKE.EDU
X-Accept-Language: en
Original-recipient: rfc822;cheryl.cox(a)

Thought you might be interested in an article I ran across in a
professional magazine. I don't know where these statistics came from
but thought it was cute for the church newsletter! Hope this helps
you out!

Title: Did You Know?

Did you know that out of the world's population, 4% die attending
movies, 8% die eating in fast food restaurants, 10% die in home
accidents, 10% die in lounges and taverns. 13% die in bars, 18% die
from smoking, 47% die from accidents, misc., but only 1 out of 75
million people die in choir rehearsal! As you can see, staying out of
the choir may be hazardous to your health! If you are not a member
of the choir, please see me for details on how you can be!
Sing-cerely, Your Choir Director!

Sandra Tyer
Music Director
Lake Jackson UMC

* * * * * *
From: "Jean L. Smith"
Subject: creative recruiting
To: cheryl.cox(a)DRAKE.EDU
X-Priority: 3
Original-recipient: rfc822;cheryl.cox(a)

I offered free singing lessons to anyone who would join the choir.
It improved the caliber of singers tremendously and attracted several
high school students who would not have joined the choir, otherwise.
(Unfortunately, the rector of the parish thought of it as "bribery"
but the singers were very enthusiastic)
Jean . Smith
* * * * *
Cheryl Cox
Drake University
School of Education
3206 University Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50311

"Got time to breathe? Got time for music."
Briscoe Darling
* * * * *

Colleagues --

Thank you for the wonderful collection of replies regarding my situation. As it turns out the president of the church's board of directors is on my side and supports what I am doing. Here are the replies:-----------
Since you don't mention what you have already tried, let me offer some of my own techniques used to recruit for a "choir" in a nursing and rehab facility and some of my experiences in church choirs.

After each performance or church service in which we sing, I invite those who enjoyed the music but wish they had been helping to make it to consider joinging us. You might run a similar announcement in your Sunday bulletin - especially when you are singing something your choir is enthusiastic about singing.

You might write a weekly music column in your church's bulletin or newsletter (if you have such a thing) in which you share information about the music you are singing - its role in the service, with comments from singers, invitation to new singers, etc.

Do you ever do "special" things with the choir - have a pot luck supper, share dessert at the end of rehearsal? This community building events sometimes make a choir experience more appealing to other church members.

Does your church ever have additional services which highlight the choir? Have you ever hosted a choir festival or a guest choir (such as a university touring group) and used it as a way to highlight choral music in the church -- and to invite others to be a part of your group?

Just a few thoughts as I think about what seems to have worked in other settings.

Good luck,

Carol Shultis
Pittsburgh, PA-------------------------
In my opinion, advertising "simple" music will not likely draw more singers
to the choir. I have a long-standing belief that people are drawn to
quality and to success. Selling an experience as "simple" sounds like
anyone could do it, so why should I?

We've had success here in growing the choir over the last five years.
Actually, most of the initial growth was in the first three years; gains
over the last two have served to replace many who have moved away from this
rather transient community.

With choir, as with all church commitments, I believe that we do a
disservice by selling folks on the minimum commitment required. It takes
more time, but I firmly believe in and have experienced success by being
direct and specific with recruiting efforts. Talk to folks individually.
Explain to them what gifts you have identified in them. Show them how their
gifts will enhance the overall life of the church, and how God can use them
in cooperation with others to do amazing things.

Best of luck.
Andy Call --------------------------------------
My thoughts:

1. It's nice that your pastor cares about it
2. You are the choir director, though, so it's your gig and not his
3. Quality and variety and music and good leadership will build your choir,
and it takes time - simplifying the repertoire does not seem to me to be the
way to approach this - what if some of your existing singers quit because
the music is "too easy"? - it goes both ways I think
4. Hopefully your choir members are recruiting all the time - an invitation
from a friend to sing is, in my experience, much more effective than arm
breaking by the director

Good luck!
John Helgen
I can understand what your Pastor is getting at.................there may be many people in the congregation who feel they would love to sing in the choir, but may be fearful that they could not measure up adequately! If you do use 'more simple' style pieces, they may be encouraged to feel they could 'give it a go'.........and then later will gradually build up their confidence to join in tackling something 'more difficult'!
Regards, Helen --------------------------------------
I was reading your message and am having the same issue. We have an annual
choral picnic hosted at a members house. Every member is to invite one
person to the picnic. It's the first time I've tried the "inviting thing",
I won't know if it works til this weekend. If you get different responses
do you mind forwarding them to me. I could use the help as well.


Samantha Orr
Choir Director
First Christian Church
Ponca City,OK---------------------------------
Hmmm - interesting conundrum - the old recruiting
schtick of "simple" pieces. Like you, no one has
complained about the range and variety of music we do
- everything from Palestrina Sicut Cervus to Malcolm
Dalglish Ooolation music to hymns from the book that I
rearrange. The nature of my choir at a Unitarian
Church is such that I have to be more careful about
text than music per se. If it's in another language,
so much the better.

As for actual recruiting, we have used the "come early
learn an anthem to sing at the service" as well as
join us for the specific music for this specific
occasion. We usually have 13-15 for a low and 23-25
for a high in regular attendance. The age factor and
folks who move in and out of our area also play into
it. Before I was hired, choir at services in the
summer mostly was not done - my contract calls for
year around 2nd and 4th Sundays which means every week
rehearsal. Some folks just don't want to make that
much of a committment.

All this goes by saying that I'm up for anything that
would work. The one thing most of my folks don't want
is "praise" music. The congregation and pastor have
been supportive - I am just finishing 2 years in this
position. So, to your original idea of "simple"
music, I truly don't think that is the long range

MaryClare Martin, Music Director
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey
Carmel, CA--------------------------------------
Craig - personally, I think your best recruiting tool is doing good work. And as one who has stayed, on a volunteer basis, within a small (though growing) church choir for 10 years now, in lieu of taking on a paid position elsewhere, it is the quality of the experience that draws me there each week. Forget about "simple" music. If the challenging work can be done well, the singers will appreciate the experience.

At our church, recruiting modes have included notices in the church bulletin, mentioning that a person can come visit a rehearsal to see what they think; encouragement to speak with a choir member or the director of their interest; making choir members aware of listening (especially in the summer in the congregation!) for good voices in the congregation, etc.

Truth is, choral work requires commitment and dedication to the art and service to the church. As you know, it's not for the masses or the faint of heart :)

All best, Carol

(St. John's Episcopal Church Choir, Montclair, NJ)

Caroline L. Sargent (Carol)-----------------------------------------------------
There are related ChoralNet resources: > Rehearsal > Auditions > Recruiting > Church choir

DON'T even consider dumbing down your music. Your pastor has confused the means with the end. The purpose of the choir is to make great music, not be as large as possible. Ask him if he'd make his theology "simpler" in order to get more people in church. Actually, on second thought, don't -- too many ministers have done so.

Allen Simon
ChoralNet Chair of Website Development
Just a few thoughts in reply to your email.

I am not an awesome music director (so says me, I think the choristers
would disagree with this statement). I am a good leader (I have
always known this and my choristers have told me so as well).

I began with a group of 4 singers (including me) in April of 1998.
Our church and my Choir has been growing the past 7 years. Our choir
is about 20 on the average Sunday - over 30 if everybody attended at
the same time.

In my opinion, we have grown for two reasons.

1. We have fun with the music - I try to make everything enjoyable
from rehearsals to get togethers outside of church.

2. I continue to challenge the singers musically. We do some simple
pieces, we do some pieces of moderate difficulty, but about once a
month or once every two months we sing a very difficult piece. An
example of this; in October we are going to sing "How Lovely is Thy
Dwelling Place" from the Brahms Requiem. We will work very hard on
this piece when rehearsals begin in September.

I think they like a challenge. I think they like to work. Do they
complain during the process? Almost non-stop. Do they feel great
once they have accomplished a more difficult piece? We all feel
great! And, I've found, once they learn a piece with musical
substance, they never forget it, so you can pull it out in a few years
and do it again with four or five touch-up rehearsals.

Once the choir members feel good about the music they are singing they
get excited about singing. Once the choir members get excited about
singing then they will feel good about asking others to sing with them
and others will want to join them.

I actively recruit very little. I usually let people come to me. Any
opportunity that I have to speak to a lot of people, such as a
Congregational Meeting or an article in the Church Newsletter, I say
or write "If you are interested in worshiping God through song, then
please join us." Other than that, I can think of three people that I
have approached in the past 7 years. Out of the three, one of them
joined the choir.

All of this is my opinion and what works for me. I know you are in a
different situation than I am. I hope you can pick something good out
of what I have said.

Dale L. Heidebrecht-------------------------------------

Your pastor is giving you valuable information about what s/he thinks by saying you will do "simple" pieces, not necessarily good info about what motivates choir singers. I think that it is not a great tool to get the people you need to say that you are doing "simple" music. Believe in the religious and artistic value of the music you are doing, whether straightforward or complex; and make sure that rehearsal is a fun, efficient, growth-oriented process that produces a beautiful performance.

Here are things that have worked for me.

1. Recruiting for a one-month commitment. Try choir for one month, we'll talk about how it's going at before the end of that time. Church people are most afraid of signing away a year of Thursday nights (or whatever your rehearsal time) for an unknown quantity. My experience is that almost everyone wants to stick with it after they see how much fun it is. Also, for the three times in 20+ years that I've ever had a seriously tone-impaired person, it's a built-in, pastorally OK time to resolve the issue. You also get extremely valuable information from these new people in your mini-interview that you can't get from the existing choir.

2. "Festival Choir" for people who can't always do choir. I used to do this for Christmas (when some needed people are always traveling anyhow) and Holy Week/Easter. There are people who can clear out 3 weeks of rehearsal who can't do it all the time. Those festival times of the year, you often have visitors or newcomers checking out the church, and the choir. Swelling the numbers encourages the choir and produces a success. Do a recruiting period right after each holiday period.

3. Evaluate your rehearsal time and schedule. Do you need to provide child care? More social time? Food? Sunday rehearsal for a one-day commitment rather than a two-day commitment? A monthly or occasional long rehearsal (Saturday morning?) so your regular rehearsal can be shorter? I have tried all of these, and sometimes they have worked.

4. Keep a list of people you will approach directly, rather than only broadcast appeals. Call several times a year, not just in August and September.Have other people make calls to those they are close to.

5. Choir "minute for mission": A choir singer could say, BRIEFLY in worship (near the offering in my church) what it means to them to participate, what it feels like, how they have developed as people and musicians through choir, what they can expect if they do it too. Have someone else do it another time. Stay positive and avoid "we're desperate for you to rescue us."

6. I sense there is some conflict between the pastor's expectations and the choir's. This often happens. Sometimes when people say, "That sounded hard," they're saying "That sounded under-rehearsed." On the other hand, sometimes pastors and others have learned "wisdom" like "Nobody likes choir music anymore -- praise music is where it's at." Life, music, and church is not as simple as that. Challenge, and meeting it, is of the essence in any musician's life, including you and your choir singers. People sing in choir partly to keep up their craft.--------------------------------------
I've been at my current church for a year and have gotten 4 people to join. I
think it is luck, becuase I have no real strategy. However, if you become
really open with the subject. Write an article about what music means to you.
Possibly have choir members write about what it means to them. Also, you could
have choir members get up and speak during announcements about what choir means
to them.

I like to make it clear that "newbies" are not bound for life to the choir.
That they can come to a few reahearsals and then decide if they want to make
the commitment after that. Takes a little pressure off them. Also, consider
finding maybe a responsible teenager to come in and provide child care during
the choir rehearsal. You may just get a few parents that way. Possibly try to
get a little money to pay the babysitter.

Also, as kind of a fun thing. I think to use John Stainer's "All God's critters
have a place in the choir." I like to use it as a choir "announcement."
Although, I've seen some churchs present it as a anthem.

As far as the easy music goes....there is something to be said about a really
strong, powerful unision sining. Also, it gives you much more time to focus on
the musicallity and just it may just capture somebody. I like to have unision
things built in especially for responses/introit/exit, etc. Plus, it takes some
pressure off the choir, but the choir is still presenting high quality, moving

The other thing I like to do if there a particular hymn I would like to use, I
like to have the choir sing unision, etc. But, try to find an interesting

-Allyn Phelps--------------------------------------
Your pastor's input has opened a door for you to present a semi-congregational group of singers doing the simplest of songs with minimum preparation. You now have free time to work with a select group of singers, doing songs that are even less simple than the current repertoire. You can work on pieces until they are ready (no deadlines, sing when they are ready) and present them in addition to what the choir is doing. This is more liberating than being the choir and each rehearsal being an answer to the question, "What are we doing Sunday?"

Follow your Pastor's advice. He is speaking based on his knowledge of people, not music.

You mentioned a community choir in your signature.
Have they sung at your church?
Have some of them helped you out as "ringers?"

Joe Roberts---------------------------------------
We run about the same ? 8 or 9 folks on a regular basis and swelling to as many as 12 on occasion. Ours is a small congregation, with weekly worship attendance hovering around 90, so I?ve just assumed the size of the choir is directly related to weekly attendance. But if anyone has any great ideas, I?d love to hear them!

As far as advertising ?simple? pieces, I?d personally shy away from that. It gives the impression that you?re settling for less than the choir?s best or that there?s no room for growth. Instead, I would emphasize that anyone is welcome (within whatever your minimum ability requirements are) and that being in the choir presents an opportunity to learn and grow together in the service of God.

Just my two cents worth!

Deb Hubbell
Music Director
First Church of Christ (Congregational) UCC
Mansfield Center, CT---------------------------------------------------

It's always been the sound of the choir, the type and challenge of the music and the social aspects of belonging to the choir that has helped recruitment for me. I went from 8 to 24 in 2 years. They used to sing very simple things or things beyond their ability and did not receive much in the way of voice training. Now they sing the simple things at first sight and learn the difficult pieces much more quickly.
Ed ------------------------------------------------------------
You are interested to know what people think. Well, on the surface it's
hard to tell what your pastor has in the works; but, I have a suspicion
that your Pastor could help by giving words of encouragement for your
cause from the pulpit. In other words support you in recruiting. Is he
interested in "numbers" or quality results? What does he mean by
"simple music"? Is he a musician?

Coffee hour is a good place to recruit and cajole people. Emphasize the
good time had at choir practice. Put numerous announcements in the
weekly bulletin. Get up in church and encourage people to join one of
the most exciting groups in the parish. Advertise and have an open
rehearsal. Be really visible, outgoing, friendly to any and all who
might want to join the choir. Put an ad in the local paper inviting
people to join your exciting program, mention the musical goals,
upcoming events, no need to be a member of the church, etc.

Keep a folder of all of the things you have done and are doing to
recruit -- bulletins with the announcements in them, dates of verbal
announcements in church, copies of newspaper entries, etc.

The reason I mention keeping copies of *everything* is because I get the
sense (albeit pure gut reaction) that your pastor may have something up
his sleeve that you may need to counter. I don't want to sound
inflammatory, but my experience has taught me that always having proof
of what you have done / are doing is really important.

Good luck to you.


Dr. Myron Patterson
Adjunct Associate Professor of Music
School of Music
University of Utah--------------------------------------------------------
Is your pastor preaching "simple" sermons that require no thought from the listeners?

Allan Andrews
Director of Choirs
North Lake College--------------------------------------------------------------
Put up a big poster advertising the choir---make it splashy, and emphasize that the music is "easy to learn".

The best way to recruit is through individuals. Try to get everyone you have to bring one person to an "open choir no-strings-attached" free-for-all Sunday.

Play the game. Maybe you'll get some new people, too.

Cynthia Powell
Director of Music and Organist
Christ Church, Ridgewood, NJ-----------------------------------------

"I'm young, I'm wild, and I'm free;
I've got the magic power of the music in me!"

-- Canadian rock band, Triumph

Craig C. Hawkins
Endwell Community Chorus,
The Celebration Choir at
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Endwell, NY USA
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Colleagues --

One more addition to my compilation of church choir recruiting/"simple" music. I thought it enjoyable.


A late-breaking addition to your battery of recruiting replies, whose general tone I very much agree with. I have discovered there is no such thing as simple music: if it's transparent, and in unison, it is unforgiving. I built up one choir on plainchant hymns (in English) and Southern Harmony tunes, a cappella. When they got good at those, they could tackle just about anything, although they took a long time to learn.

For recruiting, I used a bounty system. Every choir member who brought a friend to three rehearsals in a row got a home-baked apple pie. (If there were pie-splitting kickbacks involved, I didn't have to know about it.) More than half of the Pie People stayed; others became regularly recurring participants in Christmas and Easter four-rehearsal pickup choirs.

One of my basses was an MD-PhD student who had been living on vending machine food for four years. He earned six pies.

Best wishes,

Mary Lycan

"I'm young, I'm wild, and I'm free;
I've got the magic power of the music in me!"

  -- Canadian rock band, Triumph

Craig C. Hawkins
Endwell Community Chorus,
The Celebration Choir at
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Endwell, NY USA

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on July 21, 2002 10:00pm
I tried having a lunch for church members who thought they may be interested in joining. For us, we had just gotten a new director, so part of the letter I sent was encouraging them to come meet our new director and some of the choir members. That way they could become aquainted with section members and not feel so lost at rehearsals. It went over extremely well and our choir loft is full!
on August 30, 2005 10:00pm
During a ministry fair at our church, we hung up lonely choir robes (who had no owners, never get out of their dry-clean plastic) and asked people to adopt them... did get several interested parties. Some people were confused, though, and thought we wanted them to help PURCHASE new robes!

Everyone seemed to get a kick out of this idea. Also made up cards with the choir robes' pictures on them, gave them names, made up little profiles, as if they were an overseas child adoption... big robes were males, shorter ones were females.
on January 9, 2007 10:00pm
One recruitment tool that I've used for years, usually with solid results, is to advertise and hold a 'Choir Open House', two or three times a year. Advertisements are made for several weeks in church publications, an invitation is handed out the week before the Open House at the conclusion of worship, by robed choir members at all the doors, but the biggest help are written invitations created for the event. I make 50 of them, and put them, with envelopes, in the rehearsal room. The challenge I give the choir is to personally invite singing friends they have, include a personal note in the invitation, and mail it to them. It can even be followed up with a friendly phone call.

At the Open House, I have packets of music for anyone new that's attending, complete with music, a pencil, an information flyer about the choir, a Welcome Card that asks for their name, etc., (so we can welcome them at the end of the practice.) We stop rehearsing 15 minutes early, and choir members have brought all kinds of goodies & drinks. It's a good social time, both for the choir and visitors, and it gives me a chance to speak personally with each visitor.

Some events are more successful than others, but rarely have we had no new interested folks attend. Good luck!

Phil Hayden
Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church
Raleigh, NC