By John Talley
Two years ago I received a call from another worship pastor asking if I would consider joining his and a couple other choirs in the area for a Christmas Presentation. His choir was very small and the others involved were not much larger. My church’s choir was the largest (40 singers) and he almost didn’t call me because of our size. We set up a time to meet and discuss the possibility.
From our first meeting forward it was evident that God was working through this combination of choirs and ministries. Even our particular musical gifts complimented each other. I was the choir guy, another guy strong in band, another keys and the fourth a talented vocalist. We began praying and planning and listening to possible Christmas collections. It was our desire to do more than present a Christmas musical but to engage our congregations in worship centered on Christ’s birth.
We chose All Bow Down, a Travis Cottrell “Praise & Worship Christmas Musical.” Other early decisions included dates and locations for our Christmas worship event. We settled on a Saturday night at one church and Sunday night at a second church in early December. Next, we scheduled combined choir rehearsal dates. We met once a month at each of our four churches and then rehearsed separately in the weeks between. We scheduled solo and praise team auditions after one combined rehearsal and the band rehearsed separately. The four worship pastors divided up the musical’s worship leader roles. We were originally going to hold band auditions from our churches but decided keeping one band together and adding what was needed would work better for us. The last few rehearsals included band, tech and choir. All Bow Down has some really good brass parts and with no one having quality players in our churches, we recruited some outside help.
Before each monthly rehearsal, we four worship pastors would meet for lunch or coffee and cover details, discuss creative elements, marketing to our churches, etc. and pray. We would also email and text message weekly to stay in constant contact with one another. Communication was key!
The weekend of our event we held a Saturday afternoon rehearsal and snack meal before the first presentation. Sunday afternoon we met at the other church for a brief rehearsal, sound check and snack meal prior to the second presentation.
After our event one worship pastor set up an online evaluation form that all participants could access. After the Christmas break, we met in January to evaluate the responses, discuss our own thoughts and decide if we should try it again. The response was overwhelmingly unanimous. Our choir members loved meeting other singers and participating in a larger choir. Congregations loved being together and both nights had great responses not only to the event but to God as we gathered for the purpose of worshipping Him during the Christmas season. Our pastors were very supportive as well!
The second year we decided to tweak a few things. We were contacted by other churches and added three more choirs to our group. We also decided there was a need for more combined rehearsals and held two per month, including a couple of section rehearsals. Due to our increased choir size and potential crowd, we moved the event from our churches worship centers to a local high school auditorium. This also helped us with additional technical needs – better lighting, sound and projection. We also chose another Travis Cottrell work, Peace, Hope and Joy. The songs in this collection had wonderful string arrangements so we hired a string quartet to accent our band. We also added a Christmas carol medley at the beginning led by the worship pastors to let the crowd know who we were, get some early crowd participation and give the choir some “entrance music.”
We’ve had great success both years. We give total thanks to God for putting us together and giving us a common goal. The success we’ve experienced is attributed to lots of communication, hard work and a great spirit of cooperation. Our worship pastor “team” has decided to meet periodically throughout the year to share ideas, celebrate successes and encourage one another. And, we’re looking forward to next Christmas!
John is the worship pastor at First Baptist Church in Texas City, Texas, and has been married to Marcy for 29 years. They have two daughters, Aimee Hennessee and Emilee. John loves to lead worship and grow music ministries into effective worship leading teams.