Let’s start off by admitting that this generation of worship leaders are split on this issue. But with the resurgence of vocal music in reality TV and the with the Glee generation of students, we are seeing more and more of our congregants that want to participate in worship ministry. So, many church leaders are reconsidering the issue and asking: Is it time to incorporate a choir into the worship leading team?
Biblically there are many references to the choir, in fact, 54 of the Psalms are addressed to the choir director. When the new house of worship was dedicated in 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, it was the choir and orchestra that delivered the worship so powerfully and in such unity that the glory of God fell in the place.
The house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
Of the top 50 largest US churches in 2010, 36 of the 50 used choirs as a part of leading worship and an additional seven used choirs on special occasions. Community Bible Church in San Antonio (where I lead) is committed to use the worship choir in as many venues as possible for three reasons:
- It is a training ground for worship leadership.
It helps you to identify the talent God has brought to your congregation. On several occasions we have found extremely gifted singers, players, and songwriters that would have never been discovered without our choir in place.
- The choir creates a dynamic in worship that cannot be replicated in any other way.
Hundreds of voices (or dozens in a smaller church) leading the congregation is a powerful tool of engagement. The visual of many singers leading helps the congregation see a model of what worship looks like.
- The choir builds a sense of community in your fellowship by modeling inclusion.
To join our choir you have to do two things, Love God and come to rehearsal. Inclusion seems to combat pride and the rock star mentality that can easily infiltrate our worship.
Many worship leaders do not feel that they are qualified to lead a choir because they have little or no formal training. The truth is, if you can teach harmonies to your singers you can teach a choir how to sing parts. If you’re still intimidated, I have found that God is good at providing leadership to handle the choir in your congregation. Many school choir directors or other formally-trained musicians would love the opportunity to join your team and use their past training to rehearse and conduct a worship choir. The group does not need to be a performance group but just an extension of your existing worship team serving as agents of engagement.
I personally have committed to training worship leadership across generations by having choirs for all ages and even using students and children in our main worship services to lead our congregation in worship. We sometimes mix the generations and have literally hundreds of singers on stage creating a virtual wave of worship throughout our congregation. We do the most current worship songs, yet the style really does not matter; the worship choir is a valuable tool in the hands of an awesome God.
Four quick tips that will make your worship choir a success:
- Be inclusive.
- Keep your existing praise singers on mic to serve as vocal guides.
- Make your rehearsal a spiritual experience of worship preparation.
- Teach your choir to be worship leaders not a performing group.
With 42 years of ministry, Ray Jones has been the pastor of worship ministries, coordinating over 1,500 volunteers at Community Bible Church in San Antonio, TX, since 1992. Ray has produced over 35 worship CDs and published multiple volumes of music from CBC.