~by Jeff Redding.
Probably the greatest challenge choir directors face today is the busy schedules of the average American choir member. We have school, work, and community schedules that keep us in a whirlwind of activity and on-demand social media to further distract us when we do have a moment of sanity. Sadly, getting people to commit around an hour each week in 21st century America for rehearsals is almost an impossible task. Getting a choir to do their best with only an hour a week of organized rehearsal time is even harder. Therefore, I have come up with 11 practical time management tips to help you maximize your rehearsal times and maneuver today’s maze of busy schedules.
- Provide childcare
Some choir members are single moms or a married parent whose spouse is not involved in church or in choir. It’s important to meet one of their greatest needs by providing dependable childcare. I employ some of the teenage girls at our church who have passed a background check and are eager to earn a little extra money after the youth Bible study.
- Present listening CDs and downloads
I often encourage our choir by reminding them that we only rehearse as a group an hour a week, but we get to rehearse individually as much as we want with the listening CDs we provide. The listening CDs can also be used to recruit new choir members and help those who cannot be at a rehearsal prepare. (Note: If you copy Rehearsal CDs or distribute rehearsal downloads make sure that you have a Rehearsal License from CCLI. This is not the same as a Copyright License from CCLI. Again, for my choir, it is worth it to renew the license every year!)
- Practice and perform around your choir’s schedules
Schools in my area operate on a mostly year-round schedule. This means that schoolchildren only get two months off for summer. The schools also break two weeks in the fall and two weeks in the spring. Our families tend to depart en masse during these time frames. Instead of fighting the system, I give our choir a two-month break for family vacations and take off the two weeks during the fall break.
- Plan a retreat
At the end of August, we plan a two-day choir retreat. I find that it is easier for choir members to commit to one big block of time instead of multiple smaller commitments, so we schedule the retreat from Friday evening through Saturday. About a month before the retreat, I give listening CDs for the upcoming choir year, so everybody comes to the retreat familiar with the music. During the retreat we provide childcare, meals, snacks, team building games, and a lot of fun. We accomplish more in that two-day retreat than we do in two months of weekly rehearsals.
- Propose rewards and/or incentives for faithful choir members
I got this idea from another choir director. Twice a year he rewards choir members who have attended 80% of the rehearsals with a gift card. It made me want to join his choir. Instead, though, I borrowed his idea and applied it to my group. It’s been a success.
- Purposefully end each choir rehearsal 5-10 minutes early
I know that time is valuable to our choir members, so we break around 8:50 p.m. on Wednesdays. I do this because announcing that we end at 8:50 p.m. sounds better than saying we finish at 9:00 p.m. It also gives us a few minutes of wiggle room to pray, make last minute announcements, and still allow for our choir members to leave by 9:00 p.m.
- Plot the choral year and the rehearsal in advance
If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to plan your choir season in advance. It will take a little more effort at first, but it will save you a ton of time during the year. I then plan our choir rehearsal each week. This is easy to do if you have planned for the choral year. If you have the rehearsal planned and written out for everybody, then you do not have to waste time during the rehearsal getting the music set up.
- Pepper your choral selection with some not-so-difficult music
I alternate our choral performances with some tougher Benson selections and some easier pieces from collections like the 30-Minute Choir Book or the Ready To Sing series. We also repeat some of our favorite songs from previous seasons. This gives the choir a slight respite between our more challenging pieces and builds their confidence. Besides, we can spend more time on the difficult songs.
- Polish your rehearsal with sectionals
We start each rehearsal with group sectionals in four different rooms of the church. We use SATB Rehearsal Listening CDs for these sectionals. All the section leaders need to do is take roll and push play on the CD player. The sections then sing along with their appropriate rehearsal Llistening CD. Sectionals last twenty minutes and this gives each group plenty of time to hear their parts exclusively without having to listen to the other parts being banged out on the piano. At 8:23 p.m. we meet in the sanctuary to finish up the rehearsal and fine-tune the overall presentation of the choral pieces.
- Prepare the area
Before each rehearsal, I make sure our sectional baskets are in place, the music is pulled, and the CDs are laid out. Everything is done before choir rehearsal to maximize our time.
- Proclaim your message (a lot)!
We communicate with our choir through the following media: Text, email, phone, announcements, handouts, and video announcements. However, we mainly communicate through our Facebook page. It is a good thing if used correctly and keeps us from having to take time to make announcements during the rehearsal.
The 21st century offers exciting opportunities to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ. But they also present daunting challenges. These days require much prayer. Paul reminded us to pray continuously when he wrote, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…” Ephesians 6:18
The points I made are not a one-size-fits-all list of suggestions for each church but a guide to get you started in facing your particular challenges as a choir director. The key for all of us is to face our challenges with creativity and prayer. By looking at your challenges from a different perspective you can hopefully turn these obstacles into opportunities for greater things.
Praying for blessings on you and your ministry!
Jeff Redding is a Sales Rep at Brentwood Benson. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree from Samford University and has been a worship pastor in both established churches and in new church starts for over twenty-six years. He currently lives near Fairview, Tennessee with his wife and three children.