You’re the music minister at your church. Wednesday morning in staff meeting, your pastor informs you that he’s scrapping his original sermon to go in the proverbial “different direction.” You have the rest of the afternoon to put together a cohesive music set list—including a choir special—that coordinates with the new theme before your impending 6:30 PM choir rehearsal.
What to do? Here are 8 suggestions to alleviate last minute choir music panic:
- Don’t freak out. It’s not the end of the world. The good news is that you’ve already got a set list in your pocket when your pastor decides to preach on that topic in the future. [This is where it comes in handy to be a Calvinist!] Believe that the Lord has something even better in mind for your congregation than what your team was planning, and pray for direction and wisdom in pursuing it.
- Be gracious. Managing your church’s music program isn’t always a walk in the park but neither is preaching. You’re part of a ministry team led by your pastor. He’s there because God has called him, and your congregation/denomination has chosen him. Give him the benefit of the doubt; understand that crafting a new message at the last minute has its own set of challenges.
- Revisit recent songs. Finding congregational hymns and worship songs on short notice is easier than finding a full-tilt choir piece that requires lots of preparation. Picking something that your choir has recently performed gives you the luxury of not needing extensive rehearsals. Plus, your congregation may be familiar with the piece and truly enjoy hearing it again.
- Consider download sites. Online resources such as CCLI’s SongSelect allow you to search by themes as well as by key words that appear in a song. Remember that their expansive database only offers lead sheets and chord charts but not full accompanist or multi-voice vocal arrangements. In contrast, Discover Worship is an online subscription service that allows you to search, fully preview, download, and make unlimited copies of full piano and vocal arrangements of more than 2000 songs.
- Go solo or ensemble. Rather than preparing a full choir special, consider using a soloist or small ensemble in this spot. Discover Worship has hundreds of pieces arranged for soloist or ensemble --all searchable by dozens of themes OR by arranger or season. You can even type a scripture verse into the search bar to find corresponding songs.
- Go simple. If you want to do a song your choir hasn’t performed recently, consider doing a two-part arrangement rather than a more elaborate vocal setting. Discover Worship offers more than 60 terrific two-part arrangements that you can preview in their entirety
- Consider a hymn. Again, familiarity makes things a lot easier for you, your musicians, and your singers. Picking a hymn gives you a head start. And if your congregation tends to sing more contemporary worship songs than hymns—this would be the perfect opportunity to re-introduce them to a timeless classic. Discover Worship offers almost 500 instrumental and choir settings of traditional and modern hymns for your consideration.
- Commit to better communication and coordination with your pastor. Sometimes, a last minute sermon topic change happens because the Lord clearly leads in another direction. But let’s be honest, sometimes it happens because the pastor got a late start, and his original idea didn’t pan out. This can be managed through better communication and coordination. Ask your pastor to commit to his sermon topics a month in advance so that you can schedule the music accordingly. In your weekly meetings, ask about the progress of the upcoming message and if he has any specific requests regarding the music. Ask him to let you know if he’s feeling ambivalent about the progress of a particular sermon as early as possible.
Some denominational traditions use the Revised Common Lectionary and plan their service themes in accordance with a liturgical calendar. In addition to encouraging the entire congregation in the systematic reading of scripture, using the lectionary in worship planning helps keep everyone on the same page (literally).
We hope these 8 simple hacks to manage last minute choir music panic have been helpful! Some of these are more obvious than others.
What other suggestions would you offer your colleagues in this situation? Add your suggestions in the comments section below!
--For more helpful articles about church music and worship service planning, check out www.discoverworship.com and these articles:
- The Critical Importance of Church Choirs
- 3 Steps Every Choir Director Should Take Now
- Improving Your Choir by Building the Blend
- 5 Things to Remember for Your Choir Rehearsal
- What's Better: Traditional Church Choir or Worship Team?
- 3 Ways to Cultivate Spirit-Led Worship
- Is There One Best Way to Format a Worship Set?
- How Often Should We Introduce New Congregational Worship Songs?
- Leading Worship Through Song List Curation
- 5 Tips to Grow Your Church Choir
- The Wrong Key (and How to Find the Right One!)
- Is It Too Loud? (Accompaniment vs. Worship Emersion Culture)