Coronavirus & the Church: A Survey About Church Worship Services Pt. 2

Coronavirus and the Church Part 2 Blog Header
by Jaymey Hardin

Welcome to part 2 of Discover Worship's survey about the effects of COVID-19 on church worship services. To learn more and better understand its impact, we sought input directly from you, the worship leader. And you responded from all over the U.S. and throughout the world! Before we continue, here is a brief recap of Part 1 of our survey:

We learned that 88% of responding churches were back to meeting in person. We asked those who were not yet meeting in person if they felt optimistic about being able to do so in the near future: 46% said they do, 14% said they do not, and another 40% have mixed feelings about it. According to our survey, 72% have a mask requirement for in-person church gatherings. 62% are now singing congregationally. And 86% are streaming their church services via social media and other online outlets to reach their congregations and beyond.

When we inquired about the current utilization of singers and musicians in the church, worship leaders were asked to check all that applied in several categories. They answered accordingly: Pianists & vocalists are a staple for 83% while 50% primarily use a worship team. The guitarist/vocalist combo clocked in at 35% and more than a quarter (26%) of the worship leaders in our poll are using performance tracks during the pandemic. 21% use ensemble and 12% have found a way to engage their choirs, albeit in much smaller sizes.

Only 16% reported that they were planning a Christmas musical this year while 84% said they were not.

To conclude this survey, we asked 2 very specific questions:
1. If you're not using a musical, what are you planning for your Christmas services this year?
2. In your words, tell us how Discover Worship can best help you during this time?

Below are some very thoughtful responses from the wonderful worship leaders who participated in our survey. While we couldn't share all of the responses (or this would be a 4-part blog), we shared as many with you as possible. Thank you so much for participating. We hope you find encouragement in the comments below. We hope you'll identify with others, who like yourself are forging through these challenging times. And we hope you know that you're not alone...
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If you're not using a musical, what are you planning for your Christmas services this year?
DW: Below is a cross-section of answers from our survey respondents. There are several creative ideas represented here and some vastly different approaches to Christmas this year! Most are scaled back, some are very simple, others are quite imaginative, but one thing that's consistent throughout is a determination to persevere through the challenges and find ways to worship together as we celebrate Jesus' birth. And that's very encouraging to see!

Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum here, even if your church is unable to sing (as some have indicated), know that you are not alone. Worship begins in the heart. Wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, our hearts are with you. We hope you find encouragement and even inspiration in the responses below:

"Just special music each Sunday with the kids singing the Sunday before Christmas."

"We are still working on it, but there will be pre-recorded music either by church members or from a program. Our in-church singing is very limited."

"For the Advent season, we are not having a musical/cantata, but are having video presentations each Sunday or duets, quartets, etc. from Church members..."

"Still working on that. We have to adjust to music that can be on the livestream."

"Worship team is socially distanced and will lead songs."

"Still thinking and praying about how to proceed. I am using only solos and duets right now. Probably will do the same at Christmas."

"We are putting together a "Christmas Special" that will be totally on video. We will stream it on the 20th in the evening. No one will be at the church building. We will all enjoy it in our homes."

"Probably multiple small services on Christmas Eve. We usually do one large service, but if group size restrictions are still in force, we may have to split our congregation up, as we do on Sunday mornings now."

"For certain, we will sing with the congregation many Christmas classics throughout the Christmas season. Solos will also be performed."

"Solos, very small ensembles, socially distanced from the choir loft."

"We are planning to livestream a pre-recorded Advent/Christmas concert. This will allow us to prepare and videotape a variety of musical presentations by soloists, instrumentalists, and small ensembles safely and separately to present as a concert at a specific time."

"Individual soloists and duets in cantata format."

"Pre-recorded Christmas Eve services and a luminary walk."

"A pre-recorded children’s Christmas pageant (our families are shooting individual scenes and we’re editing them together, with our child-musicians creating the underscore) to be streamed during one of our Christmas Eve Zoom services.  We will also hold a very small, early, outdoor, masked, and physically distanced Christmas Eve service."

"Using small choir, soloists, trio, and men's quartet."

"Handbells, soloists, organ solos, piano solos, organ/piano duets, piano duets."

"Weather depending in Michigan, multiple outdoor campfire sites in church parking lot, for prayer, sharing, and carol singing. For Advent, spreading liturgy and music over the 4 weeks. The church is divided in half and each group worships in person on alternate weeks."

"We will do a walk-through type of pilgrimage, organ music will be playing and verses of the bible will be read and people can walk through and see the nativity. Later in the evening, we will hold a 'Zoom lessons and carols' type service."

"Drama and soloists."

"Praise team/band, ensemble, special hymn arrangements with piano and organ, and handbells."

"Christmas Eve services with more times so people can spread out. Pre-registration will be required. Band/praise team, scripture readings, maybe a small-scale skit."

"Concert using soloists with tracks, monologues, small ensembles that are already meeting, and some congregational singing with praise team."

"Choir, ensembles used sparingly over the four Sundays of advent."

"We will sing about 3 songs with a Christmas theme, and they will be songs we have learned in past years because not all choir members have returned." 

"Actually, we're planning to do your Christmas Night of Angels (simple) with just our praise team and Mary & Joseph narrators."

"We are pre-recording segments to live-stream in our online services. Musical pieces are done from home and then sent in to be included. We began working on Christmas services at the beginning of October."

"If we are able to assemble our choir by then, we'll do a few songs from past cantatas. If not, we'll have our Ladies' Ensemble sing at our Christmas Eve service."

"Family groups and individuals performing, singing, or sharing to avoid mixing children in close quarters in drama practices."

"We are going to have an outside candlelight service on Christmas Eve."

"Thinking of just doing songs all through the season and tying them together with pastor’s sermons, etc."

"Skits, Christmas readings, instrumentals, and possibly an ensemble on Christmas Eve service."

"Special readings and a few special music numbers."

"In the past, we have done a large scale Broadway-style production and it was a ticketed event. This year we are doing eight outdoor performances around our large outdoor Christmas tree. No tickets required and 25 minutes in length."

"Since we are not singing indoors all of our vocal worship music is pre-recorded  We are however also meeting outdoors with singing using masks  Our Christmas music will all be pre-recorded. We have a few different family units that can function as non-socially distanced groups. This allows us to video record different groups separately and then put the music together to create a full group."

"We are planning for this service to be all virtual. Each of the various musical groups is preparing their pieces as a virtual choir and then we will compile everything and stream the service on that Sunday."

"Christmas caroling, stations of the nativity to be held outdoors, Christmas Eve/Day worship services in person and online."

"The five songs we will be using at Christmas came from Discover Worship, and many of our weekly music selections for ensemble or solos come from Discover Worship.  We definitely miss our choir participating in the worship, and pray we can resume that soon."

Save 20% NOW!In your words, tell us how Discover Worship can best help you during this time?
DW: The answers, comments, and questions below represent a cross-section of our survey respondents. We did our best to answer as many questions as possible and provide relevant links to helpful resources:

Music for Streaming:
"If we can find a way to incorporate your music with our inside and online worship I would be very interested. The online has been the issue because of licensing."

"Discover Worship has been a Godsend in your allowing us to broadcast your tracks and music online. I want to make sure that I have at least a choir song or special music that can be put online (if not both) and edit out the ones with tracks that we don't have licenses to stream."

"Offer easy small group (vocal) pieces, solo instrumental pieces w/ piano accompaniment. Any “permission to stream” pieces are greatly appreciated!"

"We have used the piano selections you have allowed for streaming as preludes when our pianist has been ill or out of town."

"We have been playing pre-recorded open-source hymns so that we can read the words and hear the music as our bishop will not let us sing yet. If you could produce some versions of open source hymns that we can play and stream that would be great."

"Provide music with a streaming license."

"I appreciate that you provided some music which we could use early on when we were struggling to stay legal with copyright laws. We used several of those pieces."
DW: If you need music to stream online, no worries! Discover Worship offers a great selection of Worship
and Seasonal music that's Free-to-Stream (with no license required) for our annual members! To livestream songs from our site that are not on that list, you can purchase a streaming license from CCLI.

Tips for Streaming:
"By providing some webinars on how to improve live streaming of worship services and some online resources we can use in our online ministries."
DW: We recently featured a blog on streaming that might be helpful. Plus here's a practical guide on how to livestream your church service.

Simpler Music:
"Start thinking about small gatherings with music to suit a small congregation with no choir or praise team.  We need music to inspire but also be very singable."

"You did help by offering simple, easy musicals that can be done with congregational carols and a couple of specials. These types of musicals might still be needed for Easter as well."

"The Christmas materials you have adapted are wonderful. In fact, it has been the deciding factor in our church finally allowing me to purchase a subscription. I hope you are looking at adapting some programs for Easter as well. Thanks!"

"Quality easy-to-learn music with vocal ranges that do not stretch or wear out a smaller choir or ensemble."

"More emphasis on solo and small ensemble collections, especially seasonal stuff."
DW: Good News! We will definitely feature more Solo/Ensemble pieces and are planning more "Musicals-Made-Simple" for Easter! And if you're really needing to simplify things, remember that nearly every song from Discover Worship includes accompaniment tracks that you can sing along with in your worship services.

2-Part Songs:
"Since we are without a choir at this time, I'm always looking for solos or 2-Part selections for my lead singer and myself (as pianist/singer). However, I find that many of the 4-Part songs are also easy to adapt for duets that work beautifully. I love the variety of styles offered in your selections and that the music is easy to learn and share after just a few rehearsals."

"Our very small choir sings without a rehearsal due to Covid. Our music must be 2-Part and very easy during the pandemic." 

"We are a small congregation and even smaller with this pandemic. We need simple 2-Part traditional numbers."
DW: Here's a more extensive list of 2-Part Songs that might help! And as mentioned above, some of you have been able to adapt 4-Part Songs for duets; if so, please check out those selections as well!

Instrumentals, Hymns, & Video Tracks:
"More video/instrumental tracks and maybe some choral demo tracks with video."

"Pre-recorded tracks or videos we can play in case we go in lockdown again."

"We need more music videos that we can use during services."

"We are playing some of the music before service as people come in. It helps. Hymns to play would be helpful."

"Creative videos which match the lectionary and speak to Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. This would give us something to play, to fill in where we would have had a special piece performed live by church members or outside artists."
DW: We have a lot of great Instrumental Hymns plus our new series, Peaceful Moments includes accompanying video tracks and might be just the thing you're looking for! Also, here is a complete list of Instrumental and Choral pieces with Video Tracks! 

Weekly Update:
"Please keep the FRESH new music coming! More good, upbeat 2-Part, SAT, or SAB music would be great, as our choir numbers have diminished. DW is the best resource I’ve ever seen and used!

"I think just encouragement and letting me know about available resources. Thanks, you guys are great!"

"Keep us abreast of findings and ideas."

"I appreciate all the articles and ideas I see in the emails. Just keeping in touch is a blessing!"

"It's nice to get the updates and have ideas for whenever we're allowed to gather to practice and sing in a service."

"Your articles are a great encouragement. Continue to provide video tracks."

"Keep sharing new music as I am striving to keep our older congregation engaged with worship."

"I think just encouragement and letting me know about available resources. Thanks, you guys are great!"

"Anytime you have new research or suggestions regarding congregational singing or for choirs, please share."
DW: Thank you so much! Just stay tuned (or sign up) for our Weekly Update to get the latest news, music, and information!

Solo/Ensemble & Duet:
"I am appreciating the accessible pieces I can use for small ensembles or soloists. Just keep providing them! Thanks!"

"More solos and duets as that is what we are using so singers can be distant."
DW: Thank you, here's a complete list of our Solo/Ensemble and Duet offerings. And there's more to come!

Solo & Instrumental:
"Vocal solos and keyboard hymn arrangements since we are not yet singing together."

DW: Here's a list of Solo and Instrumental hymn arrangements for piano. Hope this helps!

Worship Gatherings:
"Let people know that gathering outdoors at a safe distance is feasible. We have 8' squares marked on our patio, and people come in their 'bubbles' to worship, masked of course. We have 1 cantor with his mic, and I play keyboard, socially distanced. The service is amplified with our PA system, and recorded for rebroadcast."

"I am the choir director, and we are not permitted to meet. No solos, ensembles... nothing. It's very discouraging right now and feels like we may never get back together. So many people are incredibly fearful. Thank you for your wonderful ministry." 

"Pray for the church to grow even during this time of confusion. The church will survive! Hallelujah!"

"We are a music director/pianist (husband/wife) and have not been to church since March. Church resumed services with few precautions including having congregational singing. Due to medical concerns, after consulting with 3 physicians, we were advised not to attend while Covid is rampant. There is congregational singing and no required masks with very little social distancing. As long as this happens, we do not feel at ease to attend. We miss the church and our choir, but until things get better, we will not be going to church. Our music program has come to a standstill. This is a huge part of our life, and we feel quite a void."

"Supporting the Pastors in their stance to corporately meet and worship."

"We're walking along a challenging trail. We take precautions. Suggest recommended safeguards. Some want to walk with us who shouldn't be on the trail - either because of health concerns or because they throw caution to the wind. We cannot regulate people's actions/behavior..."
DW: Most of our worship leaders have indicated that their churches are back to in-person gatherings and we 100% support that. For those that are not, we understand that there are a lot of variables that impact a church's ability to return to face-to-face gatherings. Whatever the case, we encourage everyone to be extra sensitive to the needs of those at higher risk, meet in whatever capacity they're safely able to (be it online or in-person) and stay connected, encourage each other... and wait on the Lord. We are praying for you and we believe beyond any shadow of a doubt that God will lead us to the other side of this.

Zoom/Virtual Choir:
"Need help figuring out how to use all of the choir by Zoom or other means."

"We sometimes hold worship outdoors, congregation masked, singing discouraged. The weather in WI is turning colder, so that won't last much longer. Maybe provide resources on how to do a virtual choir?"

"Lessons/suggestions on how to add a musical recording to a PowerPoint and then play through Zoom. The recording plays on PowerPoint, but when we try to play during the Zoom meeting there is no sound."
DW: We recently featured a blog on Zoom, hope this helps! And here's something that might be helpful for sharing PowerPoint on Zoom!

CD's & Music Downloads:
"As different as it may seem, because of not having choir practice, it would be nice to physically have CD accompaniment to share with just 3 choir members. They could "pop" it in their car during the week and then pass it onto the next person for the next week. My time is limited as far as me physically producing the CD from your website."
DW: Ahhh, the CD... that shiny, beautiful compact disc! Unfortunately, we no longer produce them, but most of your choir members and worship team will be able to play our mp3 files on their smartphones, tablets, or computers. Hope that helps!

"Since I am a subscribing member, are we as a church permitted to use downloads of special music?"
DW: Yes, for rehearsals and in-church performance. For other usages, please Contact Us.

Women's Music:
"Provide anthems for small groups, specifically for women's trio music."
DW: Here are some Anthems for Smaller Groups as well as some options for Women's Trio, Ensemble, and Small Choir. And we're working on more!

Church Sound:
"With the drop in attendance, there is a drop in financial support as well as talented volunteers. Tips on how to run sound when there are no educated sound techs are my most pressing need at this date. Musically, getting lead sheets for hymns would be helpful. Thank you for all you do for us!"
DW: Here's a guide to Church Sound Tech Training you might find helpful.

Tips for Singing/Practicing with Physical Distancing:
"We miss having choir. Any tips on how to practice and sing together again while following all the protocols?"
DW: From Discover Worship member, Mark Poland, "On a rotating basis I am using trios and quartets from the choir on Sunday mornings. We can observe appropriate distancing and still make a 'joyful' sound. To encourage our 'less confident' singers when they are leading the music, we are singing some of the easier, more familiar Discover Worship (and Worship Today) anthems."  

"Fairly simple music pieces for 4-Part harmony, or piano, short drama vignettes, poems, monologues, music pieces for piano and brass."
DW: We have a lot of great, simpler music in the categories you listed, and we're working to bring you even more. As for the vignettes, poems, and monologues, please visit our sister-site, Drama Ministry!

Accompaniment Tracks:
"I appreciate 2-Part harmony songs because our number is small.  However, by using the accompaniments given, the sound is more impressive."

"Include more solo and duet choices with tracks. Christmas and non-Christmas. This way, singers in church music programs can prepare music at home."

"I have volunteers that sing. Most don’t read music so simple songs, with killer soundtracks that can be sung by 5-6 people. Thank you for all the support you are already doing."
DW: We offer accompaniment tracks for nearly every song on our site, and they're included with your Discover Worship membership. Plus we're giving special attention to simpler pieces that require fewer singers and musicians these days, so there's definitely more to come!

"Could you do more contemporary African American music, like Tasha Cobb, Anthony Evans, Tamela Mann, William McDowell, etc.?
DW: Many of the artists you listed have exclusive publishing deals that preclude Discover Worship from offering their music through our service at this time, but we do have a growing selection of Gospel music with some incredible artists in the genre and more coming in the future!

Encouraging Words:
"Keep up the good work of providing music for all occasions and events and scenarios."

"Please continue to encourage us and provide us with affordable products."

"You already have and will be extremely helpful going forward. It is so nice to be able to make decisions about the musical portion of worship from the safety of my home. And then download all the necessary materials. It also gives me the opportunity to view ideas that I may not have thought of. So I thank you for that and will continue to use and appreciate your service. God bless you and keep you safe." 

"Keep doing what you are doing. There are times I just need to checkout for an hour or so. Listening and/or watching music videos on Discover Worship is just what I needed. The few times I actually reached out via email or phone call, the response was always encouraging in Christ. Thank you for that. Appreciate what you are called to."

"Just be there when I need you. Thank God for your work and devotion."
DW: Wow! Thank you so much! We appreciate you and hope that we always encourage you in Christ. We're here for you and we thank God for all of you and your devotion to the church.

Thank you for taking the time to participate in this survey and share your experiences with us. We've learned a lot from you, and we're truly grateful. As we carry on, we'll take with us the insights we received and do everything we can to help you lead. These have been really challenging times for us all, but at the end of the day, we know none of this has taken God by surprise. We know He is with us through it all. And we believe the best is still to come!

Check out these other Discover Worship blogs about Coronavirus and the Church:

Posted in: Christmas, Service Planning

Jaymey Hardin

Jaymey Hardin

Jaymey Hardin has been a noteworthy leader in the Contemporary Christian Music market for more than 20 years. Known for his work in marketing, product development, and A&R, he is also credited for his contributions as a videographer and musician. He is the son of a preacher man and has a heart for the church. He and his wife, Lindsay live in Franklin, TN, and are expecting their very first... dog.

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