Getting 'In-Touch' with your Worship Choir

Featuring Rick Branek Posted on April 13, 2008

Seeing the Big Picture
Being part of a growing church in the West is an awesome experience!  I was Worship Pastor at a large church in Las Vegas that averaged 2000 every Sunday with multiple service times.  Our goal was simple: reach the community with the love of God and encourage believers to grow in their faith. It takes skill and determination to grow a music ministry that meets the needs of a congregation that is growing weekly.

When I first came on staff in 1984, the worship attendance wasn’t much above 225 per week. This meant Worship Choir attendance was in the 20-25 range on a good Sunday. I served on staff until 1992 and then resigned my position to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.  After graduating seminary and serving in a few churches along the way, I found myself back in Las Vegas in October 1997 at the same church!  Few are able to go back to the place where they have previously served on staff. I knew this time around it was going to be educational, demanding, and rewarding!

When I came back, I was surprised at the growth which had occurred while I was away. Worship attendance was averaging 1,900-2,000 weekly. What was disappointing was the Adult Choir had not kept the pace.  They were only averaging 60-75. Why didn’t choir attendance keep pace with the growth of the church? Apparently there was a tremendous amount of turnaround in the choir. Why? With so many new faces here on campus weekly, why didn’t anyone feel motivated to join the choir? Was something or someone within the organization keeping people away? I had too many questions and not enough answers. As I began to analyze the choir and its needs, something became evident.  The choir was not going to grow unless ministry happened within the organizational structure. This sounds too easy. So allow me to share ideas and research that went into putting together what I call "In-Touch" ministry teams within the Worship Choir.

In-Touch Realized
How out of touch were choir members with one another?  How out of touch was I with the choir?  A single adult woman came to rehearsal and joined the choir.  Like everyone else, she filled out an information/enrollment card, and she was on her way.  She attended three or four times, and then she stopped coming.  Several weeks later we discovered she had died!  How could this happen that we lost track of her?  It happens when you are so out of touch that you don’t have a pulse on the people who are your partners in ministry.  I was so embarrassed by this event that I immediately knew work had to begin on getting this under control.

In-Touch Ministry Defined
After researching and seeking God, it was time to implement a plan.  First, we grouped choir members into manageable components of 10 people per group.  Second, we developed a flowchart to help us keep a visual handle on the size of the choir as it grew.  Third, we enlisted an In-Touch coordinator and an assistant coordinator to oversee the total organization.  Fourth, we planned for prayer to be central in caring for choir members’ individual needs.  This way we could break into "prayer teams" each week during rehearsal and accountability was our focus.

In-Touch, Ready to Go
Getting the choir members into groups would help us account for each member every week. The strategy was to have no more than 10 people in each group. Included in this number was an In-Touch leader and an associate.  Each group included two leaders and eight additional choir members. Once the group maxed out at 10, we started a new group.

We decided to implement a prayer ministry during the rehearsal that would meet the needs of everyone in the choir. We set up a table with cards and pens in the choir sign-in area for prayer requests.  Someone from our choir leadership team would then read the requests during prayer time in the middle of rehearsal. (We provided a handout called "Rehearsal Notes" with information on prayer requests from the previous week and the rehearsal schedule for the evening. There is also a space to write new requests as their mentioned.)

After the prayer requests are read, the choir is then dismissed into the worship center. There they meet within their In-Touch groups and continue the prayer time for 15 minutes. The groups spread out and met throughout the worship center, praying for one another, the requests written on the prayer cards, the weekend services, the music ministry, the song the worship choir was singing on Sunday, even the people who will occupy the seats where they are praying.  This was the best part of our rehearsal time!

In-Touch has changed the whole outlook of why we do what we do!  When you give God a token prayer within the choir rehearsal time, do not be surprised at the lack of direction and the powerless feel of the service.  But when you have 15 or so groups praying, "God, here we are in need of your direction. We rely on your Spirit this coming weekend to move and lead us," watch how the Spirit of God comes and ministers to the whole congregation!!
The In-Touch coordinator is a volunteer position within the Music Ministry. This person is responsible to minister to all the In-Touch leaders of each group.  Right before rehearsal begins, the coordinator makes contact with all the leaders.  This helps the coordinator know if a leader is absent and if the associate needs to lead the group during prayer time. Usually if an In-Touch leader is going to be absent, he/she calls the coordinator in advance.  It’s pretty easy to see how the assistant coordinator comes into play with this plan.  He/she is responsible in helping the coordinator and with keeping up with assigned groups.

Starbucks Coffee has a wonderful philosophy. Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO, views each employee as vitally important to the company's success.  Employee’s needs and concerns within the company come first. This is why even part-time employees with 20 hours a week are included in the company’s health plan and stock options!  Schultz comments, "Even though we were a private company, we would grant stock options to every employee, company-wide, from the top managers to the baristas, in proportion to the level of base pay."

There are some lessons here when I think about our In-Touch groups. People are not a line item. They are individuals who need all the help and encouragement we can provide for them.  As with Starbucks, when people know you care for them, their attitudes will be different. You will see a more positive outlook. The key to all of this is to remain small within a large organization.  If all this is accomplished, then In-Touch can succeed in your organization as well.

Please contact me if you want to know more about beginning an "In-Touch" Worship Choir ministry at your place of worship.