Help for the small-to-medium sized church music program
By Barbara Hamm
Consider paying your organist and/or choir director if you don't already. Your appreciation and good will don't translate into paying for groceries or dental work.
Consider paying adequate compensation in other areas: health, vacation, retirement. The majority of churches don't. This is a contributing factor for the shortage of organists in particular and church musicians in general across the country (except for the city churches with large pipe organs and a full graded choir program, etc., etc.). It also contributes to the increasing use of tapes and "canned" music. We wouldn't dream of putting a tape of a sermon in the slot for people to listen to. We get what we pay for (with a value that often directly corresponds).
Send your organist and/or choir director to music workshops, conferences. Pay the tuition.
Choristers Guild--local and national (yearly)
California Conference of Music and Worship (every 2 years in the summer)
National UCC Musicians' Network Conference (every 2 years in the summer)
ADM—Association of Disciple Musicians
Seminary workshops such as Dan Damon's class for church accompanists at Pacific School of Religion offered through the Graduate Theological Union summer classes
See that your organist and/or choir director is enabled to go to conference/regional events—particularly if they are involved in the planning and/or participation in such events!
Organize a hymnfest. Invite the community.
Organize a choral festival among nearby churches of the conference/region, or churches in your town. Each choir performs its own two numbers, the combined choirs do one piece—and, presto, a festival! This can be wonderful to do for Christmas (at the beginning of Advent), or before the end of the choir season in the spring/summer.
Consider offering services of Taizé/other meditative song, prayer, and healing. (If you want help in putting one together, invite me in to do a workshop and/or service with you.)
Consider the purchase of new hymnals. There is so much wonderful new music being written.
Consider putting together your own church songbook, after of course securing the proper copyright permissions.
Purchase a licensing agreement that will permit you to use new hymns licensed with a particular agency (CCLI, Licensing, GIA, New Dawn Music, others—does NOT cover anthems).
Be willing to pay $10-20 to use a wonderful new hymn in your service. (Many publishers grant free use for conferences/workshops/special events. Charges for one-time use are modest.
Don't expect your church musician(s) to limit the hymns/organ preludes/choral anthems/ instrumentals to only "your" kind of music. It may well be someone else's favorite.
Be open to new music.
Be open to traditional music (no, this is not supererogatory. Some churches are abandoning it).
Be open to music of other cultures and traditions.
Learn what you can. Sing with gusto.
Allow yourself to be uplifted, inspired, energized, comforted, and yes, challenged by the music in your church.
Don't compare your church to others. Your church has its own unique mission to fulfill. Support it, be willing to pay for it, and give thanks to God for the increase.
Imagine and dream. Envision possibilities. Create a climate for realizing them. Often our church music programs are limited more by myopia and stubbornness than by any lack of ability, perceived or real. What could be done, if only...Go to work on the if only's.
We must commit to the future of church music ministry with the same careful planning and preparation that is given to pastoral ministry, if we hope to fill the organ benches and choir lofts a quarter of a century from now to help enable our churches to "make a joyful noise to the Lord!"