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Enrichment Journal - Enriching and Equipping Spirit-filled Ministers

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Instilling Purpose In Your Choir

Every ministry in the church must have a purpose. While such a statement sounds simple, how many church members or leaders can specifically delineate the God-ordained purpose behind each ministry in the church?

As a minister of music, I find myself recruiting new choir members every September and January on the basis of the choir's megaproductions, wonderful fellowship, and beautiful music. While these outward characteristics have merit and are a vital part of ministry, they cannot sustain ministry. As music ministers we must constantly remind our choir members and ourselves of the fundamental purpose of the choir: to lead people in worship of Almighty God. Accomplishment of this purpose does not happen as a result of well-trained ears, balanced voicing, or even an energetic stage presence. Instead, true worship leading must be a supernatural extension of our love relationship with Christ (Matthew 22:37,38).

We highlight and develop this purpose in our choir three ways: (1) by having monthly prayer meetings, (2) by holding annual choir retreats, and (3) by conducting annual commissioning services.

MONTHLY PRAYER MEETINGS

The grind of rehearsal time can bring spiritual development to a halt. With the continuing onslaught of Sunday's music, the looming special program every few months, and dealing with interpersonal relationships within the choir, extreme care must be taken to corporately renew intimacy with Christ.

Our choir's weekly rehearsal is Sunday at 5 p.m. While this has worked best to allow the greatest involvement of a broad section of people, the hectic pace demands an additional monthly rehearsal on the third Thursday night. This important time together is centered on practice, praise, and prayer.

1. Practice. With the craziness of Sunday's schedule, even when a Wednesday night rehearsal is utilized, an off-night meeting is a great opportunity to introduce new music, hit problem spots in the music, and launch upcoming musicals in a more relaxed, yet focused atmosphere. In addition to general rehearsal, well-planned sectionals are held during the first hour to practice trouble areas in the music and develop a sense of camaraderie and unity within each section. Sectionals are also great training ground for developing music leaders.

2. Praise. Once the woodshedding is out of the way, an extended time of praise and worship is imperative to renew a sense of intimacy with the Lord. In Scripture God called His people to love and worship Him far more often than He called them to activity. For example, in the story of the exodus of Israel, God repeatedly commands Pharaoh to: "Let my people go, so that they may worship me" (Exodus 7:16; 8:1; 9:1,13; 10:7,26, NIV). It is within God's great plan that we worship Him first (Matthew 22:37,38; John 4:23), then all other ministry activity becomes natural outgrowths of that relationship.

3. Prayer. As our relationship with God is renewed, the Holy Spirit empowers us to minister to one another. Sharing prayer requests and praise reports opens the door for body ministry. This is a great opportunity to encourage choir members to minister to one another rather than expecting the ministerial staff to be the only source of spiritual care.

ANNUAL CHOIR RETREAT

The annual choir retreat meets many of the same objectives as the monthly prayer meetings. Holding a retreat is a powerful tool for revitalizing and focusing vision. Christ often withdrew with His disciples for a time of teaching and prayer. An annual choir retreat affords abundant opportunities for building relationships with each other, for conducting rehearsals of new music, and for encouraging spiritual renewal with the Lord.

1. Relationships. Friday night focuses on fellowship and is the kickoff for the 2-day choir retreat. Hectic schedules and limited time often severely diminish the choir's ability to simply get to know each other. An informal banquet along with icebreaker activities and games are all that are needed to allow the choir time to relax together. Encourage the sharing of past memories and milestones in the choir's history and endeavor to create new memories that night. Close the evening by sharing a theme and a key Scripture verse for the coming year's ministry.

2. Rehearsal and renewal. While fellowship continues to play a role on Saturday, rehearsal and renewal are the focal points of the activities. Generous allotments of time for praise and worship can be interspersed with rehearsals. Consider utilizing a music minister or workshop speaker from outside your church. By using someone from the area, expenses can be kept to a minimum. We called on a talented music pastor in our area to speak on the dynamics of praise and worship and on the role of music in missions. His fresh perspective coupled with a dynamic altar ministry literally fanned into flame a revival spirit in our choir that has transformed our music ministry. In addition to spiritual renewal, emphasis is placed on developing skills in music reading, vocal development, and memorization. Assess the overall range of needs of your choir and develop a 5-year plan for spiritual and musical growth.

ANNUAL COMMISSIONING SERVICE

While each of the previously mentioned methods nurture tremendous spiritual growth, your choir may not fully understand the personal call of God on their ministry. To move beyond the mere fulfillment of a list of obligations and expectations, choir members need to solidify their God-given call to music ministry.

In much the same way a minister is ordained for service, a commissioning service emerged as the vehicle by which the choir could also be ordained for service. Our service takes place during the first monthly rehearsal in January. It is a time for renewal and commitment. (See the sidebar for the outline of our choir commissioning and Communion service.)

Do not leave ministry growth to chance. A well-focused, dynamic ministry is created and blessed by God as it is birthed in prayer and lived out in relationship to Him. These tools—monthly prayer meetings, annual choir retreats, and annual commissioning services—highlight and help work out our ultimate purpose to worship God. Use them to motivate the choir to personal, daily growth through an intimate relationship with God. For it is only through watching and knowing the Father that we will be able to effectively carry out His ministry (John 5:19,20).

Chuck Spong, II, is executive pastor at GreeneWay Church, Orlando, Florida.

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