I don’t know if this will surprise you or not, but choirs want to be appreciated in the same way that bands are appreciated.
Here are a few ideas on how to value your choir:
Treat them like a top-shelf ministry partner. If you want your choir to excel, speak about and treat them like they are a first choice in programming rather than dead weight. Give them an important role in the service.
Tell them the truth. If they are weak and not in a place to lead, tell them so graciously . . . and then get them a leader who can grow and lead them. If you are not going to give a choir a competent leader, do them a favor and kill the choir rather than leading them on like a bad date you are afraid to hurt.
Begin the choir year with new music. Nothing sets the tone for a choir than beginning the season with new music. If you begin with the same ol’ same ol’, you’ll get the same ol’ attitude. If you cannot afford new music (you can’t afford just one new piece? Do we need to revisit “Treat them like a top-shelf partner?”), then get a local college composition student to write a piece for you.
Brag about them. “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.” The Bible never gets it wrong. If you love your choir you will brag about them. Loudly. All the time. NEVER speak ill of them.
Lead them spiritually. Church choirs should not be performance groups; performance groups exist primarily for the joy of music and the camaraderie of music making. These are not bad things, and they should be in every group, but in church we are about ministry and leading worship. As a leader, you are responsible for leading them into a deeper relationship with Christ so that they can model worship. Take 10-15 minutes of a rehearsal to share and pray with them and see what it does for the life of your choir.
Prepare. A well-prepared leader communicates love to a choir. None of us is perfectly prepared all of the time, but a consistently poorly prepared leader is really saying, “You aren’t important enough for me to prepare well to lead you.”
I am certain there are more things, but these come to mind first.
What are you communicating to your choir? Are there other ways choirs like to be appreciated?
Here are some ways to find out what your volunteers value:
Ask them. I am amazed at how often I or anyone else can miss the obvious.
Remember what you valued when you were a volunteer. You haven’t been a leader all your life, most likely. What did you care about when you were just a band member?
Listen to what they talk about. Again, this is blatantly obvious, but I can miss it sometimes.
Ask them about the best gift they have ever received, and why it was the best gift.
In the past I have found that volunteers value several things.
Time. Especially with families, time is of the essence, as they say. One of the best ways you can value your volunteers is by beginning and ending on time. I try to make it a point to begin on time regardless of whether or not everyone has arrived. There has to be a benefit to arriving on time or early, and there needs to be a penalty of arriving late, even if the penalty is unspoken.
Appreciation. Volunteers will pour out their lives for you if you simply thank them sincerely for what they do. Incidentally, you also need to live out your appreciation. You can’t bawl out your musician for destroying a musical phrase, then “thank” them for sacrificing their time to be on the team, and then expect them to feel appreciated. Your attitude and actions, as well as your words, need to be appreciative to them and their families.
Pastoral leadership. Being a pastor really has nothing to do with ordination or licensure. Pastoral leadership has everything to do with your heart. You can be a janitor and also pastor your volunteers; you simply need to care for them, ask them about their lives, pray with them, and follow up on their concerns to see how they are doing. Just because you are not ordained does not mean you get to care less; you must still pastor your volunteers if you want them to grow and love serving with you.