Guest post by Jessica Perez, Worship Arts Director at Crossroads Church in Loveland, CO.
Crossroads Church is relatively young. We started in January of 1996, and I came on staff in July of 2001. We were in need of a well-crafted audition process for choosing band and singers. As I developed our audition process, while raising the bar of quality, I noticed the need to also have a choir that was open to anyone. I often say, “If you love singing, have passion for worship and love having fun, then I’d love to have you in our choir.” And as a former middle school music educator, I’m sensitive to people’s fears about singing alone, and I tell them so. I never put anyone on the spot by asking them to sing alone. I like to help these adults to open up, risk and sing better than ever before.
The worship choir model hasn’t worked perfectly for all 10 years. This past year, I re-launched it after a 2-year break. Some of it was limping so badly that I needed to put it to bed and let it rest, so that in the re-launch, we’d have a chance at success. Because this ministry has been life-giving to so many, I wanted it to work. When it started back up, all of my dedicated choir members were there again.
Crossroads Worship Choir ESSENTIALS:
We have fun together. I approach choir understanding that these people have worked all day. They’re stressed. They need community. We laugh so hard that we cry. It’s an absolutely crazy and wild time. We talk often about needing a midweek boost to worship God with all of our hearts. They practice letting go and pouring their hearts into it. It’s loud and fun!
We’re a core part of the music ministry, but choir is also its own ministry and support group. Sometimes I wonder, “What’s the best part of choir?” … a) participating on the weekend or b) doing life together big time on Thursday nights. There’s always someone in choir who is hanging on for dear life. We’ve loved, supported and carried people through painful seasons of life… for example, praying with the wife of a deployed soldier, or helping move the single mother who had one hour to move from one home to the next, and, currently, with a tenor fighting cancer.
The people who are drawn to sing in a worship choir with a rock band, are bold, courageous, spontaneous leaders. They take the participation of worship in our services to a new level. They are leaders, modeling how to worship. I encourage them to open their hearts, raise their hands, close their eyes, clap and move. Go for it. And if they’re new and a bit scared, I put them in the middle row and tell the to “ride the wave.”
They’re also passionate about serving God and the church. They’re always available to jump in and help anywhere. Easter weekend this year, they sang all seven services, and went from the stage to children’s ministries to see where they were short children’s volunteers. I’m proud to lead this group of servants.
Some Important Changes in the RE-LAUNCH:
We have a uniform for dress, which has made a huge difference in the choir package. They dress modestly and wear solids. Black, grey, dark denim, accenting in white or a color I’ll add for them. Visually, they flow and they understand that I’m protecting them from drawing attention to themselves.
At Crossroads, we have four weekend services. 4:30 on Saturday, 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 on Sunday, so its quite a commitment for a volunteer choir. It has helped me maintain choir by scheduling them seasonally and asking for a commitment. Each season—they get the rehearsal schedule and the six weekends that we’ll be singing. Then it’s another six weeks off.
Be strategic and certain about when to sing parts/unison
Whenever we break down to the congregation voices, we don’t always want harmony. Most of the time, choir raises a big, fat unison. Their voices fill the room as the church and you can feel the participation in the room rise too. Sometimes I’ll hear, “You can’t hear the choir!” But really, in my approach, choir is supporting church singing.
New choir risers
I really wanted the choir steps to be sharp stage pieces that would look great even when choir is not up singing. These were affectionately named the “star wars, death star steps.” I. LOVE. THEM.