Editor’s Note: In this day and age when some churches have ‘fired the choir’ in favor of praise teams, Jubilate Music Group invited Mark Hill…Minister of Music at First Baptist Church Garland (Texas)…to express his thoughts on building and maintaining a successful choral program in today’s church. Mark leads a flourishing music program at this large church. Of particular interest is his success at attracting twenty and thirty-something aged members to his ministry (in addition to older folks). Our thanks to Mark for sharing his thoughts about the blessings of shepherding a strong, choral-centric music ministry.
God Still Uses Choirs!
I have been blessed to serve at First Baptist Garland, Texas for almost fourteen years. Our church has a great musical heritage that includes choirs and instrumental groups. We desire to encourage all ages to use their gifts to sing and play praises to the Lord. Our choirs start as early as age 4 and range to 90+! It can be challenging in our current culture to continue the legacy of using a choir to lead worship weekly when many churches have replaced choirs with praise bands and schedules are more packed than ever before.
God has continued to bless our Preschool and Children’s Choirs as they learn how to worship and praise Jesus through the gift of music. I believe that our Preschool and Children’s choirs provide a foundation both musically and spiritually. How many of us learned our first Bible verses as songs? Our Children’s Choirs present a musical twice a year, memorize hymns and praise songs, and sing in worship services several times a year.
The next step for our students is to worship together through our Middle School and High School choirs. These students rehearse faithfully September through early July, lead worship, present musicals, and serve during a summer choir mission trip. The senior class takes a lead role planning which songs to use for the musical, creating and teaching the choreography, and leading worship times during the mission trip. The summer mission trip is a huge draw for our students – they love to sing and serve in communities all over the United States. Music has granted us the opportunity to witness in places that would not be open to other forms of the gospel. We have sung the gospel in a Muslim market, a Hindu temple, and many other areas where traditional witnessing methods would not be welcome. We are blessed to have approximately 100 students participating weekly in our youth choirs.
Our Sanctuary Choir is a vital part of our Music Ministry and they lead worship every Sunday in our traditional worship service. (We also have contemporary and blended worship services.) I realized early in my ministry at FBC Garland that not every adult at our church who wants to sing in a choir is going to attend the traditional service. To give those people an opportunity to participate, the choir also sings once a month in our blended worship service, and they are also able to sing with the choir for our Easter and Christmas presentations. I encourage you to utilize your choir weekly and to challenge them musically and spiritually. Our choir loves to sing and lead worship and also enjoy getting “outside the walls” of our church to minister through music at assisted living centers in the area.
One of the hardest questions to answer is, “How do you get young adults to be involved in choir?” There is no easy answer, but here are a few ideas and tips that have worked for us:
- Build personal relationships with young adults and then invite them to choir
- Provide childcare for rehearsals
- Have fun and creative parties and include door prize cards in any new music you put out. Door prizes can be anything from a candy bar to gift cards, you don’t need to spend a lot. We’ve even used bottles of water!
- Visit adult bible study classes and find out who has sung in school choirs or church choirs in the past.
- Use social media to promote your choirs. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all good options.
- Most importantly: pray that God will send you young adult choir members. Prayer works!
God still moves and works through music and choirs of all ages and sizes. Keep singing and keep encouraging others to sing – God inhabits the praises of His people.
Mark Hill has been the Minister of Music/Worship at First Baptist Church in Garland, TX for 14 years and has been in the full-time ministry for 26 years. Hill graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, TX with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Church Music in 1991 and a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting in 1993. He is also the Assistant Director of the Singing Men of North Central Texas and Assistant Varsity basketball coach for Wylie Preparatory Academy.
Mark has been married to his wife, Darcie Hill, for 24 years and they have 3 children: Callie, 20 (Jr. at Baylor University); Abbie, 15 (Freshman HS); and Isaac, 7 (2nd grade). Hill enjoys spending time with his family, playing tennis and basketball, watching sports (especially the Dallas Cowboys & UNC Tarheels) and entertaining with comedy and music! His favorite hymn is “My Jesus, I Love Thee” and his life verse is Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”