The Gospel choir is one of the most powerful ministries in the Gospel music genre. And even though we seem to be at a place in music now where they’re becoming almost extinct, it seems, they still play a vital role in churches across the nation and beyond. The choir is usually the largest organization or auxiliary in the church. As such, choirs deal with a lot of challenges that can be detrimental to the effectiveness of their ministy.
Because there are so many people to deal with, all with their own personal lives and schedules to attend to, personnel issues plague choirs more than anything. This can quite dramatically affect what songs a choir can sing from week to week. You may have rehearsed two songs and got them down at choir rehearsal, only to find out the leader isn’t coming Sunday. Or there aren’t enough sopranos. Or a key musician is out that day. But regardless of what happens, we must be on our post and perform our duties, amen? So Sunday after Sunday we adjust. When we can’t sing what we practiced, we sing something else. It’s that simple, right? Well that’s kinda what I want to talk to you about in today’s blog.
Every choir deals with this on some level, week after week. And as we find ourselves in these predicaments there are songs that become our bail out songs. You know the ones. The songs we can sing even with a skeleton crew there. They end up being the songs we turn to every time we find ourselves in a bind. Limping. Crippled, so-to-speak. We call these songs “crutch songs” for that very reason. Crutch songs are necessary, to be sure. We must have songs that are easy, that we can do any time without a rehearsal, that require no leader, that anybody in the band can play; you get the idea.
But even though crutch songs provided much-needed flexibility and give us options when we’re short-handed, crutch songs can become a kind of “spiritual wet blanket” if we aren’t careful. The unfortunate thing about songs that get relegated to this category is that our attitude toward them starts to change. That’s because most choirs eventually get to a point where they only sing these songs when they’re in a bind. Pretty soon you get to the place where you don’t like the song anymore. Any time you hear that music start you roll your eyes into the back of your head, thinking “Oh God, not this one again”. And that’s a bad place to be spiritually about any song you’re about to use to minister before God’s people.
Oh yeah, miiinistry! That is what this is about isn’t it? We get to a place sometimes where we forget that, don’t we? We start focusing more on what we want to sing rather than what, perhaps, God wants someone to hear that showed up that day. That’s what makes crutch songs such a dangerous thing to a choir’s ministry. When a song gets relegated to the category of “crutch song” it loses it’s importance. It loses it’s power for the choir. The message doesn’t touch you anymore. You don’t think about the message anymore because all you can think about is how you’re really tired of doing it.
But what can you do, right? I mean isn’t it just natural to have a change of heart about a song when you’re doing it only when there’s some “issue” going on? Absolutely it is. So how does a choir avoid having “crutch songs? Well let’s examine that for a moment. Think about one of your choir’s “crutch songs”. Get it in your mind. First think back to when it was new. Think about how you felt when your choir first performed it. Remember how powerful the message was for you back then? Now think about the lyrics and what really grabbed you about the song.
Got all that in your mind? Good. Now, ask yourself what changed about the song. Well, nothing right? The message certainly hasn’t. You see, songs get old, but the message doesn’t. I told my choir recently “every time we sing “It’s Only A Test”, there is someone in the audience going through trials. They need to know that what they’re going through won’t last. It’ll be over real soon.” Every time we sing “He’s Still Good”, I told them, “He still is”.
And that’s where we need to be spiritually every time we sing those songs.
I think what I’m trying to get across here, is that every choir needs to have songs they can deliver well in a pinch. But no choir should allow any song to become nothing more to them but a crutch song that’s only used to “bail them out”. So here are a couple of suggestions for keeping songs on your choir’s list from being relegated to “crutch song” status.
1. Sing these songs at times when everything is going well and everyone’s there. This helps keep it from being seen as one you sing only when things aren’t going well.
2. Re-connect with the message. Remind yourselves both personally and as a group what it means, what it meant to you guys when you first sang it. Talk about the message of the song at rehearsal. This helps keep your choir spiritually connected to the song.
So in summary, all choirs need songs that give them flexibility and options when key people are out. But no song that was good enough to make your song list in the first place deserves to be given the title of “crutch song”. Every song your choir sings deserves your best performance of it every time you sing it.
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