I recently played at a church that had a very limited organ. I had always thought the regular organist did a fine job but could have been more creative. Then I discovered that the instrument did not offer much to encourage creativity. Each manual had about five basic stops, and I struggled to lead the congregation in a way that encouraged singing.
As a church musician, maybe you have experienced at least one less-than-ideal situation like this one. The organ barely works or has a limited number of stops, there are no instrumentalists in the congregation, the church doesn’t own handbells, the church choir has few volunteers, and there is little to no budget for improvements in these areas.
What can we do to make the most of these difficult situations? Use these five tips to keep your church music going strong, even when resources may be limited.
Keep it Simple
As frustrating as it might be, sometimes the best way to make do is to stick to the basics. Playing simple pieces that don’t require a lot of stops or singing unison or two-part choral selections ensures that the music remains tasteful.
Try your hand at composing. You know the needs of your congregation the best, so break out the staff paper or the music software and attempt simple pieces. A great way to start is by composing simple choral descants.
If you are able to set up an efficient system, try to share resources with area churches. Perhaps your congregation can borrow the handbells one month while another church uses some of your choir music.
Encourage a Larger Music Budget
Respectfully urge your congregation to allocate more money to the music budget. This might entail a well-prepared talk with your pastor, a presentation at the church council meeting, or a loving letter to the congregation included in the bulletin.
You know your church and its music situation better than anyone else. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and to engage other church musicians and church leaders in conversation about the musical resources of your congregation.
Music is an important part of the church and should not be overlooked. There may not be a perfect solution, but I encourage you not to give up.