I would have never thought of having a choir retreat.  However, about five years ago, our executive director and the choir director for our Brevard programs felt that there was a need for the choirs to come together for teaching and to learn new music.  It was a great success and made a dynamic impact on the two choirs that I direct.  For the next two years, we coupled our retreat with our teacher/volunteer retreat.  We held the choir event on Thursday and Friday morning and teachers’ retreat on Friday evening and Saturday. 

As the summer approached the next year, we realized that we could no longer afford to pay the expenses of a choir retreat because of rising prices of hotels and meals.   We felt that our choir gives all year; and they should not have to pay for anything.  Sadly, we announced to the choir that we would no longer have our annual  retreat.  The members of our choir came to me and explained that they wanted to have a choir retreat and they would pay their own expenses. 

Last year, we coupled our retreat with a free Saturday excursion to one of Florida’s attractions, planned by the Brevard County Rec Department.  Our South Carolina choir has continued to attend.  This year, the South Carolina choir wanted to go to The Holy Land Experience in Orlando, which cost $35 entrance fee.   Our choirs voted to also pay to attend the park. 

The past two years, we have rehearsed our Christmas music.  Then the combined choirs have sung one of the songs they learned at a church on Sunday morning.  The schedule for the event has been wrapped around scriptural teaching regarding the importance of Praise and Worship and learning the new music.  This concentrated time of teaching has been extremely benefitial. 

The retreat choral practice schedule is deliberately planned.  Our schedule has been:

Friday

  1. Noon–Lunch at the retreat center/unpack luggage and equipment
  2.  1:30–Rehearsal
  3. 2:00–Devotions
  4. 2:10–Rehearsal
  5.  2:30–Refreshment Break
  6.  2:45–Rehearsal
  7. 3:15–Devotions
  8. 3:25–Rehearsal
  9. 3:45–Break and preparation for dinner
  10. 5:00–Dinner
  11. 6:30–Devotions
  12. 6:45–Rehearsal
  13. 7:30–Swimming and Fun time

Saturday

  1. 6:30am–Rise and shine
  2. 7:00–Load luggage
  3. 8:00–Breakfast
  4. 9:oo–Rehearsal (This became an improptu mini-concert for the college students who attend the Bible college at the Retreat Center.)
  5. 9:30–Leave for Holy Land Experience

We tried to keep our rehearsals short, interspursed with breaks and devotions.  Using an education model, with short, intense choral teaching times, people learn more quickly and easily.  By the end of these concentrated rehearsals, it is amazing how much the choirs absorb and learn. 

The choir retreat combines many educational elements which boast the choir members’ ability to learn.  This continues to be an education and inspiration event that lasts during the entire year.  Here are several of the benefits that we have seen grow from this retreat.

  1. The choirs are rewarded for their hard work during the year.  Even though the choir members have offered to pay most of the expenses of the retreat  for the past two years, this experience has given them a sense of joy knowing that the Lord is pleased with their efforts.  This positive reinforcement encourages the choir all year long.
  2. The choir is taught scriptural benefits and importance of praising God.  They begin to understand that their effort have eternal consequences.
  3. The concentrated rehearsals enhance their ability to learn.
  4. Our schedule of alternating hard work of learning words and music with a relaxing break–singing, break–makes this learning experience fun and effective.
  5. We are able to teach them that even during the times that they are not standing in front of an audience, they are worship leaders.
  6. They are impressed with the importance of the ministry God has entrusted to them.

Working with a choir is one of the most beneficial things I do within Special Gathering.  In fact, over the years, I separated my choir times and counted them as part of my personal ministry rather than my ministry for which I am paid. 

What is something that you have learned that enhances your ability to teach your choirs?

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