Are Traditional Choirs and Churches a Dying Breed?

Abbie Stancato of Rocking Gods HouseAs churches continue to shift toward contemporary praise bands, is the traditional choir and service in decline?

I previously conducted an interview with Mike Sandeman of Phatfish, a well-known Christian band in the United Kingdom. Mike offered this comment concerning many of the traditional churches of Europe: “Many of the established traditional denominational churches have experienced a devastating decline in the last fifteen years or so.”

Is this a pattern? Traditions come and go — is the contemporary Christian praise band replacing the traditional choir? Is the mega-church with its concert-like atmosphere replacing the traditional church as we know it?

According to an article a reader sent me this morning by the Huffington Post titled “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore,” part of the blame is “The ‘Contemporary’ Worship Experience. ” The articles states…

“This, too, has contributed to the decline of the church. It’s been the trend in the last couple of decades for traditional, mainline churches to pretend to be something they’re not. Many of them have experimented with praise bands, the installation of screens, praise music, leisure dress on the platform, and… well… you know how well that’s been received.”

“Frankly, it has largely proven to be a fatal mistake. Of course, there are exceptions to this everywhere and especially in those churches where there is an un-traditional look already, staging, an amphitheater-style seating, as well as the budget to hire the finest musicians to perform for worship. In traditional, mainline churches, however, trying to make a stained-glass atmosphere pass as the contemporary worship place has met with about as much success as a karaoke singer auditioning for The X Factor.”

Steve McSwain – Huff Post Blog

Steve is not alone in his opinion. I often receive this reaction by worship leaders who believe the contemporary worship experience is too performance-based and not sing-able for the average congregation.
A choir performance allows the music to be sing-able for a congregation. Most choirs have a wide range of vocalists allowing church members to sing comfortably within their vocal range. Furthermore, it’s much less expensive to maintain. A choir requires much less church funds than a praise band, and the quality of a choir is easier to maintain.

A music director will make or break a single praise team. Additionally low quality musical and PA equipment, one or two mediocre or bad praise team members, or an unqualified person at the sound board will greatly diminish the quality of a praise team.

The traditional choir is more about congregational participation than contemporary worship. A choir allows anyone wanting to sing to participate. It also offers a comfort to the congregation to openly sing and participate.
The diminishing choir is a direct result of a shift away from tradition church and a strong injection of modernization and technology.

I am a contemporary worship leader. I play it because it is in my heart, not for strategy purposes or to pull a congregation from a traditional service. I returned to church and discovered Christ after attending a contemporary worship church service. The moment I heard the music, I felt at home! Christ gave me this gift and desire; I follow His lead.

Not everyone who attends a church service wants to sing. Those who are moved by the Holy Spirit will sing. There are some songs that I desire to sing no matter where I am when I hear them.
Don’t misunderstand me; I strongly support any method of music that attracts people to attend church and discover Christ.

I don’t think the traditional choir will cease to exist, but I fear it will continue to dwindle in numbers. Lastly, I fear the traditional service will be facing major decline over the decades to come.

I don’t think the problem is as much modernization as it is a society following secular principles that teach that every religion is equal and correct. The shift is a symptom of a bigger problem.

I recently published an article titled “Church Burnout? Feel Like Giving Up? Change The World And Be the One.” If you love the traditional choir, support it, support biblical principles, and pray for the Church of Christ. Be the one to lead others, be the example, and let God’s will be done!