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Right, I need help! (Back to Church Sunday might appear in this thread)

(67 Posts)
nickelbabe Sat 11-Sep-10 11:03:30

Our church has been losing congtregation steadily since we got a vicar that ruined the whole thing for everyone.
noone will come back who left when he started alienating them all.
and a lot those that were left were old.
Quite a few have died, or had to go into old people's homes.

Now one of our choir members has broken his hip and had to have a replacement (our only decent bass) and his wife, one of our sopranos has been quite ill and had a fit a while ago and is still not allowed to drive, so we've lost her for a while too.
and last night, our good Tenor has announced that he can't cope with the drive from where he lives (10-15 miles away) every friday for practice, or witht he driving in the winter (he's not only old, but also got a disability which is really starting to affect him now), so he's leaving after October evensong.
there is noone in the congregation that we can draw on, because those that aren't old have mental disabilities or have important jobs that take their time during the services.even two members of our choir have to do church warden duties so can't sing most sundays.

I'm at the end of despair now - this town is quite non-churchy - those that will go to church already seem to and noone else is interested.
and then at the end of the month we've got back to church sunday and we've got noone to invite!
and, i have to be honest, for which i feel awful, but i can imagine anyone coming to our church would be put off by the congregation we have.

so what do i do?

ps praying doesn't work - it might make us all feel better and know that God's on our side, but it doesn't bring practical solutions (we are praying as well, but i need solutions this time!!)

I've made a choir flyer to send to all the local senior schools and adulteducation sentre, which is a start.
we seem to get people who come once and then never come again (it's even so bad that we've only had 8 weddings this year - including mine! and that's an all time low - normally we would have 15-upwards)

acorntree Sat 11-Sep-10 15:14:37

If it is particularly choir members you want could you advertise an initial meeting with the aim of working towards one event (say a carol service as its getting towards that time of year) - you might need to advertise where older people are going to see it because typically older people have more time - could you flood your area with posters?

People might like to come along and sing carols and maybe you could get them hooked like that?

nickelbabe Sat 11-Sep-10 15:25:18

thank you, acorn, that's exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of - I hadn't thought of loads of posters, though, but that's a good idea.

I was thinking of putting in our notice sheet this month that we need singers for the Advent Carol Service - thankfully, it goes to the members of our sister church (we are a united benefice and the other church is more "happy-clappy"), so they might see it and want to join in.

(in my OP, i meant Adult Education Centre - I just didn't proof-read it! blush )

Katisha Sat 11-Sep-10 15:34:48

Is your question about how to get the choir going again or how to get people to come to the chuch in general?
Getting people to commit to a choir is pretty hard IME as they have to commit to both rehearsals, and Friday night is not a night people really want to be spending in at church, and also the services. (I speak as one in the church choir...)
Have you still got the awkward vicar?

nickelbabe Sat 11-Sep-10 15:38:59

Katisha- it's both - we need choristers, but we have no congregation to draw from either!! it's just getting worse and worse.

we're really hoping to push the Voice for Life, because then they don't all have to coem to services, but they might come to a couple a month, as long as they come and work towards their Voice for Life - they've got a skill (this is how we're advertising it to schools - looks great on UCAS applications! grin )

suggestions of how to get members of congregation are also gratefully received

Katisha Sat 11-Sep-10 15:45:41

The thing that most motivates our trebles is the fact that they get paid...And it's related to attendance at rehearsals and services.

You could perhaps get in touch directly with local school music teachers to see if they have any pupils they could push in your direction as part of their extra-curricular music development. You probably have to be a bit more focussed in the recruitment than a general poster campaign. Does the church have any links with schools that you could make use of? (That the vicar hasn't severed...)

If not then finding out names of Heads of Music and a personalised approach with emails and an explanation of Voice for Life could be a way forward maybe. And mention of pay!

nickelbabe Sat 11-Sep-10 15:46:19

sorry, no, we don't have the crap vicar anymore - he did a very good job of ruining the church, so now we've got no money coming in, then had to leave to go to Wales to look after his aging parents.

and we can't have a new priest because we can't afford to pay the quota.
he did a very good job of screwing us over.

Katisha Sat 11-Sep-10 15:54:24

Sympathies - this does seem to happen more than it needs to and bishops never seem to want to help...

Katisha Sat 11-Sep-10 15:54:43

(with dodgy vicars, not choirs...)

nickelbabe Sat 11-Sep-10 15:55:08

We're lucky that our choir funds are quite full! so we can afford to take on trebles.

Yes, I was hoping that we could get direct contact with school music departments - at the minute I'm quite worried about getting the trebles up, because DH is a reluctant choirmaster (he's an organist really and very shy - he took on choirmaster because our old choirmaster moved away), and the task of choir trainer for the little ones will fall to me (as the only one willing to do the job!) The problem with that is that I don't have any music theory qualifications (apart from Voice for Life Red Level), and I'm worried i won't be good enough.
But, obviously if we get juniors, I will work hard at it (and might learn something along the way)
I'm using my contacts from the shop of schools to get in the door - I've just completed an order for one senior school and have sent a letter along with it aboutthe choir - hopefully , the secretary will be able to point out that it's my choir, and that will help....

nickelbabe Sat 11-Sep-10 15:56:50

you're quicker than me!! grin

the bishop was the one who encouraged the appointment

(short list of bad candidates and he had "radical" forward-thinking views)

MmeBlueberry Sat 11-Sep-10 16:09:27

Have you had a look at the www.freshexpressions.org.uk Fresh Expressions website?

BTW, most people come to church because of friendships, so the best way to get new people to come is to invite them personally. I don't think very many people respond to posters and flyers unless they are new to the area and already looking. Flyers are still good to provide people with the practical information they need.

As a long-term view, can you start a children's choir in order to feed new people into the adult choir in years to come?

Mission and outreach is also important. Do you run mother & toddler groups, for example? Do you have a Christian basics course so that people can explore the Christian faith in a non-threatening way?

If you have lots of elderly people in your community, how about having a termly 'Songs of Praise'? With Harvest coming up, it is the ideal time. You do this midweek and provide tea and cake afterwards. Another thing to do is to go out to day centres.

You can invite local schools, even if not affiliated with church, to have their harvest and Christmas assemblies, inviting parents, of course, in church. This would actually be a win-win given how cramped and under-equipped most primary school halls are.

As for your choir member who can't drive any more, the obvious thing is to organise a rota to pick him up and take him home.

Do keep praying - we have a God who answers prayers. But also listen to God. He may be telling you to take a completely new direction.

MmeBlueberry Sat 11-Sep-10 16:19:30

Something we have done in our church regarding the choir...

Our choir is aging and dwindling, now down to single figures. We have the choir at our more traditional service (robes/organ), and music group at our contemporary service. Our contemporary congregation is about 400, with the bulk of the church's children, and our traditional congregation is 100 - 150, mostly empty-nesters.

We have a few events a year that are big on the choir - Carols by Candlelight, Easter vigil, and 'public' services, such as Remembrance. A few years ago, we appealed to the contemporary congregation for some volunteers to join the choir for several weeks in order to participate in Carols by Candlelight. It was a great success because several young people (20-somethings) joined. We extended it to Easter and Remembrance.

The tactic worked because we got good people into our choir, but they didn't feel the pressure of a long-term committment. A couple of them have joined the choir full time, although on a rota basis as they still want to be part of the contemporary congregation.

I guess you have the same idea by calling on your sister church. You just have to present it as an exciting opportunity.

nickelbabe Sat 11-Sep-10 16:29:52

thank you Mme, you've given me a lot to go on there!
we did a performance for an old people's home last christmas, - it was great fun and we will definitely take that one on board.

the choir member who can't drive anymore - I mentioned 2 with a similar problem, so i'll answer for them both.
One of them (the Tenor) has thought and prayed on the situation for a few months, and has decided to join his local choir instead, as it is easier for him to get there, and he doesn't have to worry about dark nights/long journeys or relying on anyone else. It's a shame, but we know he hasn't taken the decision lightly.
The other is a lady, and is the wife of the bass who has broken his hip - we have offered to pick her up and drop her off, which she has said will be suitable for her later on, but at the moment she wants to be there for her husband, who really can't cope on his own while his hip is mending (he only got operated on last week, and he's rather old, and has recurring problems and muscle issues from when he had a stroke - which means his recovery will take longer). Plus, she had cancer a couple of years ago, and gets ill very easily, so she wants to rest properly before coming back.
all of which I totally understand, please don't get me wrong, but we do think that our bass will never come back (it's very stressful for him, too)

nickelbabe Sat 11-Sep-10 16:38:01

our church is traditional (not completely, and not as much as we would like!), and we draw an average congregation at main sunday services of about 50-60 now (before last vicar we drew nearly 80-90 each week)

our sister church has modern/"happy-clappy" services every week and they draw about the same (but they get most of the children - not because they only choose that church, but we have had experience of the church wardens always suggesting those services to those with children - almost as if children aren't allowed at our services!! angry )

our choir now has 11 members, of which 2 are the choirmaster/organist and asst organist; 1 is church warden (so only joins us at evensong); 1 is deputy church warden, so can't always join us (and indeed is new after a very long break so isn't confident enough yet - but she always comes to practice); 1 has just joined us from the other church (their singing group has largely disbanded)(and is very inexperienced at our type of singing - she's getting better though!); 2 are, again, new and inexperienced (1 can't read music).
so, 4 out of the 11 have joined this year because of pleading and desperation! (and the two ladies only joined because they agreed to sing at our wedding and we asked them to stay, with no obligation to sing at servies when they didn't feel comfortable - thankfully, they've done more than we hoped they could!)
we are hoping to draw on the other church's congregation, but despite being a united benefice, each congregation is very territorial and is generally unwilling to join the other (whether because they don't want to step on toes, or because it would mean 2 services every sunday!)

nickelbabe Sat 11-Sep-10 16:49:33

I've put a notice on Mumsnet Local....

(well, it's a start!)
grin

MaryBS Mon 13-Sep-10 09:51:56

Just a thought, why not send Back to Church invitations to those people who left because of the vicar?

nickelbabe Mon 13-Sep-10 09:58:27

that's a good idea - I'll tell DH about that (because I don't know most people who left then - at that point I only knew the people in the choir (i'm shy and can't talk to people I don't know! blush ))

DandyDan Mon 13-Sep-10 15:47:06

If you have no vicar for your own particular church, where are you getting your vicar from (so to speak)? There must be someone who is coming to take communion services, who has been given charge of your parish. They might also have lots of other responsibilities as well but it might be worth meeting with them to discuss some of your ideas. What is your PCC like? Is there a standing committee? A worship committee (though with low numbers, I'm guessing not)?

Many of your ideas are good ones though, but you need a confident choir leader/musical director who can enthuse people into joining: a 'scratch' Messiah or similar day will attract singers from around a district. It's tough though - I feel for you.

nickelbabe Mon 13-Sep-10 17:25:05

Dandy, we now have a rota of clergywho come in to take the services. they're mainly made up of retired priests.
the PCC is in charge (well, I guess it's the Churchwardens, ultimately) and we're all in the same boat (i joined the PCC so I could help out more) - we sit in our meeting and come up with ideas or discuss stuff, and there's a lot of red tape - it's hard to bring new people in because we have so few people to bring them in! but we're trying - Back to Church sunday might help a bit (but you have to have people who will give out invitations, and I really don't know that many people - basically, most of my social life from when I came odwn here was from church/choir, and from WI and bellydancing- I am always asking people to come to church and noone's interested - and bellydancing happens in a different town, so they think it's too far to come when they have their own local churches)

problem with the choir master, is, he is a bloody genius organist, but he's ridiculously shy (always has been) and feels like he's not authorized to order people about! He took over when our previous choirmaster moved away. he's been doing it for 3 years now, and is a lot more confident than he was (which is helped alot by his wife nagging him in what to do in practice! I love it when he's all masterful wink) I just keep telling him they do respect him and they want him to direct them!

niminypiminy Mon 13-Sep-10 22:01:11

Blimey I was reading this thread in a really concerned way until I got to the point where you mentioned 50-60 as an average attendance and 11 in the choir. Honestly there was one Sunday this summer where there were 5 or 6 in our congregation and we have to sing along to CDs. I think you should look again at what you have and realise it isn't so catastrophically bad.

DandyDan Mon 13-Sep-10 23:25:31

It isn't catastrophically bad but it's veering in a direction that could go worse very quickly. A congregation of 50-60 makes it difficult to engender new enthusiasm and energy to do anything new. Focusing on what you're already good at, is a good idea, but in a small congregation it ends up being the same few people putting huge amounts of energy keeping things going. Also (rather sadly of course) any year with a church with an ageing population will see a decrease with church members dying.

You say there is a rota of retired priests taking services but no actual person in charge. That might be the case for the moment but legally it can't remain the case for ever. If the previous vicar has gone, there is a state of interregnum until they decide to appoint - this saves the diocese money of course for a year or maybe more - but also it may be that the parish will be reorganised and put under the care of another priest in the deanery.

It's a pity that Gareth Malone is currently doing his thing more about teaching and schools, rather than choirs still, since it would be good to bounce an event off his 'community choir' idea that was shown in the TV programmes he did last year. A community carol service or carol singing in the village/town is a possible way to start this off, with an idea to continue afterwards. The issue would be not making it too churchy, but maybe including some gospel-type singing which could be sung as part of a special church service once in a while. Anyone local who wants to sing (some more/at all) would probably run a mile if anyone put Stainer's Crucifixion at them or something "holy".

nickelbabe Tue 14-Sep-10 13:07:47

shock niminy! really???
we've been told be the Bishop that we're in real trouble (btw - that 50-60 includes the choir and "staff")

Dandy- the official state at the moment is that the Churchwardens are in charge, and that we are in an interregnum (with no foreseeable end)
The y have decided that they won't appoint in the foreseeable, as they are working on a new thing for the town - we have got quite a few churches in our deanery, and that includes Sittingbourne, Milton Regis, the Isle of Sheppey and Murston. (i don't know if it includes any of the outlying villages, but i'm sure it must)(yeah, it must because our area dean is in charge of a village church)
There are 3 churches in Sittingbourne itself (i think).
I think the reason we appear to have so many churches at first glance, is that we're all very spread out, and most of the churches are small.
As it stands, no church in the Sittingbourne Deanery has paid their last quota, and we're all struggling (it seems) to keep up with other bills too.
The bishop (and his friends) is trying to come up with a long term plan for us all, that will suit us all and not alienate who we've already got (especially families who have always gone to their church)
our church is the biggest one and it's the most central, being bang smack in the middle of the town. It's also grade II listed.
they said they don't want to sell any churches, or deconsecrate them - but at one point they were talking about getting rid of the remaining buildings and setting up a new-built super church. (doesn't bear thinking about)
not one of the churches can boast that their congregation is any better than another, even though some of the churches were favoured by the last bishop, who preferred happy-clappy and tried his damndest to get every church that way. the current bishop seems a lot more reasonable - in that he says that the deanery needs to cater for everybody, no matter what their worship style, and the challenge is getting that sorted so nobody feels that they're missing out, or don't have a chance to worship regularly (one problem is that churches who try to diversify end up having 2 out of the month traditional, 2 happy clappy etc and it means that the congregants get confused and are more likely to leave when that happens - it did happen to us, too)

nickelbabe Tue 14-Sep-10 13:11:20

regardign your last point - we already have quite a few carol services going on - the schools do their own in our church, and other churches do them, and we do some in the town.

one problem i've found (especially doing it in a "churches together" thing, is that it doesn't translate into bums on seats - people think it's lovely that we're havinga carol service, but when it's not in a specific church, people don't then go to church after christmas.
St Michael's does 2 proper christmas carol services - 1 advent carol service, which is extremely traditional and we've done it for millions of years, after which we have a buffet - that usually gets the best attendance.
and we do a Nine Lessons and Carols, which again has been going for millions of years, and it's the same one (as in style and content, not a carbon copy!) as they do at King's.
again, people turn out in their droves, but noone ever comes to regular services from them.

niminypiminy Tue 14-Sep-10 16:56:41

yep, really! Probably we have 30 on a very good day. It's a very hard parish.

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