Musical Resource List for Small Churches

You don’t need a large choir, paid staff, or huge budget to plan music for worship in your small congregation.

God can use whatever musical potential you and your church already have. These tips will help you make the most of your musical gifts.

Find accessible publishers

Elizabeth “Beth” Broschart is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church, a small congregation in Boyne City, Michigan. She has also led music and choirs in small churches in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Broschart says, “Many publishers feature choral music, but the one I often find most helpful is Praise Gathering. Its music definitely focuses on worship and is helpful in a pinch. Lillenas, with Tom Fettke writes some easy stuff. For impact with piano accompaniment I love Joe Martin and Jack Schrader. Nan Allen also tends to write arrangements that are accessible for small choirs.”

You can search for thousands of choral anthems, instrumental arrangements, and transposable scores from several Christian music publishers at the online Hymnary.org store. It lets you search for music based on a hymn, scripture reference, topic, or musical arranger. You can filter by type, difficulty, format, instrumentation, and liturgical season.

Adoro Music Publishing produces choral and organ music for churches that lead music from an organ or piano. Founder Chris Snyder says, “I can steer you to pieces in our catalog that work well for smaller choirs.”

Learn from other small churches

Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW) and the Alban Institute cooperate on books in the Vital Worship, Healthy Congregations Series. Two books—Where 20 or 30 Are Gathered and From a Mustard Seed—offer special help for planning worship and music in small churches. In cooperation with the Lilly Endowment, CICW has also awarded several worship renewal grants focused on music leadership in small churches.

Where 20 or 30 Are Gathered: Leading Worship in the Small Church was written by Peter Bush and Christine O’Reilly, based on their experience pastoring Presbyterian congregations in rural Ontario. This book can help pastors and music leaders through the culture shock of coming from large urban churches and seminaries to small country congregations.

In From a Mustard Seed: Enlivening Worship and Music in the Small Church, church musician Daryl Hollinger and theologian Bruce Epperly explain how to improve pastor-church musician relationships so small church worship can flourish.

Read descriptions of CICW worship renewal grants geared toward musicians in small churches. Click on “Project Details” to learn more about each grant. At the bottom of each Project Details page, click on “View Poster” to see grant results, photos, and the names of grant project leaders.

Improve your organ and piano skills

Calvin Institute of Christian Worship offered free workshops during its June 2012 meeting of worship renewal grant recipients. Norma deWaal Malefyt, who specializes in congregational song, presented techniques and resources useful for pianists and organists in small churches. While reading her handout isn’t the same as hearing her in person, it summarizes good advice and includes a stellar resource list, including online help for beginning organists. In the handout, PFAS refers to Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship and SNC refers to the contemporary hymnal Sing! A New Creation.

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