SURVEY (New!)   Leave a comment

Some Very Preliminary Survey Results

A heartfelt thanks to the 60 or so brave souls from all over North America who have already completed this survey! I am grateful, happy, and encouraged at the interest in this subject. There is now enough data in the astonishing number of responses we received to produce a ten-page white paper on various aspects of choir choir membership, extrapolated from the information you provided, which we hope to provide in early 2014.

Before that ten-paper is produced, however, we wanted to give you a few preliminary tidbits. Keep in mind that the survey is still open, so the final figures may shift more. And people with good things to report often push those buttons first. But while you’re waiting for our deathless prose with charts and bar graphs, here are a few things to ponder.

  • On the rolls vs. In the pews: About a third of any church’s “stated membership” actually shows up for services at any given time – 35%. Average attendance is right around 250.
  • Choir membership is slipping a bit: Volunteer choir members make up slightly more than 9% of the congregation who are present. The original, and classic, estimate is 10 percent – so that number appears to be shifting downward very slightly. Average volunteer choir membership is 23. The figures 9 percent and 10 percent look close, but statistically speaking, it shows a pretty dramatic decline. More on this when we crunch the numbers at a very sophisticated level.

We can also use this data to identify “elite” groups – the top quartile of those reporting the largest ratio of choir members to congregation members (just ones who show up “in the pews” – the ratio of choir members to parish members “on the rolls” is a separate report).

  • The strongest showing is from high-quality programs: Of “elite” choirs, 30% report that their greatest recruiting tool is “quality of music program, repertoire and singing” or some combination of those. 22% report “word of mouth” is their best tool, and “personal contact” comes in at 18%. There were no other primary responses in the top quartile. Worth noting: “personal contact” is the most frequent response from all who filled out the survey, but it appears more often in those groups that are at or below average in choir-to-pew ratios.

Other interesting factoids:

  • You’re helping singers pay the rent: 80% of reporting choirs have at least one paid soloist or section leader: the average is an astounding two-plus men and two-plus women for those who do pay singers.
  • Women still predominate: Women make up about 62% of volunteer choir members (note: at least one substantial all-male choir parish responded). The numbers of women run from 0 to 70, and the numbers of men run from 0 to 35. Yes, we knew you knew that!
  • The future looks pretty bright: About two-thirds of reporting music directors have at least one youth choir (a very few have two or more!), with an average of 7 boys and 14 girls.

So there’s the start. And an encouraging one it is, because so many of you are not only doing great work, but guiding and training the next generation of singers!

And on a personal note, almost 4% of respondents said, “Hi Ray!” in their comments. Hi back to all of you, and thanks again, very very much.

We are still accepting responses it’s not too late to spend 5 minutes or less participating here’s the link again if you want to chime in!

* * * * *

Dear Colleagues,

Have you wondered if there is some connection between how many choir members you have, and if how many people sit in the pews (or just call themselves members of your church?). There may be none, but let’s find out.

If a report about this would help you in your choir recruiting efforts, budgeting, or just explaining “industry norms” to the leadership of your church, please fill out this simple 10-question survey.

It should take 5 minutes of your time, and I promise to share the results (once my statistician stepdaughter has helped crunch the numbers).

Please feel free to forward this to other church music colleagues as well, in any denomination (more responses = more accurate results), and THANK YOU all for helping our profession codify some important information to keep us current in this new age of metrics.

Many thanks,


Here’s the link:

Posted November 19, 2013 by Ray Urwin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: