By Dr. Charlotte Kroeker, CMI Executive Director and Rev. Rich Rosenfeld, PCUSA Chaplain, Maj, USAF (Ret.)
April is the month to file our taxes, and many of us are collecting our contribution receipts from the prior year to tally for inclusion on our Form 1040. What some of our readers may not know is, according to a Chorus America study, all choir singers are more philanthropic than non-choir singers, so chances are that the dollars contributed by church choir singers are more than average church members too.
What may not be so obvious, however, is the value behind the service of these choral singers to the church, value not deductible on the IRS Form 1040. For example, if the choir season runs from September through May, for 9 months (36 weeks), with an average commitment of 4 hours per week (assuming more in Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter and less other times), that is 144 hours per person per year. At $20 per hour, that is $2,880 contributed per choir singer. For a 20 person choir, that is a contribution of $57,600. For a 40 person choir, $115,200.
If the distance to church is an average of 20 miles round trip for 72 trips (rehearsal + worship service) at the IRS rate of 56 cents per mile, add another $806.40 per person. That raises the total contribution for a 20 person choir to $73,728, or $2,048 per service, and for a 40 person choir to $147,456 or $4,096 per service.
While few churches could probably afford to pay for our choral contributions, they nevertheless are a significant portion of how we define “church” since the worship service is the main point of contact for most persons who are members of a church. Further, research shows that 30-60% of a church service consists of music, much of it sung, much of it led by the choir who enable the congregation to sing to their best ability. When all sing their best, the praise and prayer of the people are at their best.
Not all church members give in the same way. Some give of financial resources while others give of themselves. Recently, in the choir where Rich and Charlotte sing a member died who could never give a lot financially. Yet he sang faithfully in the choir, riding multiple buses and trains to and from the church for hours each way, never late for rehearsal or services, always present in the tenor section whenever the choir was singing. He was a member of the choir family, a fully contributing member who may not have made an entry on his 1040, but he made an entry on our hearts and on the life of our congregation.
Luke 21:1-4: “He [Jesus] looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them: for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”
The cost of choir discipleship may not be tax deductible. It may not always be appreciated. But those of us who make the investment know a secret: it has to be one of the best ways to learn to be a disciple with some of the best people you will ever know.