This is part 4 of 6 of What I Learned in a Mega Church. You can read about Pastoral Care for Musicians in a Mega Ministry here, get 4 Tips for Managing the Stress and Multiple Priorities of Mega Ministry here, and understand why You Don’t Have To Be A Big Church To Have A Great Church Staff here.
A 10 Step Checklist
In my experience in a number of Mega Churches, a choir tour was one of the highlights. You may think that a tour is only for large churches, but in fact a tour is generally numerically organized around the number of seats in a tour bus. If you can find 40 or so people (not all of them need to be choir members, or singers from your church) who are interested, and willing to put forth the effort, a tour is possible even for a small church.
First Ask Why
The experience of a choir tour can be a life changing event for your singers and your church. But it is a large-scale project, lasting a year or more, and should not be entered into without proper preparation. You can save yourself a lot of headache by doing one thing first.
Define the Why: The what or where are more important once they know why. It’s important to first define why you want to have the tour in the first place. Create energy around the why!
Once you have identified, communicated, and achieved buyin to the Why, these are the mechanics of planning and conducting a choir tour.
Making the Initial Decision
First of all, no matter where you go on tour, within the US or out of the country, don’t do it all yourself. This is a primary principle. Get a tour project team and allow them to develop and manage the process under your leadership.
Here is a step-by-step checklist for the project.
1. Create a project team: Find people knowledgeable and interested in tours. Create a small team (3-5 people) with diverse skills and include one person not in the choir. Some skills to consider include writing (for communications within the choir, within the congregation and also external communications), negotiation (for dealing with service providers), social (for developing the travel culture…it’s care of the flock and prevents travel stress), marketing (don’t depend on the local church, school or other venue to promote your concert…do it yourself in collaboration with the local folks), and project management (to take this off of your plate). Be sure they own their part of the process. You retain veto power, but work hard to not have to use it.
2. Define the destination: Choose a destination that appeals to a majority of the choir. It’s hard enough to sell the tour, so don’t make it harder by choosing a destination that’s hard to sell as well.
3. Define the level of service: Choose a price package profile that will fit the financial needs of the choir. There are several classes of hotel and tour companies to consider.
4. Open the bidding process: There are many choices for tour companies specializing in choir tours. Do your homework and do your background checks. You’ll find that you have lots of worthy choices. One resource is the ACDA National Convention trade show participants. Look them up online or attend the conference. Get more than one bid on the travel package. You might be surprised at the differences in the bids. You will learn who provides the best package and gives you the most value by comparison. This process is very educational.
5. Vet each tour company: Get at least 3 references of previous clients. Ask how long these directors have used the tour company and if they were given the value promised. Also ask if there were problems and how those problems were resolved. Ask how many times they have used the same tour company and if the service was consistent. (Sometimes, tour companies get complacent with a choir that they feel they don’t need to impress, so be sure of the integrity of the tour provider.)
For tours within the US you can certainly make the arrangements with local concert venues and hotels, however a tour company might provide extra value by getting you discounts or these that you can’t get yourself. Sometimes, a company has gotten a choir into a concert venue that they could not get into themselves.
In addition to the above, for tours outside the US be sure that you understand the local culture and traditions. A well seasoned tour company that specializes in choir tours understands the culture and knows how to set you up for a good experience. They do earn their fee. There a many details for each country that will cause problems if you are not aware of them.
6. Set up a Communication Protocol: When church members don’t have information, they make it up…and it’s typically wrong. Have a person dedicated to information and communications. This is a key item!
7. Set up a Marketing Process: Assign this to someone skilled in this area. Market the tour internally and externally. You might get someone in the congregation or community that wants to go on the tour. It’s a good way to prospect for new choir members.
8. Schedule Regular Meetings: Gather the tour group, prospects, and other interested parties on a regular basis and share updates. The experience is about the relationship within the group, so begin this process early and maintain it.
9. Schedule High Visibility Events: Hold a funding concert, a departure concert, and or a welcome home concert. These build community within the choir and the congregation.
10. Schedule an Evaluation Session: When you recruit the project team, ask for a 13 month commitment that includes a follow up evaluation session. Gather the team soon after the tour and let them create an evaluation. I have used three questions, and get everything I need: 1) What went well (things to keep next time); 2) What to change (or things not to do again or stop); and 3) New things to consider (this includes other destinations, different WHY to theme, or different tour company).
Happy touring…have you started planning your 2016 or 2017 tour yet?
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