From time to time we are all looking for new musicians to join our ringing ensembles. We hope you may find some of these thoughts useful in your efforts to find your next new ringer!
Define your target population.
This can be as simple as an age group, such as middle school or adults. Or, you may want to attract people from a certain geographic area, like the neighborhood around you, to offer ringing to the community. Knowing and empathizing with your target group will help you find ways to appeal to their wants and needs.
Grow your own.
If your target group is middle school, in addition to recruiting middle school consider also beginning a ringing program with bells or chimes for children. That way, you have a steady pool of experienced and enthusiastic ringers to move into your middle school choir. It might be a weekly group or a seasonal experience that will expose the children to ringing and pique their interest. Sometimes, parents can be enticed to ring after seeing the fun the kids are having!
Start with an established population.
If your church already has an active youth group, senior group, Sunday School, VBS or choir this is a built-in way to start a new group. Introducing ringing to the group can be done in a variety of ways: bring in a performing group to generate interest, offer a hands-on class, and add ringing as an activity to enhance the group’s programming, like a group-building activity or rote ringing.
Also, if you can gain the support and enthusiasm of a few key people that will guarantee your success in that you’ve sold it to the “cool crowd” and they will invite and bring in the others. Without these “salespeople” it can be a longer, more difficult task to accomplish.
Sell, sell, sell!
As you are out looking for your “salespeople” don’t forget that you are the lead salesperson in creating enthusiasm and energy for starting or re-building your ringing program. You must adopt the attitude that this is something so GREAT that you can’t stop talking about it! Everywhere, to everyone! Actually, this will become your state of being because recruitment season never ends! Just when you think you have your ringing personnel set, someone will move, marry, have a baby or just quit. Constantly recruiting will hopefully give you a lead on who you can tap next to fill that spot. And, if you are fortunate enough to have or acquire duplicate bells or chimes you can go ahead and start a new ringer at any time once you’ve made a successful “sell.”
THE SECRET IS...
Are you ready? I’m going to lay it out for you. The secret to successfully recruiting new people to try handbell ringing can be summed up in two words: personal invitation. Reaching out to friends, acquaintances and the person at the store who sees your handbell shirt will be successful if you make it personal for them. To elaborate, your conversation must relate to them what ringing offers you plus what it might offer them. Here’s a way to remember the elements of a personal invitation:
Person to person
Flyers, articles in the newsletter and other less personal invitations can be effective in grabbing attention but it’s the sharing between people that really sells the ringing experience. Let’s face it; handbell ringing requires a lot of commitment so it’s up to us to sell what ringers can also get out of it, i.e., what makes it worth all that effort and commitment? Think about your own answer to that as well as asking your ringers why they choose to ring and you’ll have your own unique selling points to share with prospective ringers.
Your enthusiasm must come through in your conversation, share why you started, what’s fun about it, how you think ringing makes a difference in other’s lives and what you think this individual person might also find in the experience.
Ready to share
Being willing to personally invite and share is essential but preparation is also key. Think through what you will say to someone before the opportunity presents itself. Gather 3 key points that you think sell your handbell program for kids, for youth, for adults. Have a business card on hand with contact information so this person can follow up later and if you are really good, you’ll walk away with the prospect’s phone, Facebook or email information!
In addition to your 3 selling points above, your conversation should involve listening so that you can offer subjective information relating to that person’s experience and background. Does she have children? You will want to mention that free childcare is available onsite or if this is a college student mention another college student who rings in your group and how it works around his class schedule.
Outside your walls
Internal publicity is always warranted and is usually where we find most of our new ringers but if our mission as a church is to reach out then it is critical that you also give effort to outside publicity that reaches those not connected directly with your church. Certainly flyers in public places, posts on community calendars and other music groups is always good but try to empower your ringers to wear their shirts, buttons, etc…. out where they go; to take business cards with them, to post on the their Facebook pages about what they do and send personal invites to Facebook friends; to invite members of the community band the play in, their Bunko group, the neighbor next door who played clarinet in high school. Really the possibilities are many if you just take them.
“Now” is a word describing the present state but also one that continues… now is always occurring and NOW is when you need to be radically recruiting because you never know when or where your next ringer will be found.
Make up your mind that recruiting is fun, will gain you new friends, will share a bit about handbell ringing and yourself with others and is a good thing. A positive attitude will gain you much more opportunity to talk about your ministry than keeping all the fun to yourself. But, you must decide you will do it.
It’s for the love of the church, of God and of His people that we will ring, that we talk to others about ringing and that we want to include others in the ministry of ringing. We have love to share and ringing is how we do it. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
A State of Readiness
Always be prepared if a new ringer should actually show up at your rehearsal. Sounds basic but you don’t want to stare at the person blankly while you are thinking “How am I going to show you how to ring when we perform on Sunday? And, do this without frustrating the other ringers?” Anything from observing to doubling a part or malleting a note or just getting acquainted is sufficient. The goal is to make the person feel welcomed and that they can be a part of the group; avoid saying “I’m sorry I don’t have time to show you ringing basics tonight, can you come back?” Try instead “It’s great to meet you/glad you are here/come on in!” and lay out the agenda for them: let’s introduce everyone, then you can observe our rehearsal and before you leave let’s set a time when you and I can work together on what you need to learn to ring.” In other words, don’t sideline your rehearsal plans but include the person in any way possible and set a definite time to meet again. After 2-3 individual sessions you may have a ringer confident enough to join the group rehearsal.
A Set of Bells is a Set of Bells
So, what, if your church owns 6 octaves of bells and chimes and you only ring 2 octaves? Don’t set such a high standard for resurrecting your program that you never get anywhere. Get a small group going while constantly putting out the word that you are having a great time and there is always room for one more person!
Prepare Your Choir to Be Welcoming
If you know a new ringer is attending rehearsal be sure your ringers know in advance what the person’s name is, where they are going to ring or if they are observing and any other pertinent information. Make sure they know to get the person gloves and to show them around as well as introduce them to other members of the choir. That way whomever is there when she arrives will already and know she was coming, what her name is and how they can begin helping her feel comfortable. While most of this is common sense, don’t leave it to chance that your ringers won’t take the initiative in welcoming someone to your group.
If you are doubling a part, try to talk with the established ringer ahead of time so they are not blind-sided by this information. While it is an honor to be asked to help along a newbie it is also a responsibility and ringers sometimes feel cheated by sharing a part. However, if they understand that their efforts will lead to a new, capable and independent ringer it makes the sacrifice worthwhile. As a matter of fact, my choice of mentor ringer’s has done this enough that we simply call the extra folder needed for doubling the “Becki” folder because she has used it so much with new ringers. So, rather than call it the extra folder it has a title of honor using her name; this seems more inviting to a visitor than the “extra folder”. The word “extra” implies unnecessary, additional and not required and that is NOT the way we want a new ringer to feel.
Pump Up the FUN Factor
People join groups for a lot of reasons but one of the main reasons people will tell you they ring is because it is fun. So, this is definitely one of our selling points in gaining someone’s interest in joining. When you have socials, be sure you take a picture of the group having fun. You are having social time, aren’t you? It need not be elaborate, just bring a plate of brownies and after rehearsal people will hang around a few minutes and chat. (Chat ‘n Chocolate?) Or, after a performance you might meet up somewhere for lunch. As leaders we need to be the ones that get this going, by planning or asking a ringer to plan, times for fellowship.
Make sure you highlight in your articles and personal conversations the most fun performance you’ve had, whatever it was as well as what is coming up that is fun and exciting.
Try to be objective and consider what others perceive your group is all about. Do you think the outside observer would say you look like you’re having fun? Or at least enjoying ringing? Do you enjoy being together? Sometimes it’s beneficial to think about how you look to those outside your group to understand what kind of impression others have of your group.
Tag Team Approach
This is where you find another area, like youth ministries, or a special event where handbell ringing could be added to the activities. We all have events where the organizers would love to have some “entertainment” which can work to your advantage. Offer to bring in handbells or Choirchimes as a group building or ice breaker activity or pass out bells or Choirchimes and do chord ringing or Ring Along Songs by Ardis Freeman. Take note of who really seems to enjoy it and plan a short-term commitment ringing activity as a trial and invite them right then and there. Sometimes people will try something when they feel that is isn’t an open-ended commitment. Make sure the short-term choir has a special purpose in being: performance on a special Sunday or other highlighted event that will provide lots of visibility and purpose for the group.
A situation where another area needs a boost could be an opportunity to add handbell ringing. Many churches use ringing as part of their choir hour so that all the children sing and ring. This kind of blending of programs benefits both as children who like to sing will experience ringing and those who come for the ringing will be singing.
Also part of a Tag Team approach is to directly ask for help from another area of your church. In our church the 2 areas this might work with is adult Sunday School and the youth department. As you make your plans for an activity that will entice people to try ringing consider how these staff people or volunteers in the area might help you. Then, be very specific and ask then being sure to get a commitment.
For example, ask the youth director to include your new youth ringing group (or whatever you plan) in his youth schedule, PR and to basically consider it part of the programming for youth. And, to go further to talk with the youth and recommend 5 youth he thinks should be involved. Conversely, be certain that you also support the youth program by not conflicting with their planned activities just as he should respect your scheduled meetings. This kind of cooperation will serve to make the entire church stronger and more connected; not just one or the other area.
Recently I’ve experienced a new influx of former youth ringers returning after college to ring in the adult evening ensemble. I have periodically organized a college bell choir in coordination with the Micah (college-age singing choir) at Christmas or during the summer. This is one of the goals of the Micah ministry: to keep young adults connected to the church while they are in college so they will have friends and connections still intact when they return.
Joining a variety of ages into one choir can be a rewarding experience for all but it isn’t for everyone. When adults and youth or children ring together members will need to have a healthy dose of understanding, empathy and patience for each other. Expectations will need to be adjusted based on the experience and capabilities of the individuals. For example, children or youth will bring a level of energy and activity to a group that some adults may find distracting or even annoying. However, it is sometimes just these differences that make an intergenerational choir so much fun.
Even joining diverse ages together for a one time choir can be fun. Ideas such as a special choir including family members all together could be a great experience that ringers will long remember. During summer, parents and youth or children could join together to learn a piece for July 4 or for Back to School or Rally Day. Using this idea to kick-off and new or additional ringing ensemble could work by seeding the new choir with the intergeneration choir members.