If we say that we value all ages/all people while serving an intergenerational church, but fail to demonstrate that value in our context practically, then we certainly don’t “speak truth” with our actions. We leaders often take for granted that simply being multi-generational automatically means that we are taking intentional steps to show that every person in our ministry has value, feels important, and has a voice. Granted, it is impossible to please everyone (and we are not called to do so; rather, we are called to be faithful to God’s calling on our lives), but we can take the advice and suggestions of several of our Georgia Baptist worship leaders in intergenerational churches on how to practically demonstrate value for our choir members of varying ages (and church members alike). The following is a list of the four most frequent responses I found in my research on intergenerational choirs in Georgia Baptist Churches. Results are presented in rank order, most frequent first.
- Use of varying choral literature with the choir
Almost half of those I interviewed indicated they use a variety of music types in their choral literature. Each leader indicated that by providing “options” in terms of style and music type allowed them to show they cared about the musical preferences of all of the choir members in the choir. Frankly, the fact that fewer than half of those interviewed indicated this response was surprising to me because music is a key component of the ministry. What better way to show that you (as a leader) care about the choir members from all ages than to sing songs in a wide array of styles—because very few people love ALL styles and types of church music.
A little teaser for a later blog post: My research on choral music types in the literature reveals that a “wide array” of music types is not actually being presented in most churches because of the narrow focus of the major church music publishers…
- Treat all the same.
Maybe it just seemed like a “Sunday School” answer to me, but I found it interesting that many of the leaders answered the question by just saying…”well, I just try and value them all equally.” At first I remember thinking, “these answers aren’t helping me…what do you actually mean?” As I probed further, I found that while I thought it was too obvious an answer, for some of these leaders, the act of NOT preferring one generational group (perhaps their own generational cohort) is harder than I thought. That said, who among us hasn’t felt pressured to be nice to the generational group that can best serve your “needs” at the time? Admit it, we’ve all felt like we’ve needed to be nice to the perceived choir members that carry the most influence in our church. Conversely, maybe you’ve felt like you need to be nice to the newer younger couple in choir and treat them “special” because you’ve been “desperate” for some new blood in your choir. Not only are these temptations real, they are being acted on each week. The Bible says in James 2:1: My brothers and sisters, you are believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. So treat everyone the same.
So, while at first this answer seemed trite, the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced how important it is to the conversation. The act of treating all the same is not easy for many of us. We must constantly work to prevent being labeled as one who has favorite soloists, praise team members, or other volunteer leaders. We must ask ourselves constantly, “am I showing favoritism or am I being equatable” in each decision made?
- Vocal and/or written encouragement from the director/leader.
Along with the first two, almost half of those interviewed also indicated that encouragement from the leader is essential to demonstrating value. Here at Ivy Creek, I encourage our care group leaders to contact their assigned choir members regularly, but also I do my best to stay in contact with all the choir members. often the care group members let me know when I need to get involved and I thank them for that. I do my best to write letters of encouragement (handwritten mostly) as the need arises. Even text messages and phone calls go a long way on birthdays. This response is really an extension of the second response to treat others the same. Showing encouragement is an intentional way to show you care by being genuinely interested in your people. A word of caution: never say you’re too busy to write a note or make a phone call (even send a quick e-mail). I’ll bet there are several folks in your ministry that could help you facilitate written communication (think birthday cards, etc.). Think ahead, because we are in the people business first and we never should forget that.
Soloists and/or Praise Team Members selected from all generations.
About a quarter of the leaders indicated that make this [valuable] step a part of their way of demonstrating value to all choir members. The praise team members and soloists should reflect the generational make-up of your church…period! Making this happen isn’t always easy, especially if the only decent singers in your church are not the demographic you need to round out the generations most present in your church.
In our church we have a wide variety of singers and soloists from each generation. We are BLESSED to have MANY talented folks so being generationally diverse is as easy as scheduling and making sure there is diversity. If my team, for a particular week, is from an older generational cohort, I don’t not alter the musical worship “set” to fit what I think they might like. I make sure young and old team members sing the gamut of music in our repertoire. However, if you’re reading this and saying, “Will, I have only two singers worth singing a solo and no Praise Team and both my singers are 65, but I have a lot of younger families in my church. What do I do? Do I sacrifice the quality to parade a younger, much less experienced singer on the platform so we can “reflect” better who we are?” I would say emphatically, “NO!” The quality of the music, so it’s not a distraction, is very much important. However, insomuch as you CAN be generationally diverse, do it. Truth is, often there are other ways to involve younger faces on the platform without sacrificing the sound. Have them participate in other ways such as: reading a scripture verse, playing an instrument (if possible), singing in the choir (remember, the soloist and praise team are NOT more important than the choir anyway), and the like. Be creative. Remember the concept and apply as you can.
As it is with any other blog I write, the themes of intentionality and thoughtfulness to be inclusive of all generations while being creative in the process, are themes that are vital to leading a vibrant intergenerational worship ministry. Remember that people who volunteer in your ministry are called by God to serve, but they choose to serve with YOU because you care about the value you bring to the table. It’s our jobs as leaders to find the value in each person and use it to its fullest potential