Is Choral Literature in the Intergenerational Church Actually Varied?

One of my favorite portions of the research I conducted on choral ministries in the intergenerational church, was finding out what types of music the music and worship leaders of these churches chose to use with their choirs. If you asked most church musicians what type of music best suits the intergenerational church, you’d most likely get a response that includes “a little bit of everything.” While I believed this to be true before I researched the literature of intergenerational churches, I discovered there was more to discover than simply defining what types of music are used in these choral ministries. ***By the way, I DO agree that multiple music types should be used as often as possible in worship. This does not mean that you should employ literature that is completely out of context for your church culture. See my post from a couple of weeks ago when I discussed this topic: Building relationships in your community is the key to creating a more diverse church

This blog post is one of many I will share what I found and explain what I believe is driving the musical choices in our choral ministries. I don’t think you’d be surprised at what I found, but the implications are far-reaching.  I will share a few highlights here and then use the next few posts to go into greater detail.  Here are some highlights to whet your appetite. As a reminder, these are generalizations and specific data will be presented in the coming weeks:

In regards to choral literature, music and worship leaders of intergenerational churches have this in common:

  1. Say that a biblical text is a driving factor in selection of choral music, but when asked why they espouse intergenerational philosophy, many do not indicate because it’s biblical.
  2. Say they value a variety of music types, BUT the variety usually consists of only 2-3 music types.
  3. The major choral music types in intergenerational churches are: Contemporary, hymn arrangements, southern gospel, traditional anthems, and black gospel. These are not found equally and I think you’ll be surprised by the un-balanced use of these choral music types.
  4. Choices of music literature are generally dictated by what the major church music publishers send/push to the music leader.
  5. Buy music from these major church music publishers which lean towards only 2 (possibly 3) music types and publish/promote literature as such

So—the question becomes—who’s driving the ship? The publishers are supposedly listening to  the consumer (church musicians) about what they want and will buy, but then if they never “push the envelope” or take chances on something multi-cultural or other ethnic-sounding literature, the consumer (church musicians) aren’t very likely to look for literature outside the publishers they trust.

In the coming weeks, we will be dealing with the following questions:

  1. What are intergenerational music leaders looking for in choral music for their choirs—musical, textual, non-musical, etc.?
  2. What percentages of choral music may be categorized into the music types that are most prevalent?
  3. Of the major publishers used by intergenerational choral music leaders, what are the music types most prevalent in the music they sell and is the correlation between what is sold and what is sung in our churches?
  4. What is the percentage of solo-driven choral literature used by each music leader and how does the presence of solo-driven literature correlate with your vision to treat all as equally important? OR is the literature presented by the publishers dictating the over/under-use, of solo-driven literature?
  5. What are some of the favorite anthems of these choirs and what are the music types of those anthems? Do these findings correlate to “general” literature chosen for worship.
  6. What types of accompaniments are being used by these churches and does that have any affect on the literature sung?

Looking forward to sharing these discoveries with you. My HOPE in all this is simply to help the music leader remember that there are MANY places for choral music that will not only engage multiple generations, but also multiple ethnicities in our churches today.

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