Drivers for Selecting Choral Music in the Intergenerational Church

It’ll come as no surprise that most leaders of choirs find their choral music from major publishers of choral music. While it’s a great idea to talk with your colleagues about effective music used in your own choir, most leaders of choirs I interviewed (and still talk with) listen to, and peruse the websites of, publishers offerings of new choral music. Leaders of choirs usually know what to expect from specific church music publishing houses, especially which arrangers and composers are published. Throughout the years, I have come to trust the product of certain publishers and subscribe to most of the major publishers choral clubs used by my colleagues that lean to “contemporary/blended” worship music in their services. But, as I suggested last week, often our “trust” of what to expect from these publishers limits what our choirs sing if we are not careful. I plan to unpack this idea (and more) more the next several weeks. But, before we dive into the world of church choral music publishing, I want to speak more globally about music selection. Specifically,  I want to touch briefly on what I discovered about what drives leaders of intergenerational church choral ministries to select the choral music for worship services. What I found in my own research in Georgia was that two main factors, text and the ability to present music well, seem to drive the ship.

It should be no surprise that almost all leaders (91.9%) indicated that text was a driving factor for anthem selection. Theological sound lyrics, lyrics that are biblically sound (or even adaptations of Scripture itself), and lyrics that exalt and give glory to Christ, are important to these leaders.

You may recall a few months ago, I wrote about those leaders who indicated that they value leading an intergenerational worship ministry because they believe it is biblical. Read more about it here: Profile of the Worship Leader that values Intergenerational Worship because it’s biblical  If you chose not to click the link, you may recall that fewer than 20 percent of those interviewed indicated this. To me, this is shockingly low! So, when those handful (>20 percent of leaders) were asked what drives the selection of their choral music, only 2/3 of those leaders who reported they should value an intergenerational choir because it was biblical also indicated text as a driving factor for anthem selection. It suggests to me that our leaders understand that need to pick strong, biblical texts, but there seems to be little correlation between text decisions and their biblical understanding to be intergenerational. Apparently they are not mutual inclusive.

Regarding the second driver besides text, almost 60% of leaders indicated the ability to present music well as a major factor for anthem selection. This second most frequent factor was lower in frequency than the first answer, but it makes perfect sense. Excellence and ability for a specific choir to be able to sing and play the song well are very important. No matter the church, it’s important to find songs that are a “win” for your choir. I did discover some interesting information when comparing those leaders who indicated that ability to present well was important. My results suggested that leaders of choirs that are Boomers were more likely than Generation X leaders to indicate this answer…2/3 Boomers to 1/3 of Gen X! I can’t speak to what this means without further study, but I wonder if the higher numbers of Boomers who had advanced (graduate-level) education may play into this answer.

Text and ability to present the music well were not the only answers given to me, but they were the most frequent. I doubt these answers wouldn’t be given by ANY church choral leader regardless of worship philosophy. Remember these answers, because as we journey through my research on the choral literature of these churches, you find that while a strong text is a non-negotiable driver of choral music selection, the ability to present the music well is FAR greater DRIVER of what actually makes it to the worship service.  More to come…

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