Tag Archives: choir

Living in Community is the Hallmark of the Intergenerational Church

Community– a group of people “who have a sense of common purpose(s) and/or interest(s) for which they assume mutual responsibility, who acknowledge their inter-connectedness, who respect the individual differences among members, and who commit themselves to the well-being of each other and the integrity and well-being of the group.”  Wood and Judikis, Coversations on Community Theory, 2002.

When I read this definition through the lenses of what the church (local and global) should resemble, I was convicted. This definition is convicting and thus challenging because we’ve got some work to do as communities of faith that are unified in one purpose and mutually submissive to one another. In the area of music for our churches, which is too often divisive anyway, we tend to lean on our preferences and not on how we can live in community.

One of the hallmarks of the intergenerational church (music ministry) is that we strive to live in community where all ages should feel valued and important. However, it’s a struggle. Here are a few ideas of how intergenerational communities of faith can make strides in being more authentic in striving for community:

  1. Involve others in the process of making music. Never underestimate the musical talents of your team. Don’t be afraid to use them to help for sectional rehearsals, orchestra sectionals, and the like. Often, the collaborative team-work approach often produces a better overall sound. Again, all the help from your team must be directed and overseen by you. Don’t let someone have carte blanche when ultimately it is your job to protect the musical and theological integrity of the music ministry. Invest in others and work together—don’t just push tasks off on other leaders without purpose.
  2. Involve others in leadership planning of worship services.  Yes, we should involve others in the “doing” of music ministry, but I bet there are folks with theological and musical training that can assist in helping plan worship services.  Planning with a team is hard work, but the creativity gained and ownership from the whole is worth the time and effort.
  3. Involve others in making overall worship ministry decisions.  Beyond musical and worship service related decisions, I find it helpful to have persons dedicated to helping “steer” the direction of the worship ministry. At our church, we have Music Ministry officers that act in this way. They hear the vision and direction from me, while adding add input, revisions, and the like. When decisions are made (even not so popular ones) the group has made them collectively, which I think adds more weight to the decision. With this said, often there are decisions that must be made outside the collaborative experience with your lay leaders. However, when possible, use your lay leaders in helping make decisions.
  4. Regularly celebrate the importance of each person in the ministry. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is vital all members of your community (music ministry) feel important. Remind them of the biblical importance of music in worship and how they are being the body of Christ as worship leaders in the church.
  5. Celebrate what makes your local church unique. I cannot stress this one enough. All churches, even those inside the same zip code, are not equal. Some have choirs and orchestras, some have a band only, some piano and organ, or any other combination you can think of. Some are very casual; others are not. There is much to be said here (another blog post soon), but every congregation is different. Their corpus of music is different. In the not so distant past, most Baptist congregations were similar in their congregational music. Now, with the advent of technology, this is not the case. I remember when I arrived almost five years ago to Ivy Creek, I asked our music leadership to make a list of the top 25 or so congregational songs (and choir favorites) so I could get a feel for where the church has been prior to my arrival. I still refer to the list…
  6. Be authentic as a leader, but willing to stretch. As a leader, you are the sum total of your experiences to date. To be asked to make a 180 degree shift in worship leading style is unfair and ultimately detrimental to the leader and the church. However, the leader should always be willing to stretch out of his or her comfort zone musically to some degree when needed. If we are to truly live in community, we must sing theologically-rich songs, both old and new, and everything in between. The only difference may be that in some churches, the medium of musical presentation might be a band in one church or a piano and organ in another. Whatever the case, strive for excellence and lead with high expectations. I remember my pastor saying to me a few years ago, “Will, you set the bar for excellence for your choir so high knowing that just below that is where they’ll end up and that’s your plan all along.” At first I wasn’t sure how to take this comment until he explained that I’m always striving for the perfect sound/blend/articulation/vowel placement, but I’m thrilled because while they might not achieve professional sound, they are far better than they were and I’m okay with that. Always aim high, my friends. Be authentic and real and appreciate your people when they give their best for the Lord. 

From Generation to Generation…

Psalm 71:18 ESV

“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”

Two weeks ago, I was tagged in a picture on Facebook of my youngest son working on his memory verses in AWANA with one of our wonderful volunteers. The one who took the picture wanted to make sure I got the picture, not only because it had a picture of my son learning the Word, but because it was a wonderful picture about who we are as the body of believers—steeped in intergenerational relationships. But the story doesn’t end there…

You see, this gentleman helping my “wild child” (seriously, the fact that he isn’t moving in the picture is shocking!) is not a grandparent or relative of any child in our AWANA program. He simply loves working with children and investing in the next generation. He gets it…he is faithful to serve even though he probably could simply say, “you know what, I’ve done my part; it’s time for someone else to serve.” But no, he serves not only faithfully, but intentionally.  A couple of weeks ago, he called me and was very concerned that he had been too hard on my child (impossible, by the way) because he had not finished memorizing his memory verse. He wanted to discuss how we can help him commit these verses to memory and how he could help customize his approach to teaching/coaching him so he’ll be able to hide the Word of God in his heart. I can’t tell you how this thrills a father’s heart to hear someone so intentional about investing in my child. This gentlemen is a blessing to our church and to my family even in the midst of his personal grief.  He just lost his precious wife in the last year after many years of marriage. Over the last year, he hasn’t curled up into a ball and let his grief consume him; rather, he has continued to serve the Lord and invest in kids.

This story is a perfect picture of the church in action…all generations learning and working together…old teaching young, and young keeping old energized and feeling useful. Encouraging and using volunteers in children’s ministry of all ages helps cement the fact that “we’re in this together.” While this is an extreme age difference of how intergenerational ministry may be used in the local church, it doesn’t have to be. I’ve used youth that have graduated from children’s ministry to serve in children’s ministry as well. Often youth have a penchant for technology, crafts, or recreational ministries that can used to build relationships while modeling servant behavior. The youth view leadership positions as a honor and the kids love seeing kids closer to their own age paving the way.

There are many ways that all ages can serve outside the typical ministry positions within a local church body. Some are found by necessity due to size and availability (or lack thereof), but in the end, the church is stronger and better when everyone works within the gift-set given to the glory of God and the building of His Kingdom.


Printed Scores vs. Projected Lyrics in the choir in the Intergenerational Church

Have you ever wondered if church choirs today are using printed scores when they sing or do they only use a confidence monitor (or projected lyrics) when they sing? If you said no, you’re probably not alone! When I was researching the choir in the intergenerational church, I wondered if the “appearance” of memorized music was prevalent in these churches. What I found was for choral anthems/specials, there really wasn’t a stand-out method of transmitting lyrics.  Here’s the data:

  1. Almost 31 percent always use printed scores when they sing choral numbers
  2. 21 percent used printed scores and project lyrics simultaneously
  3. Only 11 percent use projected lyrics

When cross-comparing with other data, here is what I found about these choirs:

  1. Every choir who uses only printed music for choral numbers wears robes.
  2. Choirs that were dominated by higher numbers of young people (especially Gen X) used projected media when presenting their choral numbers.
  3. Larger choirs and choirs in larger churches (1000+ in weekly worship attendance) use projected media all the time. The thought here is more people in the choir makes it easier to “follow along” if you don’t have a score.
  4. More than half of the choirs that use projected media for choral numbers wore Sunday attire and not robes in their worship services.

This data suggests that since those choirs that are Gen-X dominant used projected media for choral numbers, while the converse was true for the Boomer dominant choir, a director should alter their plans for lyric transmission based on their group OR desire to attract. This thinking is not that simple. While the data suggests what others are doing and there might be some comparisons to your own church, it doesn’t take into account every situation you might be in.  Here is what I do know that can complicate everything I’ve said. What would you add?:

  1. Some churches don’t want to use printed scores simply because they want to be free to express themselves in worship with their bodies and communicate truth with their faces. Some leaders find the converse to be true, the choir members shouldn’t bring attention to themselves when presenting choral music.
  2. Those who use combinations of printed scores and projected lyrics really want everyone to refer to the score when they need it, but what they REALLY want is for their choir members to get their heads out of the MUSIC and communicate the truth of the text.
  3. Some leaders don’t want their choir members staring at a confidence monitor in lieu of looking at the leader.
  4. Some churches still don’t have a way to project lyrics to the choir so it’s not even an option.

At our church, we use a combination of both. Part of the reasoning has to do with rehearsal time. We simply don’t have enough to time to internalize something to the point where I feel everyone is comfortable not using the score. With that said, I do insist we forgo printed scores on several things, but only because quality and confidence are more important to me than it just looking good.  If I could, I wouldn’t use scores at any service, but I would like for them to be as prepared as they were with scores.

Here’s a list of things that dictate why I do that I do:

  1. At Ivy Creek, we use both printed scores and projected lyrics most of the time and don’t wear robes. Our choir membership is 93 and our weekly worship attendance is presently over 600.
  2. I have a large number of music readers, but the volume of literature we sing makes it hard to memorize everything, even though I provide listening examples.
  3. I insist that we look uniform when we sing with or without scores. By this I mean, all looking towards me, eyes on the director, etc.
  4. If the Spirit moves you, feel free to express that praise, but remember, if it becomes a distraction to those around you or causes people to stare at you, you’ve missed the point.
  5. Because we use scores frequently, I remind the choir often to look up and not sing into the book. Even though we go through lots of literature, we are never unprepared (unless you’re not coming to rehearsals).
  6. Even though we are a large choir (over 75 persons), we haven’t been that big very long. While it’s easy to depend the shear number of people in some choirs, more than half of my choir hasn’t been in the choir longer than 4 years! That said, their “muscle memory” for long-time favorites doesn’t exist, because there are no long-time favorites or “sugar-sticks!”

Most of those leaders I’ve spoken with who are hard-core believers in not using scores frequently DO NOT learn lots of new literature in a year. And rightly so, most people need lots of time learning their part the first time a round or have more rehearsal time than I have. Those with larger choirs and more music readers MIGHT be able to learn music quicker, although it is not guaranteed.

What are your thoughts?