Tag Archives: choir

To robe or not to robe…that is the question.

Think choir robes are a thing of the past or only found in very traditional churches? Think again. I realize my data of very narrow sliver of the church choir pie is all that is represented here, but I wonder if the data is similar in other types of church choirs?

In my study on intergenerational choirs in GA Southern Baptist Churches, I found that there were a variety of types of choir attire in our churches. There isn’t anything about these churches being intergenerational that causes them to decide what to wear. What I DID find out was interesting. AND because my study was descriptive only, there really isn’t anything to explain why these churches choose to wear, or not wear, robes.

  1. Almost 60 percent of the leaders reported their choir members wear Sunday attire every Sunday.
  2. Not even 25 percent of the leaders reported their choir members wear robes every weekend.
  3. Not quite 20 percent use a combination of both.
  4. Almost 75 percent of the leaders whose choirs do wear robes every weekend are Boomer leaders. Perhaps this might suggest older leaders lean more towards their use?
  5. Of the choirs that wear robes every weekend, 64 percent of those choirs have average choir attendance between 26-50 persons.
  6. The largest and smallest choirs (by average worship attendance) are more likely to wear Sunday attire only. Anyone shocked that some of the the largest churches still wear robes? Large churches (which for some unfounded reason) are assumed to be “growing” and therefore should look contemporary i.e. NOT wearing robes.  Obviously those who think that should re-think their assumptions!

I realize this is quite a bit of information. What do we do with it? Does any of it surprise you? Does any of it scream, “I knew it, burn the robes…”  Here’s what I think…You must know the culture of your church and community. In some communities, robes seem too formal or stuffy—we want to mirror what our people look like. In other places, robes indicate a uniform look where Sunday attire might be seen as a distraction.

Personally, having served churches with and without robes, there are advantages to both, which I’m sure we could enumerate long lists of. What my research suggests is there is validity and examples of how any combination of attire on Sundays is found throughout our state. Go with the culture of your church, your community, and your personal preferences on what helps limit distractions (stumbling blocks) in worship leadership.

I’d love to hear from some of you regarding your thoughts on robes vs. Sunday attire or combination. What do you think and why?

You have a place here to sing…

Yesterday we had our bi-monthly lunch meeting with those interested in joining our church. It’s always a great time as we get to know our new folks and those new folks get a chance to meet the staff and other leadership of our church. I’m always amazed at the diversity of talents given to each group of people present. Yesterday’s group was larger than normal because we hadn’t had a lunch like this since May.  My role is not only to mingle and get to know the people gathered, but to to also talk about the mission and vision of the music and worship arts ministries here at the church. For me, it’s a perfect time for me to explain the intergenerational nature and philosophy of our music ministry. I try very hard to articulate that anyone with passion and gifted-ness in music has a place to serve in our church. Granted, not everyone will be singing solos, singing on a praise team, or playing instrumental solos, but everyone has a place. I don’t know why it gets me every time, but just about every time I talk about how important it is to value all persons in music ministry, everyone in the room is either nodding in agreement or some are visibly moved to the point that I see their mind churning…I have a place here if I want to serve.

It brings me great joy to talk with several of the families and individuals after the lunch is officially over. One couple, who was present with their recent college graduate daughter, told me about their background in music. The wife hasn’t sung in a group in some number of years, but used to sing in a professional group. Those of you that know me know that my face is the window into my mind. I probably looked stunned as I asked, “why haven’t you been singing in the last church you were in?” The story was familiar…I wasn’t pretty enough, or my voice wasn’t edgy enough, there wasn’t a choir, etc. I shook my head in understanding although after hearing this similar story, I’m still shocked. The word I get (well, most of us here at Ivy Creek) is, “Will, we didn’t know you guys existed. We didn’t know there were churches that not only had a choir and orchestra, but that also valued musical excellence.” I literally hear this story ALL the time. In fact, the next family I spoke with after them basically said the same thing to me. Our previous church’s music was so loud we couldn’t even hear ourselves sing, so we just didn’t sing—WOW! In this family, the husband (who had his children there—all of whom are in their twenties) said that he used to do vocal competitions, yet hasn’t sung in years. My heart sank…and I said, “sir, you have a place here to sing.”

Here are a few observations I’ve picked up, not only from yesterday, but over the last few years as well.

  1. If we do not provide FULLY graded/graduated ( children through adults) musical groups and experiences in our churches, soon our churches will have a severe lack of musically skilled leadership. To me, it’s like saying…only those children and youth that seem to be most spiritually mature should study the Bible; the rest of you can just listen to us talk about it. Or, who cares you spent all that time learning to play your instrument in the band growing—it’s all in the past now.
  2. If we don’t have opportunities for all skill levels of musicians to serve, then we really are saying that only the truly skilled should be valued and used in worship leadership. This is accomplished easily through choral/orchestra ministry, but not entirely necessary. There are other ways to use others to serve in music ministry.
  3. Don’t think that all Millennials and younger Gen Xers value band-driven, modern worship settings only. If I had a dime for how many times I’ve heard a pastor say (or teach or brain-wash their church leadership) into multiple musical styles or changing it entirely, I’d be rich. Point in case: both families I talked with extensively yesterday had children in their 20s. A total of five 20 year olds right in front of me. EVERY single one loved the musical diversity and excellence with which it was presented. We talked about how limited we are in terms of lighting effects and other topics I thought might be interesting to get their 20 year old opinion on, and they said that the musical itself set the mood. One said they felt like they were on a journey to the cross and communion table (which we did have the Lord’s Supper yesterday). I was thrilled that the Holy Spirit had worked in our preparation and it allowed them to worship. Further, I have several Millennials in our orchestra and choir—some of the MOST committed to our ministry in fact. Same for my youth choir. Those kids don’t miss rehearsals and they LOVE to serve in worship!
  4. Be authentic as a church. Figure out who you are and be that. Ivy Creek is unapologetically intergenerational. We know the DNA of our church and who we are. We make no bones about it. There is no surprise if you join our church what you’ll be “signing up” for. Does this mean that we aren’t changing and morphing? Certainly not—we change all the time based on what God brings and develops in our people. But, our intergenerational philosophy, commitment to expositional preaching, and YOU ALL GOSPEL-centered approach guides us firmly. It means we say no to some things that probably would make us “cooler” for a time. It may also appear that we are “stuck” in a previous decade (which is false). We are sure of who we are and the people who walk into our doors get that too.
  5. When leading congregational singing, watch to see who is singing and who is not.  Some refuse to sing…period.  Some songs are so new, only a few who live on Christian radio will be singing—keep singing it however, but do it judiciously. Always, always, always sing something in every service you know just about everyone knows…even if it’s a hymn you really don’t like. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but remember the Holy Spirit can work through you even when a song is not your “jam” to pierce the soul of someone in that room. Personally, there are hymns and choral things we do that just grate on my nerves, but our folks LOVE them and you know what? I believe in mutual submission (Phil 2:4)
  6. One final note…Because our commitment to be intergenerational, my job is to figure out what is the best of the old and the new, musically and otherwise. It’s NOT easy. The term “blended” worship is tossed around, but to blend there needs to cohesion…musically, textually, rhythmically/meter, etc. Worship pastor, don’t be afraid to take some risks when creating the musical journey each week. Just remember your context!

The Mission of the Church should Mirror my Newly Expanded Family.

I’m going to depart from my normal blog post, since a very important event (a celebration really) happened this past weekend. My Dad got re-married this past weekend in my hometown of Enterprise, AL to a wonderful lady, my new step-mom, Suzanne. What a joy it was for my brother Allen and me to officiate the wedding. Not only did we both officiate, but we both sang and played our respective instruments during the celebration. My wife Deanna also sang “The Lord’s Prayer,” my sister read scripture, and my eldest brother Warren was the best man, aka “eye candy.” 😉

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To say it was (and still is) a roller coaster of emotions is putting it lightly. When our mom died a little over 4 years ago, not one of us four children lived near my hometown. We wanted to be there for my Dad, but distance made it difficult. We hoped and prayed for God to comfort my Dad as he grieved. Boy, was God faithful. The community of Enterprise is very special. Scores and scores of his friends made sure he stayed active and connected to church, community, and to the many social events in the area. Shortly thereafter, Dad was asked to join the Coffee County Arts Alliance where we would become reacquainted with the President of that organization, my new step-mother. It didn’t take long for us to realize that Dad seemed happier and soon we found out he was dating her. As their relationship blossomed, so did our love for her.

When my Dad told us he wanted to marry her (after 3 years of dating), he was worried about how we would feel about it and didn’t want us to think that he didn’t still miss my Mom and still loved her. But, we know that…and that was confirmed when my Dad said in his vows that he was lucky to have loved 2 women and for them to love him back. Love expands and grows. I’m convinced that he is happy. His love for Suzanne is strong and yet it doesn’t diminish any love for my mom. We are happy he is happy and excited about this next chapter.

I am reminded that families change, expand, and take on new personalities; churches experience this as well. Because the core of our church is centered on the mission, we always have room to grow, expand, take risks to love and invite new people, but ultimately, we are constantly evolving and morphing. Without change we stop growing. We cease to be unified in one purpose.

Our family has welcomed new persons into our family. Yes, it’s been weird, but we are stronger together than we were apart. The church should mirror this behavior: be welcoming, value the talents of all generations in the church, refuse to give up when conflict arises, but mostly, love one another deeply as Christ as loved us and gave Himself up for us.

“Eye-Candy Warren” prays for the meal and a special blessing on the couple.wedding1