Tag Archives: choirs in worship

I’m a Champion of Intergenerational Worship Because of My Grandfather

If you asked me what life event compelled me to be a champion for intergenerational worship, I’d quickly tell you it was my singing in the adult choir in my home church next to my grandfather while in high school.

When I was fifteen, I had just felt the call of the Lord to vocational ministry. I was hungry to get some experience learning, watching, and singing in an adult choir since this is what I wanted to do with my life. My grandfather, who had always sung in our church choir, personally contacted our minister of music asking if I could sing with them. In fact because I was only fifteen, he agreed to bring me home after choir practice each week. I was honored to get to sit next to him in the choir and to get to see a different side of him than I did normally. I met some other great giants of the faith in our church and we worshiped together while making music and sharing life together. Little did I know how significant this experience would be for me, because honestly, in the early 1990s it was normal to know and experience worship with all ages.

My grandfather was a great singer, but not a music reader. He was, however, what I would call a great functional music reader. He knew basic rhythms and could follow his part very well. His tonal memory and retention were excellent. He used to kid me that with my music reading skills next to him, he became a better musician himself. Of course having his approval meant everything to me. He’d invested so much in my own life; I was honored I could even invest in his in some way.

My favorite memory during those years singing with him was during a particularly difficult choir rehearsal. We were working on a difficult passage and our music minister kept stopping us constantly. You could tell my grandfather was getting a little frustrated, and I was too. We were sight-reading so it wasn’t familiar to us yet. I’ll never forget what happened next because I can still remember distinctly to this day. He said to me, “You know, we’d get this the next time around if he’d just let us do it again.” This stuck with me and I remembered thinking, “I better remember this so I don’t frustrate my own choirs.”

Fast forward several years and I’m directing my first church choir while in college. We’re reading a new piece and there were tricky parts and I started stopping every measure or so to correct. I could hear the deep sighs in my choir room and immediately I was ushered back to that moment when my grandfather’s voice echoed in mine and said, let them do it again–pick your battles–it’s frustrating to start and stop all the time. I’ve tried to mend my ways—you’ll have to ask those I lead if I’ve gotten any better over the years!

Fast forward to today. I think about my years singing with my grandfather often. It was one of the sweetest and formative times in my life. I learned what it meant to BE in a church choir and the community building it affords. I learned as much, if not more, than the adults during that experience. While I was already a good singer and sight-reader, I learned more about relating and interacting with adults than any other time in my childhood, which has benefitted me as a worship pastor. The tenor of my home section loved that I brought vitality and singing skills, but their investment in me was unmatched. I’m still benefitting.


Why an Intergenerational Model is Better than a Multigenerational Approach

Romans 12:5 (ESV) so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Over the last several years, I’ve noticed a huge push in choral literature for churches with the specific purpose of using multiple generations in a specific song. Adult choirs, student choirs, and children’s choirs are often given parts of songs to sing alone and with each other. I applaud each and every of these composer/arrangers of these songs as a great resource for our churches to involve multiple generations together on the platform. In fact many of my colleagues will devote specific Sundays each year to what they call “Multigenerational Sundays.” These Sundays generally highlight various age groups in their church or music ministry as a way of reminding their congregation, “we value the different age groups in our church and we want to give you a visual reminder of generations in worship together.” Again, I applaud and celebrate each and every person, church, and colleague who does this on a regular basis, but even a church whose attempt to bring generations together only on these Sundays a few times a year may be missing the most critical part of having generations together–the continual, on-going, weekly, interrelatedness of multiple generations serving together in mutual activities.

Instead of simply bringing multiple generations together every so often, I believe a better, more long-lasting approach is an intergenerational approach. An intergenerational church aims for regular, sustained interaction among persons from all generations. Interaction is the key! To parade multiple generations onto a platform to give the appearance of multiple generations in your church is fine, but what is paramount is that older generations invest at regular intervals in the lives of our next generations. Likewise, our students desperately need the wisdom and care of the older generations.

The term intergenerational differs from that of multi-generational in that while a church might have multiple generations present in worship services, the generations may never interact with those from other generations.

I would agree that most churches, to some extent or another, are multi-generational. Some might even celebrate the fact that there is much generational diversity present. However, in what ways will these generations have the opportunity to interact in mutual activities with those from other generations?

Intergenerational churches (ministries) should meet the following criteria at a minimum:

  1. Two or more adult generations should be present regularly in mutual activities (ministries).
  2. These activities should encompass a broad spectrum of experiences such as worship, fellowship, study, missions, outreach, etc.1

Please do not misunderstand me–I’m certainly a champion for any chance our children, students, and adult can share the platform to lead worship. However, these moments are just moments if multiple generations aren’t serving alongside each other on a continual basis. I liken the multigenerational approach to Thanksgiving gatherings with extended family…you know what I mean? These are family members that you know casually. You will see them once or twice a year. You catch up and share about how things are going; you are connected by blood, but not “family.” I feel this approach is a good starting place for connecting generations together, but not the ideal approach.

Conversely, I liken an intergenerational approach to your immediately family members. These types of homes may include three or more generations in some instances. But the family members you live with day in and day out have the most influence on you. As many irritating, frustrating, and hopefully beautiful moments you share with your immediate family, those same family members will teach you about things such as sharing space, respecting others opinions, and learning to love others. Families are by nature intergenerational. It is next to impossible to live life in a silo in a family. I suggest that our churches should MODEL our nuclear families. It’s the biblical model! As we live side by side, struggling to love each other more than ourselves, we have the opportunity to learn and grow with each other as we move on our journey of faith—each person in the family with strengths and weaknesses helping our mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters when they are weak—and they in turn reciprocate. We were made to live together, to be shaped by one another…not simply co-existing, but together—in the messy times and the beautiful. Leaning on each other as the intergenerational church.

  1. William T. Whittaker, “Exploring Characteristics of Choral Ministry Within Georgia Southern Baptist Churches Committed to Intergenerational Ministry.” (D.M.A. dissertation, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 2015), 3-4.

Christmas Music Memories from the Eyes of a Xennial Worship Leader

I am a Gen-X worship leader. Based on my birthdate, some would classify me as an older Millennial, but I feel like I identify with the Gen X generation more than the Millennial generation. Perhaps I feel this way because I am the third born of four children, born in 1977, and my older brothers are definitely Gen Xers. Recently, I’ve read some articles that have re-classified those of us born between 1977-1985 by grouping us into a new classification, calling us Xennials. Even one article I read called us the Oregon Trail generation. These terms are basically interchangeable because the characteristics described are synonymous. I laughed at the Oregon Trail reference, because it’s true, I definitely froze to death in Oklahoma while on the Apple II computers in the classroom-converted computer lab at my elementary school! Whatever you call us, there is definitely something about being born during a bridge period in generational history. I believe being a Xennial has influenced my own Christmas music memories, but more importantly how it’s allowed me the unique chronological experiences that have helped me bridge gaps among generations in the church.

As a so-called Xennial, I was raised in a family with Boomer parents and Builder grandparents in the same community. I had no idea that my Christmas “traditions” were somewhat broadened by the generational traditions of my elders until much later in life. You know when I realized it? When I started projecting my own idea of what celebrating Christmas should be to my own children. Let me elaborate specifically on the musical aspect of my Christmas memories…

If you grew up in my house, you developed a fondness for Christmas carols and holiday favorites from artists such as Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Gene Autry, Nat King Cole, the Andrews Sisters and the like. I can still see the record covers today (my absolute favorite is featured here in the cover photo); they are etched in my brain. To this day, I much prefer these renditions of familiar Christmas songs to anything newer. These songs/renditions have been my soundtrack for the season for years. I can’t hear Holly Jolly Christmas or The Christmas Song without being transported to another time and another place; it’s uncanny! However, during my formative years, I learned all kinds of new Christmas songs also that are now “classics,” such as Mary, Did You Know, Welcome to Our World, Breath of Heaven, Emmanuel, and In the First Light, among many others. I grew fond (and still am) of so many “newer” Christmas songs, but nothing “warms my heart” like Bing, Nat, Burl, Gene, and Andy Williams!

I realize that my “bridge” status between generations allows me to “talk the talk” in a broader way than most. In fact I believe it’s a wonderful thing because I love all types of Christmas music and can lead them (generally) with ease. I also identify with both groups so I can understand the differences that divide and try to find common ground beyond our theological beliefs. However, I’ve found that people in general prefer nostalgic Christmas music, which certainly is different for everyone. It is interesting to me that people of all ages have a fondness for more traditional Christmas carols because people who wouldn’t necessarily prefer hearing a choir and/or orchestra any other time of the year are suddenly rushing to services offering just that.

One of the first churches I served had multiple types of worship services with varying music types. On Christmas Eve we would host three worship services with varying styles of music similar to the styles during the rest of the year. Even though at the time our most modern worship service had the most attending, our “traditional” Christmas Eve services were always the packed out ones. I remember asking a few who never came to traditional services why they chose to attend the more traditional service on Christmas Eve. Their uniform response was…”I like singing traditional Christmas carols on Christmas Eve because it brings back many memories…it feels like Christmas to sing these familiar carols.” At the time, I remembered thinking, “of course…I feel the same way” and then just left it at that. It got me thinking later, why is this the case? Recently, I’ve been grappling with the question: what if nostalgia, for nostalgia’s sake, can be hurtful to our spiritual understanding of musical worship? Can our “hold” on tradition limit us from experiencing the joys of “new songs?” Here are a couple of thoughts:

  1. When nostalgic music (and it can be newer and nostalgic) is more important to us than “putting a new song in our mouths,” we can alienate others.
  2. The converse is true. When we try to forget the perceived “tired and worn out” songs and assume that those who like them are emotionless, out-dated, and tired in favor of only new songs, we can alienate others.
  3. Because Christmas carols (especially those found in most hymnals) are universally sung and known, they can provide an excellent way to bridge the gap in services that typically don’t sing “older” songs. Want to try intergenerational worship services at Christmas? Sing something everyone knows (carols) even if the carols are accompanied by different instrumentation that you prefer; it is a great way to start.

If you’re like me, and newer Christmas music is familiar, but not your favorite, you are not alone. This does not give you a pass to forgo newer Christmas music, however. It’s important to remember that of all the times of the year, Christmas is the most nostalgic, so use it to your advantage to incorporate new and old music in worship services. You’ll find more “modern” versions of Christmas carols than anything else newly composed. Use new versions of older carols, along with new songs to bridge music gaps in your services that speak to all generations.

Read more here about Xennials:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/06/28/xennials_a_23006562/

http://www.businessinsider.com/people-born-between-gen-x-millennials-xennials-2017-11

Read here about the Oregon Trail:

http://thefederalist.com/2017/07/21/finally-theres-name-generation-gen-x-millennials/