Tag Archives: choral

The Value of Community in the Church Choir

Communitya group of people who have a sense of common purpose for which they assume mutual responsibility, who affirm their interconnectedness, who respect each other’s differences, and who desire to see each person and the whole succeed.

Choir- A choir is defined as a group of any combination of singers that provides vocal leadership in corporate worship. The choir may add vocal support only to congregational singing but also may engage in proclamation ministry through choir music alone, which is music designed to be performed with several voices on each part. In comparison to a vocal ensemble or praise team which typically has fewer singers, a choir, for the purposes of this study, must consist of a minimum of twelve singers. Generally, the choir is placed prominently on risers or in a choir loft but not front and center on the platform area. The individual choir participants are not vocally enhanced through the use of microphones.[i]

            I firmly believe that because the music ministry of any church is so visible due to its weekly leadership role, the choir is one of the most visible models of intergenerational behavior than just about any other ministry in the church. The music ministry is a unique community of artistic believers who, because of the nature of making music in a group, must yield their own preferences to whole in order to achieve a unified sound and spirit. Any person who’s spent any time in a choir or instrumental group will tell you the importance of unified tone for blended multiple timbres into one homogenous sound. It’s a perfect picture of the Body of Christ in community.

            While I’m certainly not opposed to contemporary expressions of worship with a few singers and a few instrumentalists, I cannot think of a better picture of community than choir and instrumental groups in a music ministry. In these ensembles participants with high levels of talent sit beside those with less training and work together to make sure the whole group succeeds. In intergenerational worship ministries, those of all ages have the opportunity to serve alongside each other, each seasoned singer or player helping the young musicians “learn the ropes.” An intergenerational music ministry allows everyone the opportunity, no matter the skill level, to participate.

            Most leaders of churches that are intergenerational usually have a philosophical reason to value them. Even those leaders that are naturally intergenerational still value that the generations are worshiping together in their church. When I asked why these leaders, who already serve intergenerational churches, value not only having an intergenerational church, but having a choir that is intergenerational, they responded with the following answers in rank order:

  1. The choir reflects the age diversity already present in the congregation

      Over 70% of those interviewed stated that they simply want the choir to be a generational reflection of what is already present in the congregation. The choir is one the most visible ways to involve multiple generations in the worship service. What other ministries outside of worship involves the youngest and the eldest members of the church simultaneously on a regular basis?

  • Older and Younger Members should learn from each other

       These leaders have identified what I call mutual submission or mutual learning. Young people bring excitement and enthusiasm, which is contagious. Likewise, the older members can pour into younger members the wealth of knowledge they’ve gained along the way. Each generation must learn to be respectful of all as the intergenerational church learns how to live in community.

  • It’s Biblical

You may be surprised to hear that only 20 percent of those leaders I interviewed even mentioned the biblical model for intergenerational worship. Of the 20 percent, the leaders overwhelmingly were older Millennials and leaders from Generation X. My research questions did not allow for why this was the case, but my thought is that our younger music leaders are being encouraged to consider the biblical model because they grew up in the “worship wars,” and are beginning to receive some training in college or seminary, whereas older leaders never were taught many years ago why they should be intergenerational, because there was no need to.[ii]

            Unity in purpose and unity musically are essential for any choral group. Unlike a solo singer, who has great latitude when singing, choir singers must subdue their own individuality must take a backseat for the good of the whole. Here’s a quick list of some areas where choirs must be unified:

  1. Vowels, articulation, rhythm, consonants, breathing, phrasing, dynamics, etc.
  2. Often, but not always, dress. Concert dress or robes often hide the individuality of each person for a unified look.
  3. Blend vocally. I included this as a separate number because listening and blending is crucial to choral tone. In choral singing we must give up our solo tendencies to achieve unity and balance.
  4. Preferences in music or in other facets of choir ministry. Often, we don’t always sing everything that we personally like. That’s okay, the person sitting next to you might love what you hate. That’s the beauty of mutual submission—loving one another more than yourself.

            The list could go on, but consider this, I learned more about serving others and working in community toward a goal in a choral setting than any other facet of the local church. I believe the task of moving many people toward a unified goal will result in greater effectiveness for the Kingdom.

            The choir has the opportunity to pave the way/model intergenerational behavior throughout the rest of the church. The choir must work together to overcome music style differences, traditions, and preferences in order to lead in worship. Because they are the leaders who must strive for unity musically, choir members are in a strategic position to model unity for the rest of the church. We leaders must teach the biblical mandate to worship together or we’ll lose our focus on the why. Failing to have the “driving” factor of biblical precedent as our guide seriously diminishes the value of intergenerational ministry in the first place. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian church, urges [us] to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV).         

            Becoming intentionally intergenerational is pragmatically a good idea also. We need future leaders, we need to learn from each other, but intergenerational philosophy should be guided by what the Bible says. In short, pragmatism is the nuts and bolts of intergenerationality, but philosophy should be the wrench.


[i] 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.

[ii] Ibid., 53.

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.