How to Foster Interactions Between the Generations in your Music Ministry

If you serve a church with a music ministry where various generations “rub elbows” with one another each week, you know that intergenerational relationships don’t often magically occur. Left without some intentional steps and practices, we worship pastors would probably be content to rest on the fact that we actually HAVE multiple generations. I suggest that to be truly intergenerational, one must craft experiences, situations, moments, and the like, which ensure inter-relatedness happens.

Many years ago, when I was researching choral ministries that are intergenerational in philosophy, I discovered several helpful “methods” that help in fostering intergenerational interaction in music rehearsals. Many more than I include here were offered, but these were the most prevalent ones discovered when researching this area of study. I am including them in hierarchical order based on frequency of response. The most prevalent answers first.

  1. Choir fellowships- The most frequently offered, many leaders found that simply allowing the generations within their choir to interact in an informal, yet fun, setting allows genuine interaction to occur. People get to know one another and friendships are formed. These fellowship times can be in the way of social events, but it can also be less structured and built into the context of the rehearsal itself. Some creativity is needed, especially if your choir has over 35 in attendance. I’ve found that people tend to gravity towards people they know (generally those around them in their vocal section), so find (or invent) ways/games to allow people to mix up and get to know others they don’t normally know.
  2. The leader(worship pastor) actually teaches about the importance of interacting and encourages them to do so. I do believe that it’s important to regularly celebrate the generational diversity of your music ministry. While not the most practical suggestion, encouragement to be intentional is definitely better than nothing.
  3. Seating configurations- Make intentional steps about who sits next to each other  it can also be a catalyst for forging new friendships. I’m 100 percent for balancing the vocal blend in the choir, but often I can achieve this just as well by sitting a Boomer next to a Millennial, which has a dual purpose. It takes some time and finesse (if people are reluctant to move after 100 years in the same spot), but it’s worth it.I suggest regularly moving people around so new friendships can be formed. It’s amazing how easily this works. I’ve watched practically new friendships form right in front of me.
  4. Corporate time of prayer- This could be beneficial by having small groups huddle together for a short time of prayer before a corporate prayer. Quick prayer requests can offer much insight into the lives and struggles/joys each is facing. In this way the older gave give counsel to the younger and the younger can give support to the older in this mutual exercise of praying and accountability.
  5. Create a family atmosphere– While this may seem evident, intentionality is the key. How do you create a family atmosphere? At my church, we have created family care groups in the choir. Each leader is responsible for caring for each group member. I have 6 care group leaders who have about 12 choir members in their groups. It’s kind of like a small group in a larger group. They are like a small family in the context of a larger family.I also value pairing younger and older folks together in leadership positions. For instance, in our orchestra we pair seasoned (usually older generations) with budding players for support, encouragement, and accountability. I always say to people, someone(s) invested in me and poured into me, treating me like family, and I became who I am because of their influence. In short, we do life together, each in mutual submission to one another.
  6. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ESV- For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
  7. It is important to take steps to foster interaction among the different generations in your choir. Too often we age segregate our groups ( think children’s choirs, youth choirs, etc.). These segregations are fine for musical purposes, but finding ways to bring these groups together in worship leadership is the key. Perhaps having joint musical selections for the groups to combine with for worship services or special events can bring interaction among the various ages in your music ministry. Perhaps have choir members “adopt” younger children in your children’s choir ministry so there is a familial feeling among the generations in your church.  The list goes on.

What else would you add? 

What is Modified Intergenerational Worship?

I believe there are leaders who truly desire to be intergenerational in their approach to worship but have multiple types of services in their church. These leaders sincerely believe their church fits the definition of intergenerational in every context, except the part where services should be mirrored in terms of content and style. These churches are not a “pure” form of intergenerational, but truly believe in the biblical concept that intergenerational behavior, interaction, and philosophy is important. These churches are what I refer to as modified intergenerational.

Some reasons why modified intergenerational churches are necessary:

  1. The church with space issues. Sometimes a second worship team is necessary because there are more people than seating.
  2. The church with aesthetic issues. Worship spaces that are very traditional make it difficult to achieve more diverse styles of worship. This may also include acoustic issues as well.
  3. The church with programming issues. I’ve found this particularly common in large churches with multiple Bible Study times, etc.

Here are the non-negotiables to being modified intergenerational:

  1. The leadership must always seek ways to integrate the generations in worship and in other ministries of the church. A regular opportunity for the church to worship together can be quite effective for integrating the generations.
  2. The decision to create (or maintain) different services cannot be based primarily on music preferences of those in charge. I think a better approach is to find what musical styles your particular congregation does well, and capitalize on them. Consider the talent pool of your church and start there. That doesn’t mean not to branch out and take a few risks, but don’t be something you’re not to try to reach certain people. Inauthentic and mediocre worship services do not attract anyone in the long-term.
  3. The decision to create (or maintain) cannot be based on a power struggle from staff and/or key leadership to “get what they want.”
  4. The decision to create (or maintain) cannot be based on what some “other church” is doing that seems to be growing. Every church context is different and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all.
  5. The leadership of the church doesn’t move service times with the specific purpose of trying to target families and then decide/assume that young families prefer a certain type of music. We’ve all read the research that says that services that start before 9:30 on a Sunday will be mostly older generations and not families. I’ve seen numerous churches that “assume” that young families are only interested in modern worship music so they may a flip-flop long standing traditional worship with a new contemporary service at 11 am. Guess what this does? If 11 am is still the highest visiting hour for new visitors, it almost assures that visitors to your church will be getting a skewed view of the whole church. Likewise, if it’s targeted for families, the Bible study hour for children may only be offered opposite this service, which makes it almost necessary for any family wanting to worship together to attend 11 regardless of what the family might desire to do. Moving what was traditionally the “church” hour for many Boomers and Builders to another time can be a slap in the face. It screams, we don’t care about you, we only care about the new people who might be here…or our young families…so because you are more mature in your faith, you need to take one for the team and submit your desires to the new believers. Okay, there is merit to this argument to a degree, but if every time you turn around your submitting and there is nothing on the other end, then we’re missing the part in Philippians 2 about being MUTUALLY submissive.
        *A better solution is to make sure that members and visitors alike aren’t hindered in service choice based on other (controllable) factors such as Bible Study/Sunday School choices. Other factors, such as time, location, and music will vary from congregation to congregation in the modified intergenerational church, but the emphasis is again ALWAYS on valuing ALL generations and making the best choices with what you have.

What would you add? Send me a message or respond and join in the conversation. I’d love to hear what other churches that are modified in their approach are doing to keep generational integration alive.

Church Choirs Shouldn’t be Declining Because of Lack of Interest

Chorus America, a nationally-known advocacy, research, and leadership development organization that supports the choral art, has written much on the the benefits of singing. Most recently, an article came out in June (Chorus America Article ) that lauds the benefits of singing for a lifetime. Here is a link to the findings of that study. After reading this article and the major findings of the story, I was very encouraged by the increase in choral participation in America.

What I didn’t understand was about the same time I was reading this article, I was hearing from friends across the nation and reading other articles about the continued decline of choirs in churches. I don’t want to list the myriad of reasons why choirs are declining in our churches, that’s for another post. However, if the current Chorus America research that suggests that choral singing in America is NOT declining, maybe our churches shouldn’t assume that no one wants/enjoys singing. Further, with many singers actively singing in a choir, our churches shouldn’t assume that no one wants to listen to a choir either. What I found interesting, was the authors indicated that in the last ten years worship attendance has declined as well as social clubs, while choral participation has done just the opposite.

While the article mentions the benefits of singing to increased quality of life, physical health, greater activity in their churches and community, and stronger relationships, I want to focus on a few items that I think stick out to me as it pertains to why church choirs should be an integral part of any church:

  1. 43 million American adults and 11 million children are singing in choirs today. 54 million Americans. Please remind me—anyone why naysayers say no one without white hair wants to hear or participate in a choir? In fact this research suggests that having choirs will INCREASE participation in any organization (community, school, or church). These numbers are UP to 17% from 14% since 2008. 
  2. The key to lifelong singing is starting when children are young. The findings, either school or faith communities that have graded choir programs, see the greatest number of students who will become lifelong singers. I’m convinced that churches that cease to invest in student choirs (elementary and youth) will never have a strong adult program.
  3. Having a choir might actually increase your attendance in your faith community. Choir members tend to be more faithful and more committed to being in worship when they have a reason to serve.

Personally, when I think of the role being in a choral group has given me, I think back to less about the musical experience itself, although I’ve had some incredible times musically, but to what being a part of a choral group taught me. Being in a choir has taught me how to yield my personal preferences for the good of the whole. I’ve learned how to be a leader by helping my fellow singers by pulling my weight (being in tune, singing correct intervals and rhythms, etc) and how to get along with others. Choir (or any musical group, really) is about mutual submission, conflict resolution, helping others when they need it, and demonstrating leadership. Yes, many of these things are important in non-choir church musical groups, but because choirs are generally larger than a 5-6 piece band, the opportunity for many (of various musical abilities) to serve and use their talents increases.