In order to accurately discuss the role of the church choir in the intergenerational church, I think it’s important to understand how I define certain terms related to the premise of this blog. Today, I will discuss how I define the word “choir” in the context of the intergenerational church.
To the best of my knowledge, I’m the first person to define the term “choir” from a church perspective in any academic document. Believe me, I searched for an accurate description because I wanted some documentation from other experts in the field. I came up empty. Therefore, I had to search for other definitions of the term for choir and apply it to the church setting. Here’s what I came up with from my own research:
“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 think some of you are thinking,”that’s a mouthful.” I would agree. There are three important things in this definition that I’d like to unpack:
1. The church choir may have a dual purpose in worship leadership, leading in congregational song and/or leading through proclamation (choral music). Most church music ministers leading choirs I’ve spoken with would agree that this dual purpose in worship leadership defines and encompasses much of the role of the choir in worship. Why is this important?
I know there is much more to unpack here, which I plan to do in future posts.
2. The church choir has a similar, yet very different, role than the praise team in the life of the music ministry of the church.
A side note*****
It’s hard not to lean toward the attractive, younger singers in your choir who have amazing voices. Who wouldn’t want an A-team to lead vocally with every week? I want to caution you right now though, because I struggle with this all the time. If you’re going to be intentionally intergenerational, talent and stage presence must come after two areas:
1. Generational diversity of the team.
2. Investing in new talent.
Ask yourself, how easy is it to use A-team vocalists? Of course it’s easy. Someone has taught them well and now you get to benefit in your ministry. Then ask yourself this, what am I doing to invest in moderate or lower level talent to bring that person to the point where they might be an A-Team member? I believe my role is to invest in those people and encourage and equip them to be A-team level. I’ve personally invested in several praise team members here at our church who have steadily increased in confidence both vocally and in worship leadership. Don’t be afraid to invest…it’s worth the effort in the long run.
3. The church choir has a prominent physical place of worship leadership.
*The church church is often in a loft behind the the pulpit area of the platform or just off to the side. This prominent position means that the choir should be seen as worship leaders and not simply “back-up” for a soloist or praise team.
* The church choir is not vocally enhanced by individual microphones. This simply means that not every choir member has his or her own personal microphone. The use of area or choir mics is most common for the church choir. I believe this function is significant because the sound of the “whole” group is more important than the collective individual, which I believe to be philosophically accurate. That being said, praise team members usually have their own microphones, great care must be taken to ensure the member understands the purpose of their leadership is not more important than the other choir members necessarily; rather, praise team members are simply an extension of the choir (vocally, facially, spiritually, and represent the generational diversity of the church).
In my next blog, I will unpack what I understand to be a church that is intergenerational in their worship. I honestly believe there is no “correct” formula that contains all the correct criteria to be intergenerational so stay tuned!
My plan is not to blog everyday. I think my goal is to pick a day each week to load a new blog, but I’m energized to get a few blogs in quickly while everything is still new. Since I’m a new blogger, I’d love to hear some feedback from you all. What would you like to know more about related to the content in this blog post?
I’m passionate about several things. I love my family, music, running, and most of all knowing the sovereign God of the universe also calls me friend. It is my desire that these blog posts not only glorify God, but edify and instruct the Body of Christ in the biblical truth that corporate worship should be experienced together–all generations worshiping in Spirit and Truth.
I serve an intentionally intergenerational church just about 30 minutes outside the city center of Atlanta. Our church is only about a mile and a half from the largest mall in the state, which when built in 1999, ushered in a large-scale housing and population boom to the area. While the population has exploded in our area, not every established church saw increases. I say this specifically because I don’t want the reader to immediately assume our growth is strictly due to greater population in our area. Yes, our church is very visible, but the majority of our visitors say they come because they heard about us or were invited by a friend. Generally speaking, only the largest churches in the area (we are surrounded by at least 5 megachurches within a 15 radius) saw any significant growth. Our church, once a small church of just a few hundred members from her inception in the early 20th century until the 1990s and early 2000s, saw only modest growth until the latter part of the first decade of the 21st century. When the current pastor arrived in 2010, more significant gains in attendance continued to be realized. We believe this is attributed in part to his desire for our church to embrace her intergenerational roots. Because of this desire, our church makes very specific steps in ensure our members at every level have a place to serve and invest in other generations.
The result has been a large increase in membership and active participation in the church. I’ll give you a snapshot of some of the growth. Since our pastor arrived in 2010, we’ve had 600 new members, multiple baptisms, Sunday School growth that has doubled, and an average worship attendance that has grown from the high 200s to over 600 on a Sunday. When I arrived in January 2013, our music ministry had a adult choir 30-35 (if they were all there), and a pianist and organist. Fast Forward 4.5 years and we now have an adult choir of 72, and orchestra of 26, a fully-graded children’s choir ministry of about 50 children, and a youth choir of 25. This is not the type of growth you’d expect to see in a church that is not one of the high-profile churches in our area. But what we hear every week from our visitors is they’ve been searching for a church like ours for a long time and wished they’d found us sooner. They love that the music is varied, the preaching is expositional, and that ALL generations are present with many in worship leadership.
In the first of several blog posts, I will attempt to share what my research has shown me about how leaders of intergenerational music ministries have attempted to bring generations together through the musical portions of corporate worship. Specifically, my research focused on the leaders of choirs, their choir members (who they are generationally and their function in the corporate worship experience), and the choral literature they sing. I will answer questions about how we’ve managed to “appease” all generations musically without using contrived, inauthentic methods in corporate worship. Stay tuned!
“Intergenerational Worship” is worship in which people of every age are understood to be equally important.