It is by no accident that age-group choirs are growing in number and size throughout our country today. Not intended for parading cute youngsters before the congregation or dressing up the worship service, this great movement has a much deeper and more far-reaching significance.
Leaders in major denominational headquarters are quick to agree that an age program carried on consistently over a period of years is the most fruitful means of evangelism that a church can have. How has this activity come to rank so high on the list of attributes of a well-rounded church program?
What is an age-group choir? This term means simply the grouping of boys and girls or young people of similar ages and stages of development together to sing as a unit.
While some of our largest city churches in America boast choirs corresponding to nearly every school grade level, the more common and feasible groupings consist of grades 1, 2, and 3 together in the first, or primary choir, and grades 4, 5, and 6 in the second, or intermediate choir. Wherever possible, the junior high grades 7 and 8, and the senior high singers have separate choirs.
Quite frequently the boys with changing voices are shepherded into one organization while their sisters sing in another. Naturally, much depends upon the available qualified directors and on the number of singers in the church. Some churches also have college-age or young career-age choirs in addition to the conventional adult groups.
The first benefits thought of are the obvious ones: the learning of the beautiful music of the church, provision of additional singing groups to participate in the worship services, and training feeders for the adult choirs.
Other more fundamental justifications are these: boys and girls early develop habits of attending and participating in the activities of the church. They learn the meaning of, and the reason for genuine worship.
They learn that worship is effective only to the degree the individual himself participates. They learn that the church cannot exist by itself in some vague, somebody-takes-care-of-it manner, but that it requires the work, means, and support of many families channeled into a single, concerted effort.
It stimulates and holds the interest of the child in church affairs and produces a loyalty and concern which lasts into his adulthood.
Pastors and directors are realizing more and more that excel lent choirs do not just happen. How often in earlier years the writer has encountered a director who was quite satisfied with his adult group and who did not wish to bother with the children s choirs, or go out of his way to develop trained leaders for his younger singers. Suddenly, however, when natural attrition of age, moving away, having babies, and change of interests has whittled the number of adult choristers down to an alarming minimum, he has belatedly grasped at stopgap panaceas.
We who enjoy fruit know that the very young tree must first be grafted with the kind of fruit scion desired, then planted and tended during several years of growth before it is ready to produce for us.
The processes of developing good Christians is surprisingly parallel. The church that provides means whereby the children become a needed and recognized part of its worship and life will find them continuing their support and participation as adults. Habits of church attendance, worship participation, financial and personal support are strongly established by the time the young people are ready to make their own homes.
Oh, you say, but so many of our young people move away, or marry someone away, and we lose them! Well, that is true, but what about the other young folks, couples, who move into your community? A good many of my adult choir members have been products of younger choirs in other cities and villages. We ve been in the choir since we can remember. When we moved, I guess we just have naturally gravitated to the church where music is a meaningful part of worship, and where we can go on doing the things which have meant so much to us spiritually. Our baby is as much at home in the church nursery as he is in his own bed! We want to join a church where there are choirs for our young people. We ve always been active in singing and we want our own children to have this privilege.
The lay sponsor of each choir is constantly alert to help the director in reaching promptly the new families in the community.
Many families are first reached by the church through their children. As the boys and girls become identified with, and a part of the active life of the church many parents whose back ground has not included church-going find themselves becoming willing, then enthusiastic partners in this great experience.
Most important of all, however, is the fact that as they live together, practicing and learning and understanding the principles which Christ taught, more and more boys and girls come to take Him as their personal Savior.
The self-discipline involved in regular attendance, loyalty, put ting forth one s best efforts, and subjugating personal interest to the welfare of the group are by-products essential to any walk of life.
If there is any question concerning the desirability of an age- group choir system in a church, it surely boils down to this: How can a church afford not to have such a program?
Several other texts outline most effectively additional advantages of these choirs, so let us proceed to what the music committee can do about them. The music director surveys the community to determine in which age brackets there is the greatest number of available children. Church school attendance should be a strong clue in this direction. For example, in a young area made up largely of more recently the logical group Would probably be the primary choir, or first, second, and third graders When he has determined in which category he is going to set up the first age group one committee member is selected to help in organizing the group and maintaining its interest and participation.
This person will represent this choir on the music committee. Others, adults or young people, will be selected to assist him in the various ways later outlined. While actual members of the older choirs can and should hold some of the posts of responsibility, it is Obvious that more adult assistance will be needed in the lower age brackets.
As we continue into the consideration of the choirs in this program the following outline of key personnel for each choir is suggested. Each committeeman directly responsible for a choir will wish one of these sheets for his own use, and will provide one for the director of music. He makes a revised sheet for both himself and the director as personnel changes occur. The addition of individual telephone numbers provides an instant reference which will save many valuable minutes when someone must be called in a hurry. For some of the choirs not all of the categories will apply. For example, choir mothers will riot be needed for the adult groups, and the division into the four Voice parts will not apply to the youngest choirs where unison and two-part singing are the rule.
It should be obvious that such assignment of duties can best be worked out by director and committeeman together over a period of a few weeks. Each will be discovering some particular qualifications or traits which will fit certain persons for certain jobs. You may be sure your director will bless you for all the assistance you can give him here!
Ministry Of Music
Organization ______________________ Date ______________________
Time Of Meeting
Day & Hour ______________________ Place ______________________
Director ____________________ Accompanist ____________________
President ___________________ Vice President ___________________
Secretary _____________________ Treasurer _____________________
Soprano ________________________ Alto ________________________
Tenor ________________________ Bass ________________________
Activity Leaders (First Named Is Chairman)
Attendance ________________ ________________ _________________
Library _________________ _________________ __________________
Robes _________________ _________________ __________________
Transport ________________ ________________ _________________
Telephone ________________ ________________ _________________
Nursery _________________ _________________ __________________
Social _________________ _________________ __________________
Properties ________________ ________________ _________________
Choir _________________ _________________ __________________
Other _________________ _________________ __________________
The High School Choir
With the guidance of one, or possibly two adults, the young people of this age are themselves quite capable of performing the committee responsibilities outlined for the adult choir. These committees will nearly parallel the senior group, with the exclusion of the nursery. As a matter of fact, the training in committee procedures and responsibilities is an essential part of the growing up of these young people.
Getting the committees formed will be the easiest part of all, for this is the age of joining or belonging. Keeping the young people constantly at their obligations will be quite another thing! With the pressures of so many attractive outside demands facing them so insistently today, firm but understanding guidance is required to prevent ineffectual dabbling and frittering.
Follow-up by telephone or direct conversation to see that individual responsibilities are completed is a must! The adult music member has to be understanding of young people and the emotional conflicts of adolescence and still be firm enough to see that committees and individuals function properly and carry through.
This adult is often a parent of one of the choir members who has a personal interest in the welfare of the choir. His (or her) presence at the rehearsal is an invaluable assistance to the director. He relieves the latter of the job of taking roll and checking on absentees. An immediate telephone call to the home has been found to be most effective in minimizing such absences. Where there is bona fide illness, such a call demonstrates the genuine interest of the group in the individual. Where only a lame excuse or none at all exists, the message soon gets through that the choir means business. The effectiveness of such measures lies in both the promptness and the sureness of such checking. Slipping into the church office and calling the home immediately after roll is taken is by far the best way to cut down on absences.
This attendance taking and record keeping is a time-robber of precious rehearsal minutes when the director has to do it. It is essential, though, and can be one of the factors in the success of the choir.
It should be remembered that the developing of a genuine sense of responsibility and follow-through of declared intention is a factor far more important than just having a fine-sounding choir! These young people want and need the discipline of a seriously run unit, and when it is administered with love and understanding the experience will never be forgotten.
Remaining through the entire church season is a principle to be insisted upon. Then if the member just has to do something else he can feel that he has fulfilled one obligation before assuming another.
Personnel wall charts by sections, maintained by section leaders, are a matter of pride. Many high-schoolers will pooh-pooh the idea, but you just put up a card with a mis-spelled name and see how soon you get a reaction! When these 3×5 cards have the member s picture up in the corner the importance of the board is enhanced. With a Polaroid camera, snapshots of four or five singers can be taken and individual heads cut out for the cards.
A little thing? Perhaps. Try it for a year, then accidentally on purpose forget to put the cards up next fall. You ll hear from it! These cards also help everyone in the group (including the director) learn names more quickly.
The strengthening of Christian principles at this age goes a long way toward the withstanding of the doubts and assailing forces of the period of the late teens and early twenties. These young people have an organization which needs them, which gives them a solid sense of belonging, and provides an ideal outlet for the gang proclivities of the age.
The main function within the choir where other adult help may be required will probably be the robe committee. At least one person skilled in sewing, hemming, and clothing repair will be needed in this important office. This robe-mother frequently becomes a much-loved as well as a critically needed member of the team.
The committee member has a current, firsthand knowledge of the affairs, needs, and progress of the group, and can bring to the general committee meeting a reliable picture of this choir s part in the whole program.
This choir representative should not be unprepared to discover that his greatest problem will be with the parents and not their children! Especially in matters of supporting regular attendance and transportation will he find some of them to be making the lamest of excuses, and to be the most lethargic. In some cases the writer has been forced to the conclusion that our youngsters do a pretty good job of acquitting themselves in spite of their parents, rather than because of them!
How can parents insist on regular attendance at school, proper sleeping hours, periodic visits to the dentist, adequate dietary con tent, and then blindly ignore the most vital part of the youngster s life, his spiritual growth? Oh, we are letting Jim decide on whether or not he goes to church. By what disastrous distortion of logic are these children deemed to be more capable of deciding what or how much spiritual training they should have than whether they should attend school?
Why should these same parents be dismayed or heartbroken when later their youth fail to meet moral dilemmas successfully?
Music committeemen can help to widen the influence of the music program in encouraging parents to begin to give at least as much attention to the spiritual development of their boys and girls as they do to their physical and mental growth.
The more each layman understands the profound importance and the far-reaching results of participation in the younger choirs, the more diligently he will work to promote this vital program.
Social Activities Of The High School Choir
No complete accord exists on the amount and kind of social functions, extra parties, or get-togethers a high school choir should have. Students of this age are learning to live with each other, to give and take as young men and women. As with any other choir, this organization basically is not a social one. It would appear to be logical, however, that inter-acquaintance, pride in the choir, and just having fun under proper guidance comprise sufficient reasons for getting together in the best possible channeling of the gang feeling which is so characteristic of this age.
Held during seasons of the church year when choir interest may be lower than at others, these social meetings may well be extremely desirable. During the summer, combination retreats or weekends for study and good times have already proven their worth.
The music committee and its director and pastor can together work out plans for social affairs which will be a definite asset to the choir s growth and regular attendance.
The Junior High School Choir
The Junior High School Choir
As with the senior high school choir, many of the committee functions can be fulfilled by the choir members themselves. The adult sponsor (committee member) will have to provide more detailed guidance in committee organization and procedures, but youngsters of this age are just trying their wings and can accomplish surprising things surprising to uninitiated adults, that is!
Actually doing things with their hands is still paramount with this age of young persons. For example, the transportation committee will enjoy mounting a city map on a large corrugated card board backing and letting each member install his own flag in its proper location. Each flag consists of a pin with a strip of light cardboard with member s name on one side and the street address on the other. Car pools are thus more easily organized, and less trouble is experienced in providing for the new member.
The sponsor (or his adult assistant) should set up and keep a record of the parental turns to be sure that the load of driving is equally divided. Most parents are conscientious, but some will conveniently forget that it is their turn to serve. One popular arrangement is for Parent A to be responsible for his load for February rehearsals, Parent B to take the load for the February church appearances. Then two others in the group of five or six take the following month, and so on. Sometimes one set of parents will prefer to provide the taxi for all the choir s rehearsals and appearances for the month.
An adult assistant for this committee will have considerably more success in arranging schedules than the younger choir member. It is not nearly so easy for a lazy parent to say no to another parent!
While setting up the room for rehearsal, arranging needed folders and hymn books, and telephoning can be done by the members, an adult librarian will be required to record, number, and help keep track of music copies.
As with the high school choir one adult with sewing experience will be needed to care for the robe hem lines that were just right in June, but are every which way after a summer s growth! Then, too, even the best of choir members have to be reminded occasionally how to hang up their robes!
Forth, Fifth, Sixth Grade Choir
As the age levels go lower, the amount of additional adult help required by the sponsor automatically increases. On the other hand, there are not as many phases of this program as there are in the adult group.
Young parents are still willing to get their youngsters to and from choir it has not yet become a tiresome chore that it may be after a few more years. More adult help is usually more easily obtained for this choir and for the primary one.
One bright thought is that parents who have established the habit of accepting the choir as a part of the family program more easily continue in the routine than the newer ones.
The two youngest choirs seldom participate in the worship service more than once a month, which helps to simplify transportation.
Robe chairman, librarian, attendance, transportation, and telephone personnel can help the sponsor immeasurably in these two choirs.
The older youngsters in this age group are approaching puberty and will require all the ingenuity of the music director and his associates to keep them interested in the music program. The voice-changing phenomenon challenges the utmost in us as leaders to keep them singing through this age and safely into the high school age.
The bell choir has proved itself as a strong assistant to the director who is striving to keep the interest as the voices start changing.
In the younger choirs the principal functions needed to be per formed by the adult sponsor and his assistants include member ship and attendance, robes, librarian (not extensive where so much of the music is learned by rote), telephone, and transportation. Parties for these ages are important but simpler in nature, and are often arranged and supervised by one of the above per sons.
Recruiting members for this choir is no problem. Walking into the first grades of the church school (after prior arrangement with the superintendent and teacher, of course!) and asking, Who would like to sing in the choir? more often than not brings an instantaneous and unanimous sea of hands. An efficient group of choir mothers under the leadership of the chairman can do much to insure the success of this vital beginning group.
Where a junior church is organized both the primary and the intermediate choirs often present for it the same numbers or anthems which have been prepared and used in the adult hour for that month. This not only adds to the service and gives the singers reason for being but also enhances the choir as an organization in the eyes of the other boys and girls.
The adult assistant should be available to help with handling the hymnals. But, you admonish, so many of these primary children cannot yet read! This is quite true, of course. How ever, these boys and girls are most insistent on their need of carrying the hymnals into church. They feel more grown up this way!
One Sunday morning as our primary choir started down the center aisle I noticed a growing wave of smiles on one side of the aisle. These smiles appeared to be concentrated about one tiny chap as he passed each set of pews. Stepping to the side of the church I could observe why! Singing his heart out on the memorized processional, he was carrying his hymnal proudly in the prescribed manner but upside down!
Article “Age Group Choirs written by an Unknown Source is taken from an Unknown Source.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”