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The State of the Church Choir: Youth Choirs (Part 3)

by Dr. Barry C. Johnson

This will be an ongoing set of observations in a series that will examine the church choir. We will present several installments, in which I will examine categories or specific choirs, such as the youth choir, mass or adult choir, and male chorus. I will also explore the types of devotional services and the components of the choir’s contribution to the worship service.

This is the final segment of a three-part article that will examine the youth choir of the church. In Part 1, the following topics were addressed: the three traditional titles of church choirs involving youth; dwindling attendance in church youth choirs and the lack of musical interest; the misconception that males do not belong in the youth choir; parental disinterest and its effect on church youth activities; and the general apathy of today’s youth toward public school music education. In the second part, we examined topics from understanding the vocal ranges of the youth, which are generally untrained, the issues with the divergent age ranges of our youth, which can present problems between the older and the younger youth, with can reflect high school and college-aged youth, and some tools and ideas to retain the youth who generally do not want to sing with the adults.

What is important is that we need strategies to keep the youth involved in the music ministry of the church, regardless of the age ranges, and not the social influences deter these precious youth, especially the high school and college ages, to feel that they have reached an age where it is not “cool” to remain part of the music ministry. In this segment, we will examine the continuing need to retain these precious assets, especially, the older youth.

In too many households, youth are given the option to participate in church activities. These young people are generally around the ages of 15 and upward. In this age range, the youth are discovering many other societal interests that are not congruent with their church activities. Additionally, their growing sense of social awareness and development can tend to make church “stuff” not the thing to do. In certain situations, however, their parents will continue to require this group to attend church, but they do not want to participate. You may see these youth congregating in the back of the church, or in the balconies, being active on their cell phones, (not streaming the service), while tuning out the service. These youth can be well-behaved and not causing any disruption; however, their attention is not on the worship and unfortunately, they are not engaged.

The obvious issue with the sense of apathy is that this group of youth do not become the needed or trained conduits to the Adult music ministry or acquiring the skills to transition to the ministry of the church and its administration. Youth who have the option not to participate can grow comfortable in not serving, by not using their voices, (or not being a youth usher), and limiting their visible presence in the church family. One of the more frequent complaints that can be used is that the youth do not have a voice and the adult-led church styles are boring. While these issues may have some merit, in actuality, they become an excuse. Schools and the curriculum are adult-led and continue to be the normal process of teaching, e.g., the trained instructors providing the knowledge base that students should acquire to make them proficient. The church should not lower our standards of this basic instructional model.

While this missive examines issues in the field of music, what must not be discounted is the possible lack of spiritual development in our youth. Disengaged youth are left, unfortunately, out of the bounds of the spiritual power of the Holy Spirit that envelops the worship service. Disengaged youth are too distracted to participate in the contributions that evoke the felt presence of the Holy Spirit and the experiential nature of worship. Our youth can never be taught this aspect of the spirit; however, because of their participation in the service and their connection to the worship, they will find themselves, regardless of the ages or spiritual maturity, to connect with the Savior who loves our youth and is invested in their future. Our youth will become adults in a short span of time and we do not want to lose them to the streets. Additionally, working with our youth is a constant stream of starting over as we have to reload, because a new group is constantly coming in each year while the older group transitions to adulthood. We must understand that their needs are different from the adults, nonetheless, we must continue to provide structure, encouragement, and belief that our children will be successful. While, this missive may not serve as a solvent to the aforementioned issues, I pray that we are encouraged to keep our youth in the music ministries of the church!

Next month, we will examine the Adult Choirs and the continued need for its presence in the church.

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