Children’s choirs can have impact beyond just the performances for which they practice. Choir directors and those that teach kids music through their lessons or service time at church influence children’s lives in ways that extend beyond children’s church and into the future. Here are a few things I took away from growing up in church choirs. What would you add?
One day while sitting in 7th grade geography class, I remember my classmates staring as bearded, biker-looking Mr. Smith (name changed) intensely questioned my faith beliefs and why I chose to believe in Jesus. After taking ownership of my relationship with Jesus the year prior, these faith discussions had become relatively usual in my public school setting.
In light of those sometimes-intense moments, choir practice on Sunday mornings became a time of reprieve, where I was able to set the defenses aside and be in a setting that didn’t require them. It was an opportunity to sing songs alongside a few friends, working together toward a common goal. And though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, the consistency of seeing these friends week to week provided support to thrive at public school. We sang together and went on choir tour trips, where we would sing and serve in other communities, creating opportunities to go deeper in friendship and understand what it means to use our gifts for others’ benefit.
Along with consistently providing opportunities to develop friendships, kids’ choir also created the opportunity for musical concepts to be cemented into our minds from an early age.
We learned how to follow along to music sheets and anticipate melodies and harmonies by reading music. We learned vocal warm-ups and how to pronounce particular words for the best pitch and sound. We practiced singing in front of crowds of all sizes, reducing stage fright little by little by performing throughout the years. We practiced stage presence and how to convey the feeling of songs through facial expressions to engage audiences.
We practiced blending our voices with those around us, to ensure that the sound was cohesive and that no one person’s was heard above the rest. We learned teamwork as we picked up on parts we didn’t quite have memorized yet by listening to those next to us, practicing the part until we had it down. We learned the basic building blocks of creative, musical expression which we could build upon in the future and use to express meaning to others.
Though, to my knowledge, few of the people from those choir days have chosen to become professional musicians, the skills we developed throughout our years of practice still prove valuable, in public speaking, in laying the groundwork for working with others, in different means of creative expression. Those are valuable throughout many areas of life.
Walking the halls at school, often times I would rehearse my parts from choir in my head, while also unintentionally rehearsing the truths the songs contained. Even today, many of those songs are ingrained in my mind, and as I have grown, the words have taken on new depth and meaning.
For example, a re-make of the hymn “Nothing But the Blood” has continually stuck with me since we learned it in junior high choir, continually resonating in different ways as the seasons have brought deeper understanding of grace and how Jesus’ death and life provide the means of healing and righteousness as we walk with him. It has brought comfort to my soul many times.
And as you rehearse songs with the children and students, it creates opportunity for the Holy Spirit to use those truths down the road by bringing them to mind and revealing different aspects of who he is.
Start where you are
Not all churches have choirs of any kind as worship styles have changed, but even simply bringing children together to sing and practice their musical skills can enable musical members of the church to use their gifts for the next generation, while also instilling additional skills into the children’s repertoire at an early age. Choir can also provide musical opportunities to children that may not be able to afford private instrument or vocal lessons.
Choirs and teaching kids musical skills don’t have to be huge productions, but can be once a week, once a month or even once a quarter, depending on the resources and people available. Whatever it looks like, in a time when consuming often usurps creativity and critical thinking, being intentional about making space to develop these skills becomes even more valuable.
Did you grow up in children’s choir or other musical groups? Now that you’re a few years down the road, how did it affect you? Have you decided to teach your kids music?