Rebuilding Church Choirs after a Pandemic: Children's Choir and Youth Choir Ideas
By James Wells
Whether you are in a small-church setting with only a few children or a larger congregation that is crawling with many younger families and kids of all ages, we are all really in the same situation.
I strongly suggest we accept where we are and embrace the opportunity to move forward in a positive way, whatever that looks like. It may mean simply identifying a child or a few children who can musically offer a small response song in worship. If you are in a larger church setting with an already established program for children, you may choose to take a calculated risk and restructure the ages or grades that rehearse together. This may be dictated by the number of children you have joining you, or it may simply be a better way to meet the needs of the children post-pandemic.
When meeting with the children, here are some things to include when you gather:
- Playful vocal explorations
- A welcome song (often using echo)
- Use of movement. Constant engagement will help with managing the children. Keep it fun and positive.
- Fun, energetic, but quick ways to incorporate music literacy into your time with the children.
- Pace is vital. It's better to move on from an activity and leave children wanting more. You can always come back to an activity.
- Appropriate vocal range for their development.
- Scripture memory songs, song games, songs for worship, songs for special events/concerts.
- A traditional way of closing – prayer, a benediction song, perhaps a way to use older children as leaders.
- "Body, mind, spirit, voice. It takes the whole person to sing and rejoice" - Helen Kemp
At this point, churches will likely follow what the schools are doing related to safety protocols since children are still unvaccinated. If cases remain low in the community, this should be fine. If the cases were to rise among children, church leaders would need to reconsider. Regardless, children’s choir leaders need to go forward with new habits of creating more distance between singers and reducing the amount of time spent in small rehearsal spaces.
Recently, our youth spent a week together locally since out-of-town travel was not something that could have been planned. The week began with three afternoons of rehearsals on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
On Wednesday, we helped prepare meals for the "Loaves and Fishes" ministry, then traveled as a group to each meal drop-off. The recipients of the meals were mostly homebound church members who could no longer prepare meals or go to the grocery store.
At each drop-off, the students sang a hymn or a cappella choir anthem followed by a prayer and benediction.
On Thursday, we sang for two groups of children:
- Franktown is a faith-based nonprofit afterschool program like Boys & Girls Clubs that focuses on the spiritual, social, and emotional needs of lower income children in the community. Our youth choir members were asked to collaborate with the Franktown Kids this fall. We plan to prepare some music and perform for their fundraising banquet.
- Project Transformation is a summer program sponsored through The United Methodist Church for children with working parents in lower income areas. We sang outdoors under a pavilion for about thirty minutes. We shared a few engaging choir anthems, performed some highlights of our summer musical, and taught some Bible songs and music from our recent vacation Bible school.
On Friday, we visited two senior-living communities where many church members live.
Saturday was spent at a waterpark, and Sunday worship engaged the youth in morning worship and in a closing concert.
A choir exists for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is to enliven the singing of the congregation. During the youth concert, we invited the congregation to participate. We used only song lyrics on the screen, but in the future, we plan to move toward including notation on the screen so that everyone can read a melody line.
In youth choir, try to live out the four pillars from YouthCue: serving our students musically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially.