[Editor's note: Last week we heard from Karol Kimmel on building your youth choir program, with ideas about scheduling, worship suggestions, and continuing education. This week: more ideas from Kimmel on choir visibility, rehearsal punctuality, recruitment, and team-building.]
REACHING OUT: As church-wide events are planned for the next year, look for opportunities for your choir to sing at a non-worship event: Rally Day, Fall Festival, Halloween Carnival, Reformation observance, men’s meeting or women’s WELCA gathering, stewardship event, Christmas pageant, church picnic, golden-agers luncheon, mother-daughter banquet, men’s barbecue, visit to those in a nursing home. Think outside the box; along with some of your best anthems, perform songs you may not sing in worship. Use movement, claps, and kazoos or reenact a short Bible story through song– have fun! Take your choir Christmas caroling. They will appreciate learning the words to carols and the people you visit will be touched by your thoughtfulness. Finish the afternoon or evening with a choir party at someone’s house and don’t forget the hot chocolate!
INVITE: Plan a Bring-A-Friend Day at choir. Be ready to WOW the visitors with interesting warm-ups, songs with movement, a simple song in another language, a beautiful anthem. Choose a month to allow parents to visit your choir rehearsals. Arrange chairs so the parents can see the children. Plan to include parents on a song. Let the children teach them a song!
IDENTITY & VISIBILITY: Design and print a choir t-shirt. Wear during the musical or on designated days at church. Design and printing costs (1 – 2 colors) on a good quality t-shirt is affordable – less than $10 a shirt per singer. Take photographs of the children on Sundays in their choir robes or choir shirts, during rehearsals, and at other choir events. Maintain church and choir room bulletin boards. Chart out when to submit notices and articles for the church newsletter and congregational emails in the upcoming year.
PUNCTUALITY: Have trouble getting children to arrive on time? Start your rehearsals on time and have a not-to-be missed activity first. Assign a special task (light a candle, play a choir chime or drum, lead a singing game) and allow children in weekly rotations to help– they won’t want to miss their turn. Devise a system, something simple that rewards those who make it in the door on time. I buy a roll of raffle tickets and let each child who arrives on time put their name on a ticket and put the ticket in their choir’s bucket - an ice cream bucket covered in colorful contact paper. (The act of signing a ticket and putting it through a slot is fun for the children.) Each month we have a drawing and provide simple prizes (pencils, fancy erasers, small Playdo canisters, etc.) for five children whose names are pulled from the bucket. On the same day, we provide a simple snack (cookies, crackers) for the whole choir. One has a better chance of winning a prize if consistently on time for rehearsals, yet everyone has a chance and gets a treat!
TEAMWORK: Do your singers get opportunities to work together as a team, mixing up possible cliques and abilities. Establish groups within your choir; mix up friend groups and ages. Rotate opportunities by groups to play instruments, lead a silly song or game, sing a harmony line, or lead choir devotions. Provide several group opportunities in each rehearsal… they won’t want to miss their turn.
THEMES & PLANNING: Take some time to study the lectionary for next year; Sundays and Seasons is a tremendous help in this process. Pay attention to the lessons for possible singing dates. Jot down anthem, psalm, and hymn ideas for your choirs. Refer back to these notes as you look through repertoire and/or attend clinics throughout the summer. Is there a particular statement of faith or theme that you can explore through music? This year my choristers are singing several hymns and anthems that honor the Holy Trinity. So far we’ve learned the anthems “Tunaomba Mungu Atawale” (CGA 1171) and “God of the Universe” (CGA 821) and the hymns “Now Thank We All Our God” (ELW 840) and “Come, All You People” (ELW 819). We are also identifying symbols of the Holy Trinity. Helping our choristers make connections between Biblical texts, Christian beliefs, traditional hymnody, and choral anthems encourages active participation in their own worship and Christian journey.
GIVE THANKS for the opportunity to train young musicians and be a guide on their faith journey. You are an important part of your church’s ministry and an important person in the lives of your choristers.
TAKE TIME: Be sure to take time to rest and relax so that you return in the fall rejuvenated and excited about another year of singing God’s praise.