Theologian and teacher Marva Dawn once said that children are the fingers and toes of the body of Christ that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians. The metaphor works beautifully for many reasons, not least of which is the wiggling nature of both fingers/toes and children. Dawn’s point was to drive home the importance of children in the worshiping body; children bring unique characteristics of innocence, openness, joy, playfulness, and enthusiasm, among others. When those qualities are missing in worship, the body is not whole.
Perhaps even more important than the wholeness of the body is the interaction of the various parts. After all, Paul has the parts of the body communicating with each other: “And if the ear would say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body” (1 Corinthians 12:17). The last thing we want those fingers and toes to think is that they do not belong to the body. So how do we communicate with, interact with, and nurture those in our midst who are perhaps viewed as being weaker or even dispensable by some? One way to open channels of communication between the generations is to engage the children’s choir.
The role of the children’s choir—or any choir for that matter—is to help the congregation to see and hear God through its music. The text sung by the choir might be a prayer offered on behalf of the congregation, a summary of scripture, or even words of encouragement to act in a certain way. When the choir communicates with the congregation in this way, however, the channel flows one way. The choir sings, and the congregation receives.
Another, more central purpose of the choir is to lead the congregation’s song. This role requires active participation on the part of the choir and the congregation. Interaction is especially obvious when the choir teaches a new song or hymn. The choir sings, and the congregation responds. Communication becomes a two-way channel.
For sure, preparing children’s choir anthems to offer in worship is a rewarding experience for both director and children. But instead, what if we were to shift the focus of the children’s choir to much more active leadership? Teaching hymns, leading psalm refrains, prayer responses, and sung portions of the liturgy are all possibilities that elevate the importance of the choir and allow for interaction between children and adults. In addition, children whose action (singing/teaching) causes feedback from the congregation (singing/learning) implicitly understand their role as leaders. The more established members of the body might gain that understanding as well.
A whole body, complete with head, torso, and fingers and toes, is good. Even better is when we open avenues for God to be able to use the variety of gifts present so the parts of the body can interact more fully. Involving the children’s choir in active music leadership is one good way for that to happen!