Every now and then, I get the question “why does youth choir matter in today’s world”? Yikes, if you are brave (or aloof) enough to ask me that question, you better be prepared for my dissertation-sized response. Put quite simply, strong youth choir programs matter much more today than ever before, and here’s why. I’ll give you the annotated version to spare your eyesight and my blood pressure.

Those of us who’ve had the privilege of a positive experience in choral singing know how much of an impact it can have on both the present and future, but let’s break down the components of what is actually going on behind the scenes to make these experiences so lasting and meaningful.

Choral training is a fantastic leadership development tool, and in my opinion, one of the best. We’ve all heard the saying “in order to be a good leader, you must first be a good follower”. The beauty of the choral training experience is that you learn how to be good at both, simultaneously.

In a choral setting, singers learn to follow a number of leaders in concert (no pun intended): the conductor, the accompanist, a featured section or singer. At the same time, we learn to follow each other, to listen, to respect, to balance ourselves in harmony with those around us. We learn to lead when the conductor calls for more from our section, or when we are featured within a specific part of the song. We are looked to for leadership in worship settings, by being responsible for the backbone of congregational singing, both visually and audibly.

Corporately, we learn excellence, the value of hard work and the impact we can have on the lives of others. We learn that individual contributions matter tremendously toward the greater group as a whole, and that we must each work together, or we are nothing at all.

Wow, what incredible life lessons.

I was recently chatting with a potential donor who was asking me to help her understand what YouthCUE is all about. Luckily, I had a rare moment of mental clarity, and I responded with something smooth like “YouthCUE’s calling is to teach and instill scripture in the hearts and minds of youth at formative times of their development, and we do that through the youth choir experience. How many times have all of us been driving down a road when a song comes on the radio we haven’t heard in years? Miraculously, we recall most of the words, and often can remember exactly what was going on in our lives when we first heard that song. This same concept applies to the youth choir experience, where scripture-based texts are constantly being committed to memory for replay throughout life’s ups-and-downs.” At that moment, I saw the light bulb go on. She finally got it.

A strong youth choir program is about much more than just the act of singing a few songs together as a group. A positive youth choir experience, coupling choral training with scripture-based texts, makes invaluable investments in the lives of our youth at critical stages of their intellectual, spiritual, and personal development. I’d argue it is the single-most important factor to an adolescent’s personal spiritual formation, regardless of whether they are “musical” or not.

Sure sounds to me like it “matters”.