So, if your church is like Tallowood, we offer worship services in Traditional, with choirs, orchestra, and pipe organ AND we offer worship services in Contemporary, with guitars, bass, keys, and vocals. What should the Youth Choir Director do in that situation?
Look at the title of this article—I would go with “Both/And” and here’s why:
I was one of those music ministers that secretly had a fear of ever having a worship service whose primary leadership was from guitars, vocals and drums. There was just something about the pipe organ, fantastic orchestra, and huge choirs that SHOUTED “Worship” for me.
As the times changed all around us, I was one of those reluctant converts to the idea of adding Contemporary. When a pastoral change came along to change the equation, it occurred to me, why not make all of the worship services at Tallowood the BEST that they could be, regardless of style.
By the glorious Grace of God, I am thrilled to say that it is possible to do BOTH/AND and do them exceptionally well. Surprisingly, the church loves the care and prayer that goes into every service of worship despite the style.
So where does that leave the Youth Choir Director? Should we hold to the past? Do we go into the future kicking and screaming? Do we just give up and embrace the darkness? I admit, at times I have answered “Yes” to all of those questions. However, having come out on the other side, I think I have arrived at BOTH/AND and there is a great deal of joy there!
Here is what I mean by that. Last Sunday the junior high choir was invited by their new director, Joel, to join him in leading the contemporary version of our annual International Day.
A brief word of explanation would help here. Tallowood has an English-speaking pastor and services, naturally, but because of the diversity of Houston’s population, we, also, have a pastor for the Sudanese, Myanmar (Burmese), Chinese, Arabic, and Hispanic congregations. Further, the English service is translated live into French for our new, emerging Congolese refugee members. On International Day all of the congregations come together into the the English services, regardless of when they would normally be meeting. The service was multi-lingual. It was a glorious day!
The picture above shows the Worship Choir for the contemporary service on International Sunday. What you may not be able to see is that there are 25 members from the junior high choir scattered through this multi-cultural, multi-generational choir.
Some of the kids were sitting next to a teenager from Myanmar, Taiwan, Cuba or Egypt. On the congregational songs they might hear Spanish over one shoulder and French over the other. This same junior high choir might lead on another Sunday (just by themselves) singing what we would call a traditional anthem, but THIS Sunday they are singing the latest contemporary songs with fellow church members from all over the world.
The kids LOVED it!
That same day the high school choir really rocked the final International Day service singing Pepper Choplin’s new spiritual “Hold On to the Rock” just with piano accompaniment. They were sensational.
Here is another example of how the Both/And can work. One Sunday in December, we wanted to give the regular Tallowood Orchestra the morning off (because of a huge evening concert coming that night.) At first we thought that we just wouldn’t have an orchestra for the Sunday morning when the high school choir was to be the service choir in the traditional service. But we were singing Craig Courtney’s new arrangement of “Let There Be Peace On Earth” and his arrangement utilizes an orchestra.
We decided to call and ask the Memorial High School orchestra to come and be our service orchestra for the day. (we made a contribution to their spring trip to New York). That way, our high school choir performed this incredible arrangement of Craig’s with the orchestra from one of our many area high schools. People in the traditional service came up afterwards to talk to the kids, many of them with tears in their eyes, saying that they hadn’t heard that song since they were children and never heard it more beautifully sung. The kids were floating as their left the service, certain that God has used them to lead this congregation in a unique way.
These are just 2-3 examples, but I am certain that there are countless ways that you can embrace BOTH/AND in your particular church. You will benefit and so will you kids!
Let me hear from you about your experiences with these concepts!
CueWeb publish date: February 18, 2015