We are pretty traditional in my current church setting, and we “do” youth choir pretty much the same way churches have “done” youth choir for the past thirty years. We rehearse on Sundays, sing in worship, sing in the community, and take a summer choir tour. Just typing this out makes me feel in need of a makeover!
This year we shook things up a bit with a Mystery Destination Choir Tour. I don’t know who came up with this idea, but I have several friends who have tried it and loved it, so this year it was my turn. We were all a little nervous going into it, but let me just say it was one of the best tours we have ever done. I won’t bore you with all of the details (you can email me for particulars if you so desire), but I do want to share a few highlights and how we made this a spiritual journey into the unknown together.
Tour Bible Verse: “I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love…so that they may have the knowledge of God’s mystery.” Colossians 2:2
The first thing to know is this: last summer (2016) our choir tour was to San Francisco. We had never flown on a choir tour. We had never been further West than Houston. We were going to California and we were excited beyond belief. In short, the whole year was about the tour destination, and it should have been. It was amazing, and the minute we returned I realized I would NEVER be able to top such an experience. So, I decided to go to the opposite extreme: 2017 would not be about the destination, because the destination would be unknown!
I let the seniors help with the initial planning, so they had a little information. They quickly realized how much fun surprising the kids was going to be, so they ultimately opted to get out of the loop; they wanted to be surprised, too! I had one parent help me and she knew the details. Other than that, no one knew anything. The parents ranged from “whatever” to “what in the world?” but no one complained. Note: I have been in this church for nineteen years, so their trust in me is very high. I would not recommend this type of excursion until you have been in a church for at least five years.
During the year, whenever the kids would start begging for information, I would remind them that we don’t ever know what tomorrow brings. We talked about God’s plan for each of us and how we don’t know the things He has in store for us. We talked about “bumps” in the road of life and how they sometimes lead to great experiences and adventures. We discussed “the best laid plans” and how, even though we want to be in control it is always better to listen to God and try our best to follow His will for us.
All along the way, the kids tried to guess each day where we were going next. Sometimes they guessed correctly and other times they were completely wrong. In the end, we all agreed that what God has planned for us usually exceeds our own expectations and ideas. What a great lesson for our older high school kids as they enter a time in life when they are trying to make the overwhelming decision of an area of study or choose a career: things don’t always go as planned, and that is sometimes for the better!
My hope was that we could take the tour emphasis off of the destination and put it back on the journey. All year I reminded the kids that this tour was like our lives. We don’t know what is ahead, but we make a commitment, we show up to practice, and we get on the bus. After all, our final destination is not a place on a map. We end up, as the Irish Blessing says, within the palm of God’s hand.
CUEnotes Contributor, Director of Youth Music Ministry, FUMC Athens, GA
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