About seven years ago, my husband and I felt led by the Holy Spirit to go with 50 other families from our large church to start a new campus. Initially our ministry plan did not include a children’s or preschool choir, so when the time finally came to start a children’s choir, we began from the bottom with limited resources and only two adult leaders. This was a far cry from the developed program that I led at our previous campus where literally hundreds of kids and volunteers were involved. I won’t list all of our learning curve issues, but let’s just say that we had many opportunities to discover what worked and what did not work.
Starting from the bottom affords you the opportunity to get back to the basics. These foundational elements are key in building a choir program and bringing new kids into an existing choir environment. They have a broad application for choir programs of all sizes.
1. Invite kids to come. Send an invitation to every ministry where children are involved. Let every child know they are invited and wanted. It is easy to assume that everyone in your congregation knows about the fantastic program you offer, but that may not be the case. Develop a regular schedule to advertise the choir ministry, and set up several registration dates throughout the year.
2. Let them sing in worship. Schedule the children often throughout the year. Our kids are scheduled to sing in the worship service about four times a year. This has not only caused kids (and parents) to come to us and express interest in joining the choirs, but it also tends to attract workers as well. That’s an added bonus.
3. Teach worship. John 4:24 says, “God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Children are attracted to truth. We must teach worship not because it is a buzz word but because Isaiah 43:7 says that is what we are created to do—bring glory to God. Choir is a unique venue that allows us to provide children the opportunity to “practice” worship.
4. Include a variety of activities. Kids do not want to do the same old stuff every week. This does not mean you must check off a list of different activities every time you meet, but each week should provide a new or different way to learn some of the same old stuff. Incorporate activities like fun lyric games and keep your approach fresh.
5. Be prepared. Preparation is important not only with your lesson but also in your walk with the Lord. Don’t skimp on either one. Both are vital to a successful time with children.
While teaching a seminar class on the young child’s voice, I offered several ways to teach lyrics. A lady walked up to me after class and asked me, ironically, for ideas on how to teach lyrics to children. As I asked questions and reiterated some of the ideas I had just shared, I finally came to the root of the problem. She did not want to invest the time in preparing these activities. Preparation takes time, and there is no way around that.
Being prepared in your heart means being in God’s Word. I can remember spending so much time learning games and fun activities for choir but not spending time in God’s Word. I look back on those days and realize that I was only half-prepared. Preparing my heart was just as important as preparing the activities. Sadly, even though I was partially prepared, my children’s choirs did not grow.
6. Pray for the children. Pray for your choir and about what to teach in choir. Pray for the children individually and that God will show you how to teach them worship. Pray and don’t forget to listen. Pray that God will show you how to love each child. Pray for the privilege of being God’s tangible hands and feet. Pray that kids will come to choir and feel loved, but most importantly, pray that God’s kingdom will grow.
7. Pray with the children. When we pray with our children, we are bonded together. We are promised that where two or three are gathered, God’s Spirit will be there with us. It is in the Spirit that we find our unity. When God answers those prayers, we can point that out to the children. We can celebrate with them, worship with them, and thank God with them for His answers.
8. Build relationships. Being prepared will have a huge impact on the time that you have to build relationships with the kids. A teacher who is rushing around trying to set up at the last minute or to find activities to fill the hour is a teacher who does not have time to build a relationship with the kids. Be prepared so that when children arrive, you can meet them at the door. Sit and play the early arriver activity with them, or talk with them.
I wanted to deepen my relationship with the kids from choir, so I joined kid’s worship on Sunday mornings. Because of new relationships I have made there, I have been able to invite children to choir who did not even know we had one.
9. Offer incentives. Offer some type of attendance or scripture memory award. Once kids are there, show them why they do not want to miss.
10. Have fun! If choir is a chore to you, that will come across in your teaching. Love what you do. Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 says, “There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him?”
There’s nothing new or revolutionary in this basic list of fundamentals, but much like scripture, sometimes it’s easy to hear something so often that we take it for granted. The secret to a truly successful choir program may not be found in a revolutionary new book or a great new ministry strategy. Instead, we often find the most obvious answers provide the most profound solutions. It’s not what we expect, but the basics can make all the difference.
About the author: Darlene Abbott serves as Co-Director of the Kid’s Worship Choir at The Church at Station Hill. She writes children’s music and curriculum and travels as an instructor and clinician for church workers, choir leaders, music educators, and day school teachers as well as general women’s events. She currently resides in Spring Hill, Tennessee with her husband and three children. Check out the music games and instructional aids she has available here.