Directing a Youth Gospel Choir: Tips and Song Suggestions

All photos on this page are of the Youth Choir from Bethlehem Temple Apostolic Church, Los Angeles

This page takes a look at some of the issues to remember when working with a youth or teen choir.

I also have suggestions of good gospel songs for youth choirs to sing (you can click here to go straight to the suggestions list of good gospel songs for youth choirs).

Directing a youth choir is both an opportunity and a challenge.

Teenagers are capable of so much energy and enthusiasm. If they take what they’re doing to heart, there’s no stopping them. But sometimes it takes some work to get them in the right emotional/spiritual state to apply themselves to the work at hand.

Choir directing is a spiritual ministry, but there are practical ideas as well that can make your ministry much more effective. How can you make the most of the abilities that God has given the young people that you work with?

 

Youth Choir Tip #1: GET TO KNOW THEIR VOICES

A youth choir can sometimes cover a wide vocal range. There may be a mixture of younger kids with higher voices and older ones whose voices have dropped. If you have teen boys whose voices have changed already, they could be in the baritone or even bass range!

You must know the vocal ranges of your singers so that you can choose the right songs for them and arrange the songs the right way to match their voices. Spend a little time with each singer. Play notes on a keyboard and have them sing the notes. Write down what the highest and lowest notes are that each singer is comfortable with.

Now when you choose a song for your youth choir, you’ll know whether they would be able to sing it just like the recording or whether you need to change the key or rearrange the parts. Do make the effort to adapt the song so that it fits their range. You wouldn’t want to give them anything that would be a strain and hurt their young voices.

Youth choir tip #3: YOU MAY HAVE TO BOOST THEIR CONFIDENCE

Lamarr Henry is a young man who sings with confidence and power, but not all youth choir members have it like that.

You remember being a teenager, right? The self-consciousness, the worrying about what your peers thought of you, the whole ordeal of growing up. That’s what your youth choir members are going through right now. When it comes time to sing, they may be shy and hesitant. The kids who are fantastic singers (and know that they are) will be ready and willing to sing out. But the ones who are not sure of their abilities will hold back. That’s why youth choir directors often hear themselves saying things like, “I know you can sing louder than that. I can hear you a block away when you’re talking with your friends in the parking lot.”

It will take time and patience for your choir singers to come out of their shells. One thing that will work in your favor is the fact that music is something that humans respond to instinctively. When you hear a song that you know really well, you will probably start singing along without even noticing that you’re doing it. The same thing will happen with your youth choir members. They will get comfortable with the songs and singing along with them will feel easy and natural.

Another thing that will help them overcome shyness is when you build a rapport with them and also encourage them to bond with each other. When they start to see the other choir members as friends, they will be less self-conscious and they will sing with more boldness.

Youth choir tip #4: THERE WILL BE PRACTICAL ISSUES TO DEAL WITH, TOO.

Some of the things that are very easy with an adult choir can be more challenging for young people.

  • For example, in an adult choir, almost every choir member will own a car. Once you announce a rehearsal, you don’t worry too much about how people will get there. But most members of a teen choir will be at the mercy of others for their transportation. You will be communicating with the parents about the choir’s rehearsals and performances. Sometimes young people may not be able to come to a rehearsal because other people in their family have commitments for that day.
  • Also, it is a challenge to find a good time for rehearsals. Parents don’t like for their kids to be out late on school nights, so having rehearsals on a weeknight may not work out. If rehearsal time is during the weekend, there may be conflicts between choir rehearsal and other activities that young people are involved in, like sports and family outings.
  • Another issue that may arise is that some young people have parents who are no longer together. If a child spends part of their time with one parent and part of the time with the other, they might only be able to come to rehearsal on the weeks that they are with the parent who is supportive of their choir activities. The other parent may not be interested in making the drive.

So just keep in mind that even the most devoted members of your youth choir may not be able to attend all of the rehearsals. What this means to you is that you should make sure that any songs the choir is learning get practiced at several rehearsals before you sing them. That way if a choir member misses a rehearsal, they will have more chances to learn the material before they have to sing it.

 

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