Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Lessons from Youth Choir Retreat

Last weekend I went on a retreat with my youth choir.  Friday night forty youth and six adults piled into four vans and headed toward Camp Lookout, a retreat center outside of Chattanooga.  We had a few goals for the weekend.  We wanted to learn a lot of music: in one weekend we rehearsed as much as we typically rehearse in almost eight weeks of regular rehearsal.  We also wanted to build relationships with each other.  Not just because it will help us make music together (though it will), but because building relationships is what we are all about in music ministry.  And we wanted to have fun.

I'd like to think we accomplished those goals.  I know we made good progress on the music, and I can't wait for to finish polishing it so you can hear it on Sunday mornings and folks outside the church can hear it in concert in May and June.  And I felt like we came closer together as a group through programming, activities, and free time.  Maybe the youth had fun...you never can really tell.

Image result for fun
Not that much fun.
Sorry, guys.
One thing I enjoy about choir retreats is that while my primary role is to teach, I never fail to learn something new or be reminded of something I've forgotten or lost sight of.  Here are some of the things I picked up along the way last weekend (in no particular order):
  1. Be prepared.  I'm an eagle scout, and I already knew this, but still.  Because this was a new site for us, Taylor and I went up a day early to walk through the property and also set a few things up ahead of time.  In the past I've just taken everything with us and set up on Friday night.  The early preparation helped make things go smoothly.
  2. The air quality in a room occupied at night by 8 teenage boys is questionable.
  3. 3M Size M, Thermoplastic Elastomer, Half Mask Facepiece Respirator
    Recommended.
  4. Driving isn't the only place where cell phones are a distraction.  I took them all away before we left the church and didn't give them back until Sunday.  The change in productivity as we learned the music was significant, but it was eclipsed by the change in how the youth interacted with each other.  This has led me to recommit to a phone-free youth choir (I've done it before...not sure why I stopped).
  5. Youth are messy eaters, but they can clean up after themselves if asked.
  6. Image result for toddler table food mess
    I've considered something like this...
  7. Those of us who serve in ministry need to balance looking outside the church with looking in.  I might write a whole article about this next week, but basically my thinking is this: we know the church had become way too self-absorbed and focused on the people already inside it, and churches everywhere have begun reacting strongly to that reality.  The trouble is that while focusing on helping people outside the church is a worthy endeavor, if you lean too far that direction you risk losing community within.  We must be bound together by more than the desire to lift up the poor.  After all, Jesus said people would know we were His disciples if we had love for each other, right?  I'm starting to write the article, so I'll stop, but you understand what I mean...
  8. Even if you win a poker game that ends at 2:30am, you lose.
  9. Image result for exhausted person
    Even worse if you don't drink coffee.
  10. Memories are the gluten of community.  It is our shared remembrance that gives us identity.  It is the same shared remembrance that can make our group difficult to access, and as Christians we must actively seek to include others...especially those we don't feel like including.  This is probably another article too.
  11. Never, EVER, EVER go all-in on two pair.
  12. Tell Juan Ponce de Leon I've discovered the fountain of youth, and it isn't in Florida.  It's directing a youth choir.  If you can keep up with them, they'll keep you young.  Not only that, it is rewarding to share the benefit of my experience with the youth...and to receive the benefit of theirs.  [PSA: This experience can be yours for the incredible low price of free!  Taylor is always looking for youth volunteers.  No experience required.  Email tkaiser@decaturfirst.org to sign up.
  13. Image result for ponce de leon fountain of youth
    Armor and sword optional.
  14. Sometimes you really do want to go where everybody knows your name, and that's true for all of us, no matter how old or young we are.

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