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Family-friendly church choir

I am a church choir director. Recently I've had several parents of young children join the choir, and I have a few more I'm trying to recruit. Understanding that singing in a church choir requires a great time commitment, I'm looking for ideas on how I can make it more family-friendly, other than offering a nursery during rehearsal and/or church. Thank you for your ideas.
Replies (13): Threaded | Chronological
on August 18, 2011 8:01am
We have 5 children's choirs in my church, (choosing to keep groups limiited to about 25 max in each, rather than fewer and larger groups).  In short, one ingredient--perhaps the key ingredient--over the past 20 years is that all the choirs rehearse on Wed afternoon at the same time (4:30-5:30), allowing parents with multiple kids & ages to all participate at the same time.  Rehearsals are followed by a mid-week church-wide dinner (and ensuing programs), which probably helps.  At various times we've offered certain mom's or parent's activities during rehearsal time, which you might consider.  (And we have some parents who I think enjoy one hour of quiet time, often sitting in a spot and reading....) This afternoon time slot poses the expected conflicts for certain after school activities but still, that's worked the best for us.  Good luck to you! If you'd like to talk with my children's choir coordinator, I'm happy to arrange....
on August 19, 2011 9:10am
Wow, I'm wondering how working adults can get to a rehearsal that early, if that's also when the adult choir meets.
on August 19, 2011 9:25am

Sorry, I mis-read your original post, thinking it was an inquiry about an optimal children's choir rehearsal time.  I'm afraid I have no creative suggestions for your situation. (We just do nursery...)

on August 19, 2011 11:53am
The issue is that our rehearsals go 7:30-9:30, so offering a nursery doesn't really help because it's so far past many children's bedtimes. I can't move the rehearsal any earlier because the traffic is too bad, so I'm looking for some out-of-the-box incentives for parents of young children.
on August 19, 2011 1:37pm
You situation is familar to me.  I'm afraid that incentives only get you so far.  If the rehearsal time is truely not changeable, than perhaps a babysitting exchange might work.  OR, as happens in my choir, one parent will come one week, and the other parent will come the next week, etc.  As long as we're working about six weeks ahead it usually works out well.
on August 19, 2011 2:32pm
I have never tried this but wondered if it might work.... Too offer a "study hall" with a teacher (current or retired) supervising and available to help children with their homework whose parents are in choir.  A number of people at my church can't come to choir because of their children needing homework help.  Again, I've never tried it, but I think it could work to atract parents of school-age kids.  Rob
on August 20, 2011 7:37am
If you were able to start your rehearsals at 7:00 instead of 7:30 (knowing some would be late because of traffic), being done by 8:30 would still give you a 1 1/2 hour rehearsal, which should be plenty.  We have had students in 6th - 12th grade volunteer to babysit during that time, and in fact, many high school students need National Honor Society volunteer hours to be part of the group.  If you can't find any volunteers, ask each family that brings kids to throw in $2-$5 per week (less than they'd pay a babysitter) and divide it amongst the sitters.  This has worked well for us, and though it does get late, kids are pretty resilient and can be up a little later one night a week.  I'm not sure how I'd feel about a 9:30 ending time though.  Is there any way you can end at 8:30?  Even a good, solid hour of rehearsal is better than not having people there to be in choir!
on August 20, 2011 11:35am
Sally et al.  Since you bring up babysitters, I thought I might mention something that I've learned, but many people would be unaware of.  Because of the strong emphasis on the family, girls in LDS (Mormon) families are often especially good, resourcesful and reliable babysitters, and many come from fairly large families and have plenty of experience.  (And no, I am not LDS myself, but have enjoyed working with many who are.)
Just  thought.
on August 21, 2011 11:04am
I love the idea of offering tutoring for the school age kids.  I'm starting a new music director/organist position in October and from what I have heard, the issue of adults having to juggle kids, kids' rehearsals, homework, adult choir rehearsal, et al, is a problem in my new church.  Looking forward to more suggestions here!
on August 22, 2011 9:50am
Our church choir had the same problem with many people not wanting to stay till 8 or 8:30 on Wednesday nights, and was made a little worse because our church is in a downtown urban area, so most folks had to drive a bit to get home. Our solution has been Sunday afternoon rehearsals for 1 to 1/2 hours that meet about every other week during the school year. The choir director announces the schedule ahead of time, and the choir eats lunch together as a group immediately after the last worship service before rehearsing. We get a general head count the week before on Sunday morning, then everyone contributes $7 or so toward the cost of the meal, which we have catered (Subway, Quizno's, local Greek restaurant, etc). Many restaurants offer 'box lunches' like this for a very reasonable cost. We have had wonderful response to this plan. The rehearsals are far more productive because everyone is able to be there, and it's not every single week, so we don't get much burnout. As an added bonus, the choir has really enjoyed the fellowship and camaraderie of eating together before the rehearsal.
on August 23, 2011 6:32am
Do you have two choirs or one?  Could one hour of rehearsal be sufficient?  Perhaps send home rehearsal CD's if necessary. 
on August 23, 2011 7:01am
One possibility is to choose some arrangements [hymns and/or anthems] with simple refrains that even the pre-reading youngsters can sing.  Simple handchime patterns or rhythm-instrument "riffs" might also work.   (Such as the one in N. Sleeth's "Go Now in Peace") That could be rehearsed in the first part of rehearsal before the children are excused.  ( My most memorable early-childhood music experience was being able to sing the "O praise him/A-le- lu - ia" at the end of Lasst Uns/All Creatures at age 5 or so "with the big people" :)   "Families that sing together cling together".)  And how many of our youngsters are learning the hymns of our rich traditions?
When I was Staff Soprano in a downtown Atlanta church choir (many commuted from suburbs) we sometimes had "p.j. time"  - the kids would pack toothbrushes, pajamas, favorite pillow/stuffed toy, and at the cue of the care volunteer, brush their teeth and don p.j.'s.  Pillows and a calm movie can help.  The drive home is calming and no one sees them in their p.j.'s in the dark.  They might wake up, but at least they are ready for bed - one "issue" checked off the list.  :)
The recording program "Audacity"  (still a free download, I believe) will allow you to record part-prominent rehearsal cds.  Perhaps handing the parents a package - folder with sheet music, schedule,  and correlating practice cds -  will allow them to review at home when they have to leave early, stay home with a child, etc.  I know this is no substitute for attendance, but ..."any port in a storm" .. :)
Best Wishes!
on September 6, 2011 9:14am
I think it is important to note that you have to take into strong consideration any childcare policies your church might have.  My church, for instance, requires that no less than 2 adults be present for any function that involves children - that would obviously include nursery service during choir rehearsal.  A policy like that would preclude the use of teenagers as nursery service during rehearsal, at least on church property.
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