by Chuck Snyder
A regular contributor to Small Church Central, Chuck has been a staff member at The Presbyterian Church in Coshocton, Ohio for nearly 40 years. His assignments there have included music ministry, Christian Education, and youth ministry.
In the spring of 2008, the “Three Musketeers” had a conversation with me after a final Crusaders Choir (grades 4-8) rehearsal at our church. Then eighth graders, Emma Brems, Kayla Cowden, and Alex Lawrence posed the question: “What choir can we sing in next year?”
Without much thought, I answered “You’d be welcome to sing in the Chancel Choir. We’ve often had high school students sing with us.” Emma, often the most vocal of the three, fired back, “We don’t want to sing in the Chancel Choir. We want our own choir.”
A little flabbergasted by her direct approach, I said honestly, “I don’t think there are enough high school students here to make that possible.” There wasn’t much of a response, but I saw the disappointment in their eyes.
I thought about it for several weeks, and at Alex’s confirmation party I grabbed a napkin and began to jot down the names of possible singers in our church. When I finished I was surprised to count the names of 22 high school students with whom I’d crossed paths over the years.
That fall I penned a short, carefully-worded letter describing the idea, and announcing a first rehearsal. I printed it on bright yellow paper, bought some matching envelopes, and with the name “Celebration Singers” in my head, purchased some colorful stamps that said “Celebrate!” I asked Ann Leppla if she would help as an accompanist, and when she answered with an enthusiastic “of course!” looked for some appropriate music. While I planned and worked for a successful result, I was not all that hopeful.
The day arrived, and after Chancel Choir rehearsal I walked out into the hall to see if anyone had come. To my amazement there were 11 bright-eyed high schoolers waiting—six ladies and five gentlemen. We had a great first rehearsal, and a sixth gentleman joined us the following week. A picture that captures that first–year miracle is in our choir room.
In early September of the following year, Emma and Kayla asked if they could also sing in the Chancel Choir. They thought we could “use the help.” Of course Alex joined, too.
Fast forward to the present: Celebration Singers is beginning its ninth season. 50 young musicians have sung with the group, and others have joined them for specific occasions. As long as they were in high school, the Three Musketeers helped spearhead the recruiting efforts, often drawing in friends who were not involved in another church. Thankfully, other young church members have taken on the recruiter roles in the years since, inviting their friends from other schools, churches, and musical groups to be part of Celebration Singers.
Since Celebration Singers only sings one Sunday a month (and rehearses two Wednesdays before that), it’s not a huge commitment. Inviting others gives us the “critical mass” necessary to let our kids share their gifts in this way, and provides that opportunity to others whose churches do not have a musical opportunity for their young members, as well as others teens who are not yet connected to a church. Over these years, 16 of our young members have invited 35 friends to join them. Talk about friendship evangelism!
Celebration Singers rehearsals continue to be joyful times each month, and the joy they have in sharing their song is contagious – in rehearsal as well as in Sunday worship.