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Use fewer words to communicate with youth, choir leader advises

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Like salt, words should be used sparingly when communicating with youth, a minister of music said during Church Music Leadership Conference at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center.
Cautioning, “don’t use the whole box of Morton’s at once,” Randy Edwards, minister of music at First Baptist Church, Shreveport, La., maintained four forms of communication exist for the youth choir setting.
“Spoken communication is overused,” he asserts. “Aural sameness sets in. They hear the voice and the message until they don’t hear it anymore.”
And, besides, Edwards has come to believe ministers of music “can talk your rehearsal time away. Compare the amount of time you talk with the time spent on singing.”
Edwards learned this lesson over time and advocates taping a rehearsal to see “the incredible amount of time you spend talking.”
Written communication is the form of communication he recommends using first, in fact.
“We do not use written communication with teenagers based on a faulty assumption that they will not read,” he said. “They have to be taught to read, just as they must be taught to read music.”
And for the minister, there is a discipline that comes from putting information on paper, he added.
“I am an educator. I am educating youth in the life of Christ. Yes, I am a minister, but I minister through teaching. I believe it is a shortcoming that we don’t see ourselves as educators. We need to ask, what it is that we want our youth to have experienced, sung, felt during this year with us.”
Edwards said he gives youth the equivalent of a college syllabus with the listing of every rehearsal, worship service in which they will sing and mission activity for the year. Thereafter in each rehearsal, he provides a rehearsal schedule for the day.
“They have the big picture and are given little bits of it as they go,” he said.
“The message of the rehearsal sheet is ‘here is the order of the music we’ll sing.'” But Edwards also knows there are other messages the sheet communicates, including “We have work to do,” “We have a purpose,” “This is important,” “I am organized” and “I am in charge.”
The most under-used form of communication, he said, is non-verbal. Body language is in this category, as well as directing music. Both are sign language.
And a byproduct form of communicating, he said, is musical communication.
“You can teach this, and it has a lot to do with things that are not even musical,” Edwards said. “The way they line up and come in to face the congregation has everything to do with the way they are heard. The first sound the congregation hears is non-verbal.”
Edwards tells youth, “The way you carry yourself, enter the room and look them in the eye with confidence lets them hear you before you sing. It doesn’t matter how beautifully you sing if you stand like a rag.”
Communication keeps people from colliding, Edwards said, just as traffic signals do.
“It saves people from misunderstanding, tips off our intentions, gives expression to our relationships and is the freight for our dreams. Communication carries the dreams from our heart and head to someone else.”
Church Music Leadership Conference, July 11-17, was sponsored by the music ministries department of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Charles Willis