24-Hour Choir Trips ~ Short, Sweet, Special

YC – This designates material suited for Youth Choirs. Perkins School of Theology has allowed me to teach CM8107: Youth Choir and the Church for 20 years. Maybe, some of the things I have learned and shared might be helpful in this context.


1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2 “Get up, go to Nineveh,

that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”  

Jonah 3:1-2


Sometimes, I think Nineveh is in my own back yard, yet, I still run from it. Tim

Last summer, like every summer for many years, I traveled with youth choir members from my church on cross country trips.  The time we spend riding eating, sleeping playing and singing together provided a unique opportunity to relate to one another.

As the weather cools and we get comfortable in our school-year routine, I find myself missing those special summer times.  It’s not the frenzied schedule and monotonous bus rides I’m longing for; it’s that special connection we all shared for a brief time in ministry together. The youth in our church reap an amazing harvest from choir tours:

increased attendance because of tour excitement;

deep bonds of fellowship and unity;

the musical rush of a polished performance;

unparalleled growth through unique spiritual opportunities in creative settings.

Many music leaders want to create such opportunities for their youth, but find themselves overwhelmed with the magnitude of a days-long summer tour.  Or perhaps like me, you’ve provided a tour in the summer and look for creative ways to reinforce the experience with a unique opportunity throughout the year. Consider a 24-hour “field trip” as a way to reap the tour harvest with limited cost, limited planning and limited time.

What are the challenges?

Over-extended youth. One of the greatest challenges in youth work is competition for their time.  Students are over-extended and overwhelmed.  It is one thing to compete for their attention and another to compete for their time.  Can you encourage them to set aside a few hours in hope of receiving an experience that will last a lifetime?

Repertoire. Depending on the concert settings you provide, there may be no need to learn additional or new literature.  A collection of anthems performed over the course of a few months can be united into a service and surrounded with scriptures and/or skits.

Venues. All too often, we overlook wonderful opportunities within our community because “something is always cooler when it is far away.”  A short trip, even within your backyard, can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling.  Relationships with people in the community can be developed and encouraged over time.

What are the possibilities?

Each community offers an element of diversity.  Consider another church experience that is dramatically different than your own.  Reach out to the mentally and physically disabled.  Seek out children’s homes and retirement communities.  Find the homeless shelters and youth detention centers.  Often, people right in our own backyard are starved for the Christian witness provided by young people.  We have the opportunity to provide life-changing opportunities for them as well as our youth.

Check out these four trips, tried and true, which took place in the Dallas area.  I suggest that you use them to stimulate your creativity in trip planning.  Naturally, your community will provide different possibilities, and quite possibly, the most profound experiences for your youth for their entire year.

Are you overwhelmed with Christmas programming? This is easy. Sing one verse of familiar carols interspersed with youth reading short scriptures in-between.

                           Hark! The Herald

         Luke 2:1-5  O Little Town of Bethlehem

         Luke 2:6-7  Away in a Manger & Silent Night

         Luke 2:8-10 The First Noel & Angels We Have Heard on High

         Mat 2:9-11  We Three Kings & In the Bleak Mid-Winter – verse 4 only

         John 3:16    Joy to the World

Are you going to government subsidized facilities that require separation of church and state? Rudolph, Frosty, White Christmas, Jingle Bells will get you started. Don’t miss the blessing in the Twelve Days of Christmas. Begin with everyone sitting on the ground. Have your most popular kid sing day 1. Day 2 is beautifully awkward if assigned to a dating couple. Day 3 is great for a siblings and Day 4 for a group of friends. Have everyone stand for Day 5. Then, on days 6-12, have them stand and sing as grade levels. Since everyone sings such a small part it is easily memorized in 5 minutes.


1.      Sr. High Christmas Mission Trip

Date: first day of school holiday before Christmas

Repertoire: three anthems already learned for church, caroling and scripture

9:30 a.m. –  Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital

11:00 a.m. – Dallas Stew Pot (serve and sing)

12:30 p.m. – Sack lunch and caroling at Thanksgiving Square, downtown Dallas

2:00 p.m. – Life Care Center (nursing home)

3:30 p.m. – Buckner Children’s Home

5:00 p.m. – Hot Chocolate, cookies and worship at our church


2.      Jr. High Christmas Mission Trip

Date: first day of school holiday before Christmas

Repertoire: two anthems, caroling and reading of the Christmas Story

9:00 a.m. –  City of Plano Senior Center

10:00 a.m. – Plano Food Pantry

11:00 a.m. – HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Plano

12:00 p.m. – Pre-made lunch from Subway waiting at White Rock UMC

1:00 p.m. – C.C. Young Retirement Center, Blanton Gardens

2:00 p.m. – Samaritan Inn for homeless folks

3:00 p.m. – Hot Chocolate, cookies and worship at our church


3.      Worship Exploration

Date: Saturday evening through Sunday morning

Repertoire: four anthems for prelude, anthem, offertory and postlude

6:00 p.m. –  Dinner provided at our church

7:00 p.m. – Car pool to Hamilton Park UMC and rehearsal in their sanctuary (a race and worship experience different than our own)

8:30 p.m. – Rapid transit to downtown Dallas

9:00 p.m. – Devotion on Matthew 5:14 in a skyscraper looking at Dallas lights.  Each class writes a prayer set to music for our worship.

10:30 p.m. – Rapid transit to Starbucks for Hot Chocolate and cookies

11:00 p.m. – Rapid transit to Hamilton Park UMC for overnight – sleeping bags in gym

8:00 a.m. – Provide music for their first worship service

10:00 a.m. – Car pool home to our church for Sunday morning parent pick-up


4.      Faith Exploration

Date: during Spring Break

Repertoire: one anthem to sing for host(s), sensitive to other worship experiences

8:00 a.m. –  Breakfast in back room of IHOP

9:30 a.m. – Temple Shalom, Sr. Rabbi Kenneth Roseman to address the group

10:45 a.m. – Cathedral Guadalupe, Father Ramone to address the group

12:00 p.m. – Lunch in back room of Spaghetti Warehouse

1:45 p.m. – Southern Methodist University, Rev. Mark Craig to address the group

3:00 p.m. – Islamic Association of Collin County, Abdul Hadi Khan to address the group

3:45 p.m. – McFlurries at McDonalds by the Mosque

4:30 p.m. – Jack Carter Park for volleyball, frisbee golf, water balloon launchers

5:30 p.m. – Devotion


Create Anticipation

Build excitement among your youth by collecting items in the weeks ahead of your event. 

For example:

–    Toiletries for the Homeless Shelter

–    Small stuffed animals for the Children’s Home

–    Home-made cards of comfort for the hospital chaplain to distribute

–    Canned food for soup kitchens and food pantries

Prior to departure, set your donated items on the floor in front of your choir.  Ask the youth to imagine how their donation will bless the people of God.  Allow your young people to physically hand them over to the ministries you visit 

Getting Started

Organizing a short trip begins with creating the vision and selecting a date.  Calendars from your various school districts are usually available on-line and provide great insight to the collective youth’s schedule.   Obviously, the perfect time frame without conflicts does not exist!  Set reasonable expectations.  When your programming has achieved success, future events will be met with greater interest and higher priority.

Over the past several years, a collection of locations, contact names and phone numbers have become an indispensable resource.  It is referred to as “the Risk List.”  It includes a list of institutions in the area, which provide a format for a choir performance.  Important questions have already been answered.  Do they have a common meeting space?  Do we sing as we walk the halls?  Is amplification necessary?  Is a piano available?  The list includes names of venues which are unique and meaningful.  The contact names are already included along with phone numbers and office hours.  Initially, creating your list will take some time.  Soon it will be worth its ‘weight in gold’ in terms of creative thinking and planning.

Transportation is a great hurdle.  Safety concerns make this decision important and sometimes overwhelming.  More often than not, car-pool decisions depend on the amount of participants.  With enough youth, charter buses can be a wonderful alternative.  They are great for building community and keeping folks together.  They are not cost effective unless you can maintain a reasonable percentage of occupancy.

As a responsible leader of youth, we are entrusted with the safety of cherished young people.  You must consider the use of medical release forms, especially when taking the youth off campus.

Provide for Spiritual Growth

Youth will be enticed to participate due to the “uniqueness” of the opportunity you have planned.  And they will have fun!  If you make every effort to set it in a spiritual context, you provide an experience that may alter their perspective on life; widen their spiritual horizons; and create a faith moment to last a lifetime.

A year ago, on one of our overnight field trips fifteen miles away, I stood on the 44th floor of a downtown Dallas bank building with a hundred teenagers.  As we looked at Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14 regarding our being the light of the world, it was our intention to contemplate the city lights of Dallas spread out before us.  It was raining, cloudy, and unseasonably cool on that March night.  With zero visibility, the symbolic conception was quite a stretch.  But as each group of young people worked together preparing a prayer to be set to music, I knew that we had succeeded in going beyond the weekly job of preparing anthems for performance.  Despite the terrible weather, we had found profound meaning in our faith search together.  Something all of us, as music professionals, aspire to.

Last month, at the conclusion of HOLIDAY HOPE (a 24 hour Christmas Mission Trip), the dichotomy of privilege stood in contrast to the people we had seen earlier that day. The students were challenged, in that very moment, to make this Christmas a meaningful one instead of a materialistic one. Each wrote a meaningful love letter to a family member to leave on their tree as an extra Christmas morning present.

Every short trip should conclude with a devotion; a time to debrief; an opportunity to reflect on the needs of the world; and, in particular, the needs of the community.  Stir within your youth sensitivity to folks who walk a different path than the one they walk.  In doing so, you will have provided an opportunity for growth that they will never forget.

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