Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: KY All-State Choir Part 3

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

KY All-State Choir Part 3

I have been keeping you updated on my conversations with the KBC concerning the 120+ person All State Youth Choir that represented the Southern Baptist Churches across the state of KY. Everyone in the choir was Caucasian.

I received an email from Alan Witham, Church Development Strategist for the South Central Region. Alan thanked me for the email and had some nice things to say about what he has heard concerning my ministry at Graefenburg. Unfortunately, Alan's response to the issue at hand came up rather short. I do not blame him specifically of course, but it seems there is a convention-wide lackadaisical approach to reaching all people and getting them involved in the happenings of our churches.

Alan's first comments simply said "I can't give an answer based on actual reasons given by African American Youth why they have not tried out." Ok, fair enough. If he doesn't know why, he can't very well answer the question. But, why don't we know? Are we asking? Are we curious?

Secondly, Alan made mention that many African American churches are aligned with the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky and have that option to get involved in training and activities.

Lastly, Alan said that "We are attempting to involve more of our African American churches in KBC events." He then cited one example as to how we are attempting to accomplish that feat. "One example is our attempt this year to offer African American Tracts at our Super Saturday Events."

So, to sum up the response, it would go something like this: 1. We don't know why other races, specifically African American teenagers, did not try out. 2. There is the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky. 3. We are handing out tracts to help with this problem.

I sincerely appreciate Alan getting back to me and I know he is answering as truthfully as he can. I certainly don't have a great answer to this. But what a shame to display the great talent God has given our teenagers through a state wide choir and only view a platform filled with white faces.


Blogger Barry said...

I think this is a question with a bigger scope, as to why so many of our churches themselves are so predominately white. At my home church we have one black couple that are regular members, and they are actually exchange students from Africa who decided to stay here and raise a family. Another black lady was a longtime member but she recently moved away. That's pretty much it.

I don't believe our church (UMC) has an overt or even covert racist culture, we've actually always been a very welcoming and outreach-oriented congregation. But you have to be careful you're not appearing to shoehorn people of other races into a group to satisfy a real or imaginary "quota" you believe they are under-represented, because they will sense that you might not really care for them as individuals, but members of a race or ethnic group.

Participation in a congregation (or a choir) should flow naturally with ample personalized invitation. It starts with members bringing or inviting friends of other races to church, or choir tryouts. Of course, you can go even further by hoping the members actually have friends of other races and don't practice subtle racism on their own. You have to have a black friend to invite them, otherwise you're back at square one.

(this doesn't just apply to African Americans, of course - in East Tenn the Hispanic population is growing rapidly and it applies just as much there as any other ethnic group)

Ultimately it comes down to culture. A "black" church typically has a different culture than a "white" church. Not just in attitudes of the membership, but the styles of dress, mannerisms, music, fervency of worship, etc. We all worship the same God of course (hopefully) but some people aren't comfortable crossing cultures sometimes. Just as I might not be comfortable attending some other "white" church in the area, everyone has their tastes. It doesn't mean you're a racist or not open to new ideas, but you want to be comfortable in the church you attend. Especially if you have a family. So it can be difficult to "integrate" churches and choirs at times, simply because of the clash of cultures. It's not racism or even bad, it's just human nature.

July 11, 2007 8:55 AM  
Blogger The Beast said...


I agree with your comments and think you are right on. I mentioned this concept on the phone with Tog, the director of worship, and I understand the reality.

However, if we rely to heavy on it, then we will be in danger of not actively seeking all people for our churches. If what you have said is the answer to the All State Youth Choir question, then so be it. The issue I have is that no one knows or seems to be interested in finding out.

July 11, 2007 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Dezi said...

I guess we are very lucky our church is so diverse. I teach children's church and out of 15 children who are regulars 4 are not Caucasian. I would say in our church of 200 Sunday morning we have about 12 families that are not Caucasian and a total of about 15 children in all the children's programs that are not Caucasian. We have two African families who wear their traditional African clothing on Sunday and no one pays any attention. However I could not tell you what my church is doing to bring this diverse crowd into our church, we do have a full time daycare and that is an outreach. Since I joined a year ago about 5 families from daycare are members now. We also have Divorcecare and outreach like that but I guess most churches do so I wonder what makes us different?

July 11, 2007 11:46 AM  
Blogger The Beast said...


I would think your daycare does make a difference. That is a good word to hear, thanks for sharing that.

July 11, 2007 1:21 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

We also have a full-time daycare, and the church is very near the University's married student and foreign student housing, not to mention an area of town that has grown heavily Hispanic. Neither demographic situation has really ever been reflected in our church's makeup. Oddly enough, we've done outreach for years in both communities, with little success.

And it's not token outreach, it was good, honest, welcoming attempts. Some communities simply resist, and some churches simply don't have a lot of cultural and ethnic diversity. I think when you know the specifics of the church, or choir, know that they are a welcoming group and not "exclusive", a lack of diversity can often just be chalked up to the luck of the draw. So we shouldn't beat ourselves up about it, but maybe concentrate efforts in other areas - maybe improving non-obvious qualities will attract minorities...

July 11, 2007 2:45 PM  
Blogger The Beast said...


Again, I agree with you when it comes to the local church. But when the matter extends to a state-wide covention youth choir of churches with zero representation other than Caucasian, that is not luck of the draw and it is not acceptable.

What do you have in mind as non-obvious qualities that churches could concentrate on? I would love to hear your thoughts.

July 11, 2007 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Agog said...

I can only speak for my congregation but we have an outreach problem in general. We are not only failing in any attempt to reach other ethnic groups but we are failing to reach our own. Maybe before we can target other races we have to begin with appreciating the importance of outreach in general.

July 11, 2007 4:29 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Non-obvious qualities:

Well, the first thing that strikes me is wondering (without having any prior info) what the actual quality and reputation of the choir itself is. In other words, are they traditionally any good or is it a "cliquey" place to be? The choir and its directors should work as hard as they can with the people they have to be a good, quality singing group that presents a powerful message through music. Hopefully the reputation can be enhanced enough that people will want to be in it, regardless of race.

Of course, if they already have that quality and reputation, but still not racial diversity, then you have to try something else.

That's one non-obvious quality. I try and think of others.

July 12, 2007 9:10 AM  
Blogger Bennett Willis said...

I had one daughter who was an All State Baptist Choir member in Texas. I think that it was similarly white. But I don't recall seeing people of any other race where she auditioned either.

This sort of thing is a spiritual opportunity and it looks really good on your resume so students should apply if they might qualify. As I recall, it was not extremely expensive. The web site in Texas is http://www.bgct.org/texasbaptists/Page.aspx?&pid=1056&srcid=1053. They note that if you have made Area choir or better in the UIL competitions in Texas that you don't even need to audition--just apply. I suspect that the requirements are similar in other states.

If minority students think that they would not feel comfortable, I'd remind them that this is an environment where Christian behavior is expected--and enforced if necessary--in all ways. This might be a good place to "practice" working with the majority. I guess in Texas I should say "working with the largest minority."

Bennett Willis

July 14, 2007 4:27 PM  
Anonymous Adam Hyatt said...

this is not an issue we have discussed in person, but I am glad to see you are passionate about this issue, as am I. I've always heard that Sunday mornings from 11-12 is the most segregated hour in America, and the situation with the all-state choir is a reflection of that. I think "barry" makes some excellent points, but I'm with you in thinking that there really is more to this issue when the group represents the entire state. We really need to talk about ways our church can reach people of other ethnicities.

July 26, 2007 5:02 PM  
Blogger The Beast said...

Adam, my friend!

Welcome to the Lair brother, thanks for your comment.

August 01, 2007 2:32 AM  

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