It’s not hard to convince any parent of the value of music in their child’s life. Now new research has suggested that in addition to any intellectual benefits or study skills that learning an instrument may provide, participating in music as a group may also teach kids empathy and compassion. The study, which came out of the University of Cambridge, looked at 52 girls and boys – one group were assigned to a music group, and two other groups who weren’t. Researchers found that the kids in the music group, who had to follow their peers and work together, demonstrated higher levels of emotional intelligence – in other words, a stronger sense or awareness and empathy for others. (There was a bit more involved in the study, and if you’d like to know about it, you can read an article here: http://www.psmag.com/culture/making-music-together-increases-kids-empathy-41627/
And here’s the good (of obvious) news: where’s a natural and great place for kids to practice music together? Church! But outside of Christmas pageants (and “identified” youth services, how deliberate are we being about giving our youth room to demonstrate and practice their music skills? Are we recruiting youth into our choirs (even if it means we have to adjust the anthems a little bit?) Are we choosing hymns and music that appeal to our youth? Are we being sure to seek out the musical talent in our pews, and asking if they’d like to perform during service – even if it means a squeaky violin performance of Ode to Joy? What about reaching out to the community and offering up the church as a natural place to foster the communal enjoyment of music: At St. John’s, we have sponsored a highly successful community children’s choir which just performed to a packed crowd in the church on the weekend, and raised hundreds of dollars towards a new women’s medical clinic at the local homeless shelter.
All you need to do is pluck an earphone out of a teen’s ear, to know how important music is. Now research confirms, what the church has always known: making music together also helps make us better people.