It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’! This phrase, initially intended to describe our anticipation at Christ’s triumph over the grave on Easter Sunday, also strikes fear into the heart and mind of every church musical leader. Why? Because it signifies the treadmill that never seems to ease, the constant grind from Sunday service to Sunday service.
We get so busy with choosing songs, selecting scripture passages, rehearsing teams, contacting volunteers to participate and dealing with criticism that we can easily forget the broader nature of our roles. We can easily fall into the rut of merely managing each week’s pressing tasks, and neglect leading our team in any long-term capacity.
So how do we see further than the next service in our musical leadership? Here’s 9 easy suggestions that will start us on the right path.
1. Place great importance on team, not task.
Nothing will exacerbate the weekly grind more than focusing only on the tasks that need to be accomplished and the deadlines looming next Sunday. Instead, try to create times in rehearsal and during the week where the team can connect. Model to your team that you place more importance on the people you minister with, rather than the deadlines you are rushing towards. This can be a coffee, group discussion, social event, or even just hanging around before or after rehearsal for a few more minutes and chatting.
2. Create a medium-term focus to your group devotional times in rehearsal.
It is great to pray for the next Sunday service (and each ministry outing needs to be bathed in prayer), but if we only ever focus our group devotional times on the temporal, we fall victim to routine very quickly. Instead, try to create ways to focus our devotional times in rehearsal on longer-term topics. For example, praying for an upcoming season of services (ie Christmas, Summer etc), focusing your group devotional for a month at a time on a specific topic, sharing answers to prayer, sharing longer term personal growth stories (rather than just the commonplace “A good thing happened to me this week”), discussing your team’s growth over a period of time (such as a year).
3. Learn together.
If we are serious about leading beyond Sunday to Sunday, we need to be investing in the growth and development of our team members. Schedule time (in rehearsal or otherwise) to learn together. Bring in expert tutors to help take your team to the next level. Read a book together that will expand your skill and broaden your perspective. Take your team on a retreat or a conference for personal development. Do make sure, however, that you feed back to each other what you have learned, in order to grow together.
4. Create a long-term ministry calendar.
Sure, perhaps your ministry exists to provide a service in the weekly meeting (such as accompany singing etc), but there are always things you wish to accomplish, or goals you wish to achieve. Spend some time explaining the goal to your team (vision casting), and mapping out (with your team) what steps we can take to achieve this goal within a given timeframe.
5. Create medium-term, process goals that point you towards your long-term goals.
The old saying is true: “How do you run a marathon? One step at a time.” It is important to break down long-term goals into achievable chunks. This may be as simple as starting to learn a new song that you will use in 2 month’s time, or as complex as redesigning a process that will help you to achieve your long-term goals. Whatever these medium-term goals are, use them to build momentum, and look back on them as success markers along your journey, for the encouragement of your team.
6. Ask for your pastor’s support.
Your pastor will likely be only too happy to share with your team their goals and dreams for the direction of the church as a whole. Ask them to come to your rehearsal and share with your team where the whole church is heading, and where your team fits into that vision. Sometimes, hearing the same thing from a different person can make all the difference, as can knowing how your ministry fits into the bigger picture.
7. Evaluate your ministry opportunities.
Spend time with your team looking at how you have operated the past few times you have been involved in ministry, and ask yourselves how you could have done better. During this process, try to keep using language of growth (“how can we adapt/build upon this”), rather than judgement (“that was terrible. We need to change it”). Use your constructive criticisms to design medium-term goals (see point 5), and set a future date to evaluate your progress.
8. Have someone outside your team who you can talk to about the big picture – often.
This may be a mentor, a friend, or your pastor. Find someone who is willing to listen to you, and engage in conversation with your about the big picture – your dreams and visions for your ministry, and where God is taking you. By engaging in dialogue about this often with someone not on your team, it keeps your words and vision fresh, and can help you find other ways to share your vision with your team. It also will help provide a valuable outsider’s perspective.
9. Use Sundays off wisely.
If you have a Sunday where you are not responsible for ministry (perhaps there is a visiting group leading the service etc), the tendency is to cancel rehearsal or waste rehearsal with unimportant things. Instead, use this time to realign your focus on your long-term goals, make progress on medium-term goals, and spend time in community, valuing the team.
With a few small adjustments to the way we approach goal-setting, rehearsal time and team interaction, we can ensure that our ministry stays vibrantly on task, instead of falling prey to the monotony of Sunday-to-Sunday routine.