The old adage is, “To have a friend, you must be one.” The same goes for respect... Read More
No matter how the congregation is accompanied, nothing should detract from their offering of praise... Read More
by Vern Sanders
Even though the church choir has been under attack for a generation, Creator publisher Vern Sanders explores 4 reasons why choirs are still a critical part of worship ministry...
15017 Views 14 Comments 5 Shocking Truths About Director-Accompanists
Unexpected discoveries about the role of a director-accompanist...
12582 Views 20 Comments Funny How Time Slips Away
Vern Sanders examines the state of worship wars, and finds that while the battlefield is very bloody, there is hope for the future.
11257 Views 45 Comments Lessons from 40+ Years as a Choir Director
10 Important Lessons Learned from 40+ years as a Choir Director
8528 Views 0 Comments Think like a television producer
If you think like a TV producer you can make any worship service flow more smoothly
8114 Views 7 Comments Focus on the Ministry You are Really In
3 Ideas to improve the effectiveness of a ministry
7575 Views 1 Comments Conductors as Educators
Good teachers know this: Don’t lecture; offer experiences. We learn best by doing and while having fun. The choir rehearsal is just the place for this...
6929 Views 0 Comments Lessons from 40+ Years of Working with Pastors
7 Important Lessons Learned in 40+ years of working with Pastors
6776 Views 2 Comments Music-Ministry-Equal Pay: Pick Two?
Is a leader's service a simple choice of ministry versus equitable pay? This article contains tools to help a church and its leadership understand the implications of the choices.
6589 Views 0 Comments A Call for Better Music
Creator magazine publisher Vern Sanders issues a call to music publishers to provide better music for the church.
6057 Views 41 Comments 8 Questions to Answer as a Ministry Position Applicant
8 Important Questions to ask and answer as part of your application materials for a position in music/worship ministry.
5986 Views 0 Comments What Do You Do First with a New Choir?
"What do you work on first?" is mostly choir-specific, but many of the same principles apply to a worship team, handbell ensemble, or church orchestra. I'm sure that my system is not the only way, but it has worked (many times!) for me
5873 Views 6 Comments Readers Respond: Should There Be a Written Test?
A follow up to the article 8 Questions to Answer as a Ministry Position Applicant
5822 Views 0 Comments 4 Things to Transform an Underperforming Team
Vern Sanders explains the 4 things that need to be in place to transform an underperforming team
5813 Views 2 Comments 20 Lenten Ideas
A list of 20 ideas of things that a church musician and/or worship leader might do for others by giving something extra during Lent or at any time
5775 Views 0 Comments An Invitation to Silence
There comes a point where a healthy dose of silence is not just therapeutic, it is absolutely necessary to refocus...
5694 Views 1 Comments Revisiting the Church Musician's Salary Scale
For a variety of reasons, few church music or worship professionals are paid what they are worth. This article provides context, help, and resources for those professionals...
5667 Views 0 Comments Dramatizing Mendelssohn's Elijah
A report on a project taking a work like Elijah and without distracting from the definition of the masterful music, creating a production that has renewed meaning to every listener...
5637 Views 0 Comments Lessons from 25+ Years of Being a Music Publisher
5 Important Lessons learned from 25+ years of being a music publisher
5265 Views 0 Comments We Are Family
Creator magazine publisher provides words of encouragement to those serving in church music and worship ministry...
5163 Views 2 Comments A Service of Lessons and Music for Easter
A service of lessons and music (including specific titles) that would serve any church well during the Easter season
5064 Views 0 Comments Marking and Navigating the Musical Score
Details on a 7 step process for conductors to mark musical scores
5001 Views 0 Comments Lessons from 40+ Years of Being a Worship Leader
8 Important Lessons learned from 40+ Years as a Worship Leader
4799 Views 2 Comments It is just a Piece of Paper
Vern Sanders presents the case for why degrees matter and degrees don't matter for today's church musician and worship leader, and why the church needs to find a way to evaluate the competency of those who serve in these ministries.
4798 Views 17 Comments Tenebrae - Using a Large Work in a Worship Service
A Tenebrae service which includes a large work (the Rutter Requiem) that you might use, either in whole, or modified, as fits your local situation
4769 Views 0 Comments Holy Week in the Early Church
An in-depth description of Holy Week in the early church written by noted worship scholar Robert Webber
4635 Views 0 Comments Practical Lessons from an Easter Season
A number of practical musical lessons learned by members of a music ministry over one particular Easter season
4527 Views 1 Comments Blessing+Texting=Blexting
Bless + texting = Blexting. Blexting is the act of texting someone a blessing. The question becomes one of practicality: “Are both texting and blessing topics for worship renewal or is it merely secularized spiritual gimmickry?”
4195 Views 0 Comments Coming Out of the Dark
Creator magazine's publisher Vern Sanders considers the question: how do you recruit new members for your church choir from the community without stepping on the toes of other church music programs?
3797 Views 18 Comments Choir as a Team Sport
Vern Sanders explains how you can apply some of the same "best practices" of sports teams to your choir program
3474 Views 0 Comments End of the Decade Update
A look back at popular and useful examples of Monday Morning Email
3468 Views 0 Comments The Day After Christmas
A short poem written on behalf of all those who serve in the music/arts ministry of local churches
3308 Views 0 Comments Longevity, Adaptability, and Continuing Education
Vern Sanders explains why longevity, adaptability, and continuing education are of paramount importance to today's church musicians and worship leaders
3305 Views 2 Comments Creating Margins
Creating some space between yourself and your limits is a good thing
3167 Views 0 Comments Lead By Getting Out of the Way
These days, worship leaders are in front of a congregation so often that it can easily become matter-of-fact...routine. But in that moment as you wait to enter that holy space, whether for the first time or the thousandth time, you realize that you are expected to lead, and there is nothing more that you can do except get out of the way.
3058 Views 0 Comments When You Wish Upon a Star
Wanting to be a "star" and being one is not just about wishing and hoping, or settling for a passing grade. Talent is one thing, but week after week you need to show up, and show you are a leader...
2900 Views 3 Comments Stand Up and Lift Up Your Heads
Vern Sanders reflects that there is something amazing about the power of corporate singing
2894 Views 14 Comments Revisiting Mission Statements
Vern Sanders wonders when you last looked at your mission statement, and whether you have a leadership plan
2565 Views 0 Comments Finish Like A Pro
Vern Sanders points out that finishing well -- in music and in leadership -- is as important as starting well
2464 Views 5 Comments 22 Practical Music Ministry Tips
Fred Bock and Vern Sanders provide helpful information that every church musician and worship leader needs. These are practical things that aren't generally taught in schools...
2125 Views 8 Comments Cantate Domino Rehearsal Markings
Rehearsal markings for the choral piece Cantate Domino by Hans Leo Hassler
1957 Views 0 Comments What Are You Packing Around?
Vern Sanders talks about parachutes, memory, and imagination, and how all three have an impact on everyone's leadership style...
1659 Views 2 Comments 3 Reasons to Stop Buying Mediocre Music
Vern Sanders explains why the new performance practice repertoire is probably not being written for your church group
1567 Views 5 Comments Theology Can Be Reduced to 3 Songs
Vern Sanders talks about theology, the power of music, and the trinity of hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs
1281 Views 4 Comments Choir in Modern Worship: Flexibility, Poise & Passion - Q & A
Vern Sanders answers questions that were submitted before and during the July 10, 2012 Choir in Modern Worship MasterClass event
906 Views 0 Comments Top 10 Leadership Tips from a Worship Wars Survivor - Q & A
Vern Sanders answers questions that were submitted before and during the June 12, 2012, MasterClass Top 10 Leadership Tips from a Worship Wars Survivor
816 Views 0 Comments Creator Update
an update on the state of Creator
349 Views 0 Comments
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Waiting in the Wings...
As write this, we at Creator are counting down to our launch of the MasterClass program. I've been thinking about the process, and how it relates to the count down before a worship service, a concert, or even a committee meeting.
In the case of worship, I still get a bit nervous every time I am about to go on the platform -- in spite of the fact that I've been there and done that thousands of times. There is something about being "in the wings," waiting to start the prelude, that is both special, and scary. People are waiting for you to lead -- to take them to a place many are not quite sure how to get to on their own. There is a sense of anticipation, even amongst the hubbub of people moving around and being seated. They are waiting... and it is your turn.
I sometimes think of how the Old Testament Levites might only get one chance in a lifetime to go into the Holy of Holies. Even though they were "professional worshipers," that once in a lifetime "your turn" event had to put the fear of God (literally) into them. These days, worship leaders are in front of a congregation so often that it can easily become matter-of-fact...routine. It has happened to me, and, often, the end result has not been very pretty worthy.
The Levites had an elaborate routine before they could enter that most holy of places. They had to put on special garments, and make other preparations. They had to get into character.
As a modern church musician and worship leader, before you walk out on the platform, you need to get into character as well. I've known fellow musicians that were meek and mild in "real life" who turned into tigers (or raging maniacs) on the platform. I've seen a lot of people who were exactly the same on stage as they are off it -- and sometimes that was a good thing, sometimes it was a bad thing.
Being on the platform changes you, though, whether you put on a character or you are a character. For some people it becomes an addiction, and they will do anything to stay "on," even when they are walking down the street or sitting in a coffee shop. For others it is traumatic...something to be endured in spite of the pain or discomfort.
But in that moment as you wait to enter that holy space, whether for the first time or the thousandth time, you realize that you are expected to lead, and there is nothing more that you can do except get out of the way.
With few exceptions, you arrive at the wating-in-the-wings-moment as a result of a lot of hard work and effort. You've put in your hours -- whether it is a couple of hours of practice as a child for a Christmas play, or 10,000+ hours as a professional. You've had lessons, and rehearsals, and woodshed time. There has been a whole pre-launch sequence that has run its course, with milestones like a first run-through, a costume fitting (even if that is a business casual outfit you paid a consultant thousands of dollars to assemble so that it looks like you just threw it together), a prop rehearsal (can you speak and run a powerpoint at the same time?), and perhaps, in the case of a "big" event, even an open dress rehearsal for a few friends to assess how it plays to a live audience.
Along the way, if you've taken this process seriously, you've gotten better at being in character, at playing your part, at putting on a show. As you stand backstage, you know that people are coming to see the magic happen. They don't care how much time, effort, and money it took to get there. They are there to learn something, to be entertained at some level, and, hopefully, to leave in a different, better place than when they arrived. And don't ever forget that if they don't like it they'll tell at least seven of their friends about everything that was bad about it.
But if your character is the "star" of a worship service, you haven't really gotten the point, or gotten out of the way.
Fear of failure is a great motivational tool. It motivates some people right out off the leadership stage. They may still be leaders, but they find the bright lights, or the pressure, intimidating. They look for a quiet corner to do their thing...a place where failure is tolerated, or accepted as part of the package.
As you wait to go on, you are faced with a number of things that add up to a singular choice:
Nobody can answer but you...and you answer by your actions, not your intentions.
are you going to embrace your role?
are you going to deliver?
are you going to add value to the lives of the people who have assembled?
are you going to play your part in such a way that all the pieces of the presentation come off smoothly, and achieve the expected result?
are you going to be a leader?
and the big one -- are you going to get out of the way and let the focus be upon the one who promises to be there if you are gathered?
If you've been around anyone who routinely appears on stage (or on a playing field, for that matter), you've probably heard about "the zone." It's a place where people go to get in character, to stay in character, and to perform in that character at a high level. For a professional football player, getting in the zone might involve hitting something, for a motivational speaker it might be thinking about how many people they are going to help. For a Levite, it was the awesome encounter that they were about to experience.
Books have been written about the zone, and how to help yourself get there.
But you have to get there.
And, if you're the leader, you have to get there in a way that motivates your followers to get there too. Part of the leadership role is teaching the ones you lead how to get into the zone...rehearsing it regularly so that they can get there whether they are tired, don't care that day, or are otherwise preoccupied by things like their children's health or their family finances.
A story. I hope you'll find it relevant.
I took my parents to see Mickey Rooney once. He was on the back end of his long career, and traveling in a road show production of Sugar Babies. Starting as a child star, he had been on stage for most of his life, and by that time, the number of his performances of just that one particular show numbered in the thousands. When he came to town, he was interviewed by the local paper, and on
e of the questions he was asked was (I'm paraphrasing here): "You've done this show thousands of times. I'm sure you could do it in your sleep. How do you get motivated to go out and do 7 performances a week?"
Rooney's answer has stuck with me for 30 years: "Because there are people out there who are seeing this show for the first time, and they deserve the best performance I can give them, no matter how I am feeling personally, or whether or not I am sick."
The interviewer, somewhat skeptically, then asked a follow up question: ""But isn't every night the same?"
To which Rooney replied: "No. Every night is different. We may get an unexpected response from the audience, or someone may miss a line, or someone else will improvise, either by design or out of playfulness. Every night is different because the audience is always different, and because you, as an actor, are not the same person you were the night before."
Mickey Rooney got in the zone by remembering that someone had never seen him before. That's what it took for him. Whatever it takes for you, you need to find a way to give your best every time you walk on the platform, and that means getting into the zone...getting into your character...getting ready to give it everything you have.
And then get out of the way and lead worship, not be worshiped.
Pardon me now...my entrance is at hand. I don't want to miss my cue.
In addition to being the publisher of Creator magazine, Vern has served in some form of church music and worship leadership for 40 years in a variety of denominations both in the US and in Canada.He is currently Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church, Templeton, California. He regularly consults with churches and church leaders. Click on his name above to email him.
© 2012 Creator Magazine All Rights Reserved
Lessons from 25+ Years of Being a Music Publisher
by Vern Sanders
November 22, 2010
Yet More Important Things...
apologize. I made a promise to stop after last month's MME
about things I've learned from working with pastors
, because I thought it would get me in trouble. Actually quite the opposite happened. Combined with the response to August's list of things I've learned from being a choir director
, and September's list of things I've learned from being a worship leader
, there seems to be a real appreciation of these lists, so I've decided to continue to write about stuff I've learned. If you arrived here in the middle of this series of things and are not sure about my motives, I am trying to relate practical things here, not just rant, althought the temptation to do the latter is powerful at times.
In the process, of course, I am revealing something of my history, experience, and, most of all, my opinions about things. I have been blessed to be involved in church music and worship leadership in a wide variety of settings and with a similar variety of roles.
Lessons from 40+ Years of Working with Pastors
by Vern Sanders
October 25, 2010
Even More Important Things...
OK. I promise to stop after this one, because it will probably get me in trouble. People seemed to like August's list of things I've learned from being a choir director, and last month's list of things I've learned from being a worship leader, so I thought I'd tell a bit more stuff I've learned. If you've heard me speak at a conference, you know that, by and large, I like pastors. But sometimes I have had to grit my teeth.
Before this particular MME went to print, as I often do, I asked some people I trust to read it and give me their reactions. In most cases the responses went something like this: "I agree with everything you are saying, but I'm not sure you should say it." So I let it sit for a while and came back to it, intending to change what needed to be changed. And instead of changing anything, I decided to write this paragraph. The most important thing that you need to know about this week's MME is this: If you actually read this, you will realize that I am not pastor bashing here. In fact, in most of my items, I am saying let anyone who is without sin throw the first stone...and I don't expect to see any flying projectiles, and I'm definitely not throwing any. I have been blessed to work with some amazing (and some not so amazing) pastors. Pastors, like musicians, have their idiosyncracies. I would not want to be one, because the job description is overwhelming, awesome, and, at times, crushing. What follows below are compilations from (look above) 40+ years of experience, observation, and listening to both pastors and musicians complain about each other.
Lessons from 40+ Years of Being a Worship Leader
by Vern Sanders
September 27, 2010
More Important Things...
People seemed to like last month's list of things I've learned from being a choir director, so I thought I'd tell you some more stuff I've learned. Many of these things are not original...but over a lot of years they have repeated themselves often enough to be important. They have stood the test of time, so to speak, and, if you are starting out in ministry, you might want to print this list and put it somewhere that you can find it in 25 years. This is not a "ranked" list. It is just a list.
People Feel Strongly About What is Familiar to Them
Love it or hate it, people are comfortable with the familiar. There is a peace about knowing "what comes next." In these days of economic unease, life is more unsettled than it has been in recent memory, and studies are showing that the stress level of the typical human is markedly elevated.
Lessons from 40+ Years as a Choir Director
by Vern Sanders
August 23, 2010
Ten Important Things...
You will notice I didn't say that these are the Top 10 things I've learned. If there is another thing I've learned in my life, it's that the "Top" 10 things can change. So let's just say that when I sat down to write this month's MME, these were the 10 things I thought were most important to communicate to you today. Many of these things are not original. Some were told to me by older directors when I was just an angry young conductor. But these have stood the test of time, so to speak, and if you are an angry young conductor, you might want to print this list and put it somewhere that you can find it in 25 years. This is not a "ranked" list. It is just a list.
They should sing more than you talk
Most conductors are drawn to the profession, at least in part, because they think they know more than other people. They enjoy the power of leading people. And they are not afraid to share their expertise and views.
But there are only two reasons why the singers could be listening to the conductor more than they are singing:
Attitudes of the