Take My Word For It!
T There is always stuff for us to do, and generally speaking, we can decide to do it or not. That’s not true of anniversary cards nor income taxes of course, but almost everything else.
Having spent more than 40 years in music ministry I learned some things that were not optional. It took me a while, but I slowly grew up! Here’s my list:
Tell the truth about who you are during the interview process. There is such a thing as self-sabotage, which of course should be avoided, but telling the truth is better than trying to make yourself look better than you actually are. People who don’t do this tend to shoot themselves in the foot.
If you have to work 60 hours a week to accomplish all of your tasks when you first arrive, do it! Excuses don’t cut it in most corporate situations, and believe me, the church is more corporate than it has ever been.
Be a clear and professional spokesman for everything in your department. If you are not good upfront with people, you need to get better. If you don’t have information immediately available to you, you will fumble exactly were people expect you to be totally competent
Be a good sport when things don’t go your way. The nail that usually shuts the coffin on church musicians is their unwillingness to flex. Begin your very first day by compromising on some issue. It will be good practice and probably save your job somewhere along the way.
Start delegating right away. Yes, everyone should spend an incredible amount of time learning the ropes and understanding the culture, but the faster you turn curious people and even critics into helpers, the better off you will be.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. This may seem obvious, but I have watched literally hundreds of church musicians slip through the cracks because nobody wants to hear how great they are.
Show yourself to be adaptable early on. It is often said that maturity is displayed when you are able to change quickly when it is required of you.
Serve, serve, serve! Serve everyone…staff, laypeople, the congregation in general, old folks, your staff! Get a reputation early on for being one who cares about others more than you care about your precious time. As the saying goes, “Interruptions ARE my job!”
Plan to spend 10 minutes every day with someone on the staff. If that sounds extraordinarily difficult, it actually is. Find a park bench or other quiet place where you can sit and talk to someone without interruption. Do the same thing again the next day with someone else. Pledge to yourself and tell others that you can’t and won’t gossip. When asked about the competence of another staff member, say something true and nice about them and don’t get trapped in the betrayal syndrome.
The primary point of this daily exercise is to know people better, to share their concerns—not to fix them or anything else in the church. This is the hardest lesson to learn
Learn to accept criticism graciously. Criticism serves two purposes. First, it helps you understand how you are being observed by someone else. Second, it might be very helpful in the next steps you take toward effective ministry.
Don’t accept criticism from someone who deliberately skewers you all the time. This is a person who NEEDS to criticize, not a person wants to help you. Your discernment about what is good criticism and bad criticism needs to become finely tuned. When you figure it out, keep it to yourself, listen to everyone, and make sure that they know that you have heard them.
Learn to speak, write, and exemplify proper English. You would be surprised at how much damage you can do by saying something in front of the congregation like, “She and me went to the grocery store.” Even if you are working in a culture which generally accepts bad grammar, you should not be an example of it. Your believability and credibility are often based on your ability to use proper English. (I know some of you think I’m kidding about this, but it ain’t true!)
Don’t hesitate to believe that what you’re doing is important, has value, and is enriching the congregation. Music ministry folks who are constantly apologizing for what they do, what they need, or how that are going to move forward, never achieve any of the things they’re aiming at. There’s a huge difference between humility and low self-esteem.
This list could, of course, could be much larger…but you knew that!
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