Engaging Members in Ministry for Excellence
First, I encourage you to discard the following words:
The work of the church music director is highly specialized work. It’s not solely about making music, it’s about transformation. Singers show up, we transform them into a choir. Then we transform the choir into and ensemble. Then the primary work of ministry can be accomplished in the faith journey – transformation of lives. I write about this in my first book, Moving Spirits, Building Lives: Church Musician as Transformational Leader.
The work of the church musician is only 10% music. The rest is making the music possible. We spend our time in the following ways: planning, team, worship, rehearsal, mentoring, engaging members, nurture, performing, coaching, and pastoral care. We train, inspire, and engage musicians to function at their highest level.
The primary work of the church musician, then is in building and maintaining effective relationships. We can’t ask a choir to do anything if we haven’t built effective relationships. The first duty and delight of the church musician is developing relationships.
Here are the explanations for the taboo words listed above.
• Volunteer: We are not volunteers. Members are not volunteers. God has called us to ministry. Being called is a totally different paradigm than volunteering. We are called to serve as church musicians. Members are called to serve in the community of faith. Drop the word volunteer and change the paradigm. You will influence others as you invite them to define what it means to be called as a member in ministry.
• Agenda: In this context, agenda means activity. The single most damaging thing for a committee is the boring, unproductive meeting. Treat meetings as you do rehearsals. Prepare for the end result. Plan the flow of the rehearsal. Make corrections as needed. Encourage a higher standard of functioning. Celebrate excellence. Meetings are the same as rehearsals. Create “Deliverables” instead of agenda. Define what you want to achieve by the time you walk away from the meeting. This one dynamic encourages and empowered members in ministry to function at a higher level. Just like in musical rehearsals – Rehearse for Success.
• Recruit: We recruit people for temporary jobs. We engage members in ministry. Define what’s so good about the work you need done. Develop a compelling statement that will touch the passion of a competent member. Rehearse your presentation. Engage in meaningful conversation about the duty, task, or position you want the person to take on. Don’t minimize the commitment – make it sound as important as it is. Engage members by allowing them to access their passion a particular aspect of ministry.
• Motivate: This is similar to the topic of recruiting in that motivation and recruiting are each a temporary fix. The long-term solution is to engage members in a faith journey that is relevant and meaningful. Learning how to create initiatives, how to delegate, how to do the “ask”, and how to stay out of the way while providing the needed support and encouragement are the keys to excellence in leadership.
How to get, engage, and retain members in ministry:
• Get the right people: Develop relationship with as many people in the church as possible. In over 40 years of music ministry, I very rarely ate lunch alone. I rarely let a week pass without sending a hand written note of thanks or appreciation to a member. Leadership and ministry are both dependent on relationships. When you know a person, you also know their skills and preferences. You can then make good decisions about what to ask them to take on. Start with a minor job, then move to a more important assignment. Having nobody in a position is better than having the wrong person.
• Empower the team for success: Create the vision and define what it looks like. Write it and share it. It’s your vision. Empower members on teams or individually to create the action items to make the vision become reality. If you tell them what to do, they will not have ownership. They will need information and support, and sometime encouragement. It they define the pathway to success, then they own it and will see it through. Set some check-in times along the way for coaching and celebrating. Do not micromanage. Do not criticize. Add value to their work with your comments. Ask permission to “plus” their comments or their work. A plus adds value and encourages them.
• Spend time leading not doing: This means letting the choir sing. Allow them to make the music. Allow the nonmusical teams to function at a high level. Teach just as you teach music. Lead just as you direct by not singing.
• Celebrate success: All too often we are so focused on the next thing, we forget to celebrate success. One hooray goes a long way to encouraging members to function better. We impact the performance of musical and nonmusical groups by our response to their work. They want to know how we feel. Be honest. Remember to claim success at every opportunity.
• Publicize the opportunities: Set your goals and share them openly. Be specific about what opportunities there are for participation and the timeline for the work. This is just like music. Know what to expect by having the music in front of you. You know when to sing and when to be silent. Share your vision openly and ask for what you need.
• Transform passive members into blabbermouths: Create statements for people to share about the success of your committees, programs, events, etc. People don’t know what to say, so give them the language or create it together. Also, share the opportunities. You might not know the right person to do a particular task, but someone else might. Share information openly about your goals, your challenges, your successes, and your feelings. You create energy and influence others in a very positive way, so be intentional about that influence.
When we don’t get the desired results musically, we look in the mirror to see what directing mistakes we are making. When working in non musical settings and things are not going as planned – well, look in the mirror.
Encourage members in ministry to think of themselves as leaders. Give them my 3 benchmarks of leadership.
1. People who get things done
2. People who know how things get done
3. People who influence others
We as church musicians guide the music making as skilled professionals. We are transformational leaders. We influence people. We influence people positively, negatively, or neutrally. It’s our choice. Which to you choose?
Enjoy your journey. Grace and Peace to you in your duty and delight as a Christian leader.
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