Assessing What Matters Most
I’m hard at work these days revising From Postlude to Prelude: Music Ministry’s Other Six Days (Morningstar 2004), a book that I wrote which explores what musicians who serve the church do from the end of one Sunday’s service (postlude) to the beginning of the next (the prelude). The book explores nearly every imaginable topic that ministers encounter each week – worship planning, exploring our call and vocation, budgets and financial management, ministry situations, job transitions, purchases and maintenance, working with others, and much more.
Revising this much material, even if the revisions were minor, is no small task. Reading back through this ten-year-old text is a tangible reminder of what has changed in our field. While efforts were made in the first edition to write from a broad perspective in order to include all who serve the church through music, I am astounded by how much has changed. Here are a few examples.
Job Titles are Increasingly Inconsistent
The ongoing shift of what we call the work of ministry in which we are engaged does not get clearer. When bringing together a group of people who serve the church through music, the number of different job titles likely number as many as the gathering. There is no consensus regarding how to address us as a group. For some “Music Minister” seems too evangelical, while “Worship Leader” doesn’t mention music, “Music Director” describes much of our work but admittedly could also be the person in charge of a Broadway musical; “Worship and Music Pastor” includes both the words “worship” and “music” but seems to indicate ordination. “Minister of Music and Arts” works for some but omits the word “worship,” and for others assumes a greater involvement of other-than-music artists than most of us encounter. Some recent studies have shown that even within denominations, the variety of titles is astounding. At the root of this dilemma is the question of what we do and what are our priorities.
Naming Our Discipline is Challenging
Similar to the question about what we call ourselves is the question of what we call the ministry that we serve – “Music Ministry,” “Worship Ministry,” “Worship and Arts Ministry,” “Music and Worship Ministry,” and the list goes on. Likewise, what do we call our field – “Church Music,” “Worship Studies,” “Sacred Music,” “Music and Worship Studies?” There is no consensus, and the options will likely broaden for the foreseeable future.
Instrumental Dominance is Shifting
What are the primary instruments that lead us in worship? While many churches still use keyboard instruments (primarily organ, or organ and piano), many others no longer have either of these instruments. Assumptions concerning what instruments dominate in congregational song are impossible, for our differences are broad.
Vocal Ensembles are Transitioning
What is the primary vocal ensemble that leads congregational song? Ten years ago, choirs seemed to be present in most churches whereas today, the number of smaller ensembles has increased, and larger and established choirs have diminished. (How many people do I meet who tell me their church no longer has a choir?)
Technology is Assumed
All of us are dependent on technology in more ways than we are aware, and the younger of us do not realize that today’s technology has not always existed.
Leadership Training Needs Enhancing
All of my recent research has highlighted the importance of developing more effective leadership skills as we move forward.
What Hasn’t Changed?
At the end of the day, most of what we do hasn’t changed. We are still spending the “other six days” doing all that we can to impact the lives of those who are entrusted into our ministerial care — we are planning worship; visiting hospitals; making purchases, writing and rehearsing music; organizing musicians into manageable units; evaluating our reasons for ministry; promoting what we do to others; attempting to manage every minute of our days better; and trying to work effectively with other ministers and congregants. As we move forward, the older among us can obsess on all that has changed and what we have lost, while the younger of us lament that change is too slow and time is running out. However the core of our field and our ministry is fully intact and mostly thriving.
Where are we going?
This is the question that none of us can answer; however I am confident that the ways in which we do ministry, and the tools we use will continue to shift. However, I hope when the next revision is undertaken, the core of our ministry to lead others to engage with God through music will be even stronger. Let it be so!
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