The 7 Question Conversation
Many, many years ago I had a slight problem with my secretary (yes, we called them secretaries back in the day). She had a “black hole” on her desk, and I would set things on that very same desk, and, somehow, they were drawn into the great unknown reaches of darkness within the basement of our church. We would both look for them later, but they were nowhere to be found. We scratched our heads, we looked “around,” but were rarely successful. The items had simply vanished!
I, of course, thought of myself at the time as being grace-filled and tried to exhibit forgiveness and understanding at every turn, but this failing of my young colleague left me frustrated and angry. Where did she put this stuff? Was she using it as fuel to warm herself in the winter?
This “Black Hole Syndrome” is inexcusable at the top levels of management. If you have been given a task to do—do it! SPs work very hard at getting stuff off their desks and on to yours. Their expectation is that they will not longer have to think about it because—well, “you’ve got it handled.” Done is done—you either did or you didn’t!
2. Do you and your SP share a basic belief that working together should be full of joy, not frustration?
I have a personal rule—If my boss isn’t happy there must be a reason and I’m going to find out if it has anything to do with me as soon as possible. It’s not paranoia to want the person responsible for your employment to like and enjoy working with you!
I have always (well, most always) loved going to work. After all, I chose my profession, and unlike many of my fellow music majors at the university, I’ve made a living doing what I love to do. I hope you also find great joy in what you do. If joy isn’t available to you where you work—find something else to do or someplace else to work.
Make a pact with your pastor that you will celebrate the joy of working together at every opportunity and be diligent about keeping it.
3. Do you and your SP have a willingness to be heard accurately?
Look, I don’t want to be too Pollyannaish about this, but we all deserve to be heard, no matter who is senior to whom. Negotiate the right to lovingly give input where it’s needed. If either of you is shutting the other out, you’re both in trouble.
Having said that, the most important part of this question is, are you both being heard accurately? When you say something that sounds critical to your SP or vice versa it is essential that you both learn to follow up the statement (especially if it might be perceived as “loaded”) with an invitation to the other person to ask for clarity. Don’t leave the room with this left undone.
4. Do you personally embrace the belief that someone has to be in charge, and it may not be you?
O.K., getting my tongue out of my cheek now, do you honestly think sometimes that maybe, just maybe, you should be in charge because you’re smarter than your SP? Get counseling, now! Relative intelligence has little to do with authority, perceived or otherwise. The rants I’ve heard from CMs about their SPs for decades tells me that the incredibly egocentric nature of these diatribes is most likely at the very heart of the “revolving door” nature of CMs employment.
I often see cordiality between CMs and their SPs, but it would be great if bona fide respect became a genuine supplement to the “nice-nice” verbiage. Incidentally, you can’t have respect for someone you don’t know fairly well—go to Starbucks—talk!
5. Do you both have a desire to appropriately defend one another when either of your reputations is called into question?
This is tricky—people sometimes do bad things in churches, and believe me when I say, I’ve seen it all! That’s not the point of discussion here, however. Character assassination is an issue for every church leader. There are people in your church community right now looking for the chinks in your corporate armor, and when they find them, they’re going to open fire! It could be over anything, no matter how small or how glaring.
Do you routinely and appropriately speak on behalf of your colleagues, or do you join the back room antics of those who are committed to disruption? This is a trap, set for you by otherwise nice people who, because of their pathology, need to tear down rather than build up. “Love one another” applies to SPs and their musicians as well!
6. Have you sought to have a very clear understanding of the division of labor between you?
Again, this is tricky. CMs are often given the responsibility of planning worship and, rightly or wrongly, get furious when the SP decides that a particular hymn or song doesn’t fit.
Look, every CM should have the trust of a SP to give input on the sermon material if the intent of that feedback is to raise a red flag where some reference, metaphor, or story might be incorrect or need modifying.The same is true for an SP’s review of worship content. It’s all about making sure the attitude and motivation for the small repair affirms the solid relationship of the two people. Division of labor is sometimes a movable feast.
7. Do you and your SP keep “short accounts” and seek prompt resolution whenever disagreements occur?
This will be short. Do you believe that married couples should not let the sun go down on a disagreement? The same is true for CMs and their SPs. The alternative? Divorce!
Have a talk with your boss today!
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