Church Musician Leadership Skills: Planning

There’s More to Leadership than Your Expertise

Recently I pointed out that 90% of success in music ministry is getting things done, building community, and activating members in ministry (the word I use instead of “Volunteer”). I outlined the important things that the church musician must master to be fully successful and I am writing about those points each month.
The item today is planning. Here’s the point:
  • Planning: Have a plan and share it. Write goals and have accountability partners. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail is the old adage. It’s true. Put planning time on your calendar and actually do it. Review and revise plans frequently.

Any idea that’s held in the mind and emphasized, that’s either feared or revered will begin at once to clothe itself in the most convenient and appropriate physical form that’s available.  - Andrew Carnegie (to Napoleon Hill)

I dream my painting and I paint my dream. - Vincent Van Gogh

A person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it. - Anonymous

The Problem

Some of us think that having a plan stifles their creativity. As musicians, we know that having a musical score (a strategy) and having the skills to play (implementation skills) empowers others to perform with full access to their creativity. Having a plan allows the leader and teams full access to their creative spirit because they can use their energy and brain power to execute the plan and not be held back by trying to figure our what to do next – then doing something out of order – then having to redo it. This is not an example of good leadership.

Having goals for music ministry are as important as having a musical score for the choir and orchestra. Without the score nobody knows what to play. Without goals, teams do not know what to do and what comes next.

Most church musicians do not have written goals. Some that have written goals do not have an implementation process in place. Here is a short overview of setting goals that work.

The Concept

By writing down your goals and objectives, you will have an action plan for success. You will have a clear picture of what you want to happen and what its cost and benefits will be. You will know where you are going and how you will get there. Focus on exactly what you want and go for it – with conviction and determination and you will succeed.

Begin by putting your name at the top of the goals worksheet. There is a realization that happens at that moment that is the beginning of success. You are the only one that can do this. You are the only one that can take responsibility. You are the one that will have great impact on your life and the lives of others.

Write down the goals. Goals that are not written down are only dreams. Write them down and move into action immediately.

Choose goals wisely. Goal achievement is one thing–what you become and what happens to you and your team in reaching that goal is another thing!

Take time to think! Take time to plan! Take time to study! Don’t confuse activity for achievement. Do not just say that you will succeed. Don’t wish that you could succeed. Don’t just expect the counsel of the successful. Act on the plan yourself.

The Process

  1. Clearly define your goals. Write them down in specific, measurable terms. Establish a completion date.
  2. Identify obstacles to reaching your goals.
  3. Determine who’s involved in or impacted by your goals.
  4. List all the activities or objectives necessary for reaching your goals. Group them in 90-day benchmarks if the goal is more than 6 months away.
  5. Sequence all activities. Concentrate on a single step at a time.  Walk before running.
  6. Estimate the time necessary for each objective and total time for the goal.
  7. Activate key activity dates on your planning calendar.
  8. Begin action immediately
  9. Be persistent in your plans. Don’t let obstacles or naysayers steal your vision.
  10. Share your goals with anyone else whom you feel will help you along the way (maybe everyone listed on your goal sheet) or the team as a whole.

Goals are SMART:

Picture what the end result will look like.  Know what it is so you will know when you arrive. Be very specific.  The goal must be written down to count as a goal.  Otherwise, it is only a dream, which can change with a whim.  Identify the group or groups targeted and define exactly what result is desired.  For example, increase the size of the new members class by developing a ministry outreach team that meets regularly and targets specific prospects.
Set a measurable outcome for the end result. There should be no doubt that the goal is reached because there is an exact, quantifiable target. For example, increase attendance by 20%, reduce annual mailings by 2%, reduce budget expenditures by 10%, etc.
If the goal has a chance of succeeding, then it must be shared.  There is synergy in openly sharing a carefully articulated goal.  The person or persons that help make the process accountable also make it possible.  For example: if you mention the goal to someone who responds to you with doubt or ridicule, that’s real motivation! (Don’t let a spouse be the one; they are too easy on you!)
Aim at a target that you can really hit or have a good chance of hitting.  There’s nothing more discouraging that not being able to reach goals repeatedly.  On the other hand, reaching the goal is not the only factor–it’s the process that counts!  Be careful in setting your goals because of what you will become in the process.  Aim for something that is important and the journey will change you.
Another essential factor in goal setting is defining exactly when the goal is to be reached. Set the date and plan to arrive at that time.  Be sure to give sufficient time to fully develop all the aspects of the goal and set benchmarks along the way.  It is discouraging to look way ahead and think that the project is too big.  Check off steps along the way.

Review this article about communication. Remember that communication, like ministry and leadership in general are all based on relationship. Share your goals with committees, staff, choir, and any other team, however, do not provide all the steps to attaining the goal. The process is similar to that of teaching a choir music – you can’t do it for them, they must participate by singing and learning the music. Then, and only then, can you build ensemble. Use the same process in non-musical settings – define the end result (the goal) and allow the group to define the steps to get there. Only then will they buy-into the process. The reciprocity to over-functioning is under-functioning. Just like directing a rehearsal – if you don’t get the results you want, look in the mirror before blaming others.

By the way, goals don’t work if you don’t.

Be the best you can be as a professional church musician, which is very different from a musician that does church music.

Do you have planning stories, good, or bad? Please share them in the comments below.

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