Inspecting the Baggage
Learn about the families in your team. This is a form of pastoral care It will give you a window into the emotional dynamics in the music ministry. In the church, more than almost any other institution people bring family emotional baggage with them in the door.
The above is one of the tips from my eBook 111 Tips to Survive Music Ministry. Let me unpack it a bit…
How many families are represented in your choir or team? You may have parents and children, or sisters, not to mention spouses. The choir at my own church has two parents and an adult daughter, and several couples, not to mention the young woman who grew up in the church – her mother isn’t in the choir but is part of the congregation.
We all learn how to relate to others by growing up in our family. Everyone in your group has a unique family story which contributes to how they function in the music ministry.
Were difficult issues avoided? That member might become uncomfortable when there’s a conflict about the style of music in worship.
Was he the oldest child in a family where one parent was absent or not very functional? He might want to take charge, whether or not that’s appropriate to his role.
Was she a youngest daughter who was the princess? She might sulk when she doesn’t get the solo.
And family strengths will also emerge in how people relate to others in the church. A team member who grew up in a family that was well connected despite difference will be able to reach out even to those who disagree hotly. Another member is the youngest whose playful spirit lightens things up when anxiety rises.
The gift of church life is that sometimes those very families are part of the congregation, if not part of the music program. So you can observe how people relate to each other. Even if pastoral care is not officially part of your job, you will hear stories about family crises, challenges and celebrations. Families may be geographically separated, but when Grandma and Grandpa come to church for Christmas, you can get the chance to meet them. If you are involved in wedding or funeral planning and services, you’ll learn even more, at these key family events.
It’s not actually being nosy to be curious about families. The benefit for you is twofold: first, you can actually be more helpful to people at challenging times in their life if you have a bigger picture on their family story. For example, if you know that Bob is the oldest of three sisters, you can predict that he might have a hard time when his youngest son is taking a long time to launch. You can give him a bigger perspective on his current challenge.
Second, you can observe people and how they function in the ministry, and not get quite so reactive yourself when they behave in certain ways. You may not butt heads with Bob as much if you recognize he’s not really challenging your authority, he’s just doing what oldest sons do. You may still need to take a stand with him, but you won’t be thinking, “Why is he doing this to me?”
Here are some questions to ask:
- What is the birth order of the people on my team (especially leaders)? Do I know anything about their parents?
- How many family members of the key players are in the congregation? What do I notice about how they relate to each other?
- Are there other staff members who can appropriately share with me about the families?
- Are the higher functioning people in leadership?
- How can I get more curious about those who are more difficult? What can I learn about their family stories?
What can you learn this week about yourself, your church, and your people? What have you learned? Please share in the comments below.
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