10 Issues Part-Time and Volunteer Music Leaders Face

Over at Creator Magazine, Vern Sanders has posted The Ten Biggest Problems a Church Musician Faces.

1. Dealing with a difficult or strained relationship with their senior pastor or other staff colleague
2. Hiring one or more new staff colleagues
3. Recruiting new members for their ensembles/groups
4. Working with an outside instrumentalist or group of instrumentalists
5. Preparing a yearly budget
6. Planning repertoire
7. Working in committee with laypeople
8. Interviewing for a position
9. Starting at and/or moving to a new position
10. Negotiating an initial salary or asking for a raise

I would like to take this list, and alter it a bit, in order to post “The Ten Biggest Problems A Part-Time/Volunteer Music Leaders Faces”. Some of these will be the same as listed above. But, we will need to change others that do not apply to the part-time ministry.

1. Balancing full-time employment, possibly a family, and a part-time church position.
2. Dealing with a difficult or strained relationship with their senior pastor/other staff.
3. Preparing a yearly budget
4. Planning a repertoire
5. Working as a volunteer leading volunteers
6. Handling reactions (good and bad) to your position
7. Introducing new music
8. Planning for the future
9. Running a rehearsal
10. How to further your education

Here is my reasoning for the list with some insight from an anonymous volunteer church music leader:

1) It’s a Balancing Act! Balancing full-time work and another position is a challenge any way you look at it.  Plus, throw in your family and the fact that you were a long-time member there before you were shuffled into the volunteer position.  Those factors present many different challenges to overcome!

TIPS: Covet your schedule in prayer.  Seek wisdom from your Pastor.  Also, practice saying “no” to things beyond the call of duty.  You cannot do everything for everyone all the time.  Understand that in order for you to do your best in worship planning, leading worship and family matters, you cannot be pulled in fifteen different directions.  In order to give God your best, you have to tell others no.

2) Do You Love Me?  Check “YES” or “NO”! Dealing with strained relationships can be a ministry builder or a ministry killer, depending on how you handle the situation.  For example, your guitarist will NOT play any hymns in a worship service.  You have simplified the chords for him and due to his preference in style, he just won’t play.  You have met with your Pastor, informed him of the situation, and asked for his assistance.  Weeks later, the situation has yet to be resolved.  What do you do now?

TIPS: Again, seek God’s wisdom in all things.  Pray for God to lead you to a way to communicate the importance of lyrics being more important than the style.  God doesn’t care HOW you sing, He just commands us TO sing.  Be consistent in your planning as the Holy Spirit leads.  The worst thing you can do is not follow God’s leadership in your life (all aspects, family, budget, planning, and worship leading).  Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you vision in worship leadership, get a game-plan with your Pastor, work together, and be consistent.  Don’t change your plans based on human reaction.  You’ll never make everyone happy.  Our job is to please Christ, not our pianist, organist, or guitarist.

3) Money, money, money, mo-ney…MONEY! Chances are, you are in a situation where you don’t have enough time to plan worship, much less, keep a budget!  If you are horrible with keeping your budget, don’t have the time to keep an organized budget in your ministry, and purchase music with your fingers crossed hoping the money is there but too scared to check first….GET HELP!

TIPS: Get a trusted volunteer who has much time and a mind for detail to keep your budget for you.  Make a spreadsheet template, go over it with your volunteer and e-mail your purchases (payment amount, place of payment, description, etc) to your volunteer.  Also, consult with your volunteer before you repurchase anything.  Another option: If you have a full-time financial secretary or full-time ministry assistant, ask them for their help with the spreadsheet if you do not have a volunteer you trust to be confidential and budget-minded in your ministry.  If you are a volunteer leader this is the least a full-time assistant could do to help you.

4) To Plan or Not To Plan.  The issue with planning a repertoire is time.  You are probably searching for things online and avenues to assist you in researching new music.  Hopefully, this blog can help you with issues like this.  For example, we posted new 2011 Easter Music earlier this year.  That article was viewed many times (second most to the home page views).

TIPS: Keep checking this blog.  We will post new Christmas and Easter music links each year.  If you can afford it, purchase a choral club to the publisher you sing from most often.  Re-use old music.  Anthems are perfect to re-sing.  I would say if it has been 8-10 months, you are ready to re-introduce it into your rehearsal rotation.  Also, research your cantata collections and sing a section or two from them, if appropriate in your worship setting.  For example, the Clear Call Music cantata “The Risen Christ” is a wonderful collection, but each single song could be used as a stand-alone anthem from week to week.

5) Volunteer Seeking Volunteer! If you are a volunteer or part-time church leader, you need help recruiting folks for your ministry!  Vern Edwards posted some recruitment tips here which include some great ideas for you to implement to keep your rehearsals fresh.  Also, here are some ideas from ChoralNet.

TIPS: Keep your music rotating with a wide variety.  Singers won’t want to sing the same style and tempo over and over.  Encourage your volunteers to recruit.  Set up section leaders and have each section suggest new members, pray for them, and personally invite them.  Just like a Pastor cannot build a church alone, you cannot build your choir alone.  Plan a monthly fellowship for the choir.  We have had “Men’s Bake Off” competitions, lunches after worship, a get-together at my home, trips to a famous restaurant, and choir retreats to learn cantatas at different church settings.  Give it a try!

6) “You Didn’t Like the Music Today?…Ummm…Thanks??” How DO you respond to criticism?  What do you say when someone comes up to you complaining about the music in the church?  I typically say “I’m glad you were here today”!

TIPS: A staff united helps in this situation.  A unified staff who is led by the Holy Spirit and has the support of their Pastor carries over a unified mindset to the congregation.  If the staff is confused, usually the congregation is confused.  If the staff is united, over time, the congregation will see it and adapt to it.  Always be kind.  Get an accountability partner who you can talk to, someone outside of your congregation who you can be open and honest with.  Moreover, seek the leadership of your Pastor.  Your Pastor’s vision for the church comes first.  Let his leadership work through you.  If you do not have the support of your Pastor, go out of your way to show the Biblical references of the lyrics you are sharing.

7) At one time, “Amazing Grace” was a new song.  Introducing new music to a congregation and/or choir isn’t easy, but can be fulfilling.

TIPS: Introduce new songs in phases.  Try it as a solo first, and then offertory selection.  Next as use the song as a choir anthem, and then congregational selection.  If you use thematic worship planning, try having a sermon series theme song.  Recently, my Pastor had a sermon series on Matthew 4:19 “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”.  We used Chris Tomlin’s song, “I Will Follow” each service in the series at a different time in the service.  For the financial series we are in now, we are using “My Reward” by Kristian Stanfill.  Another option would be to have your praise team lead the new song as a pre-service selection and then re-sing it for the first song of corporate worship.  We do this often at HBC and usually works quite well.

8. If you build it… How do you build your ministry for the future?  Early on in my ministry, I was given some great advice: start small and then grow tall.  You must take the slow, but steady approach in growing any ministry and also with addressing change.

TIPS: If you have an opportunity to get free music somewhere, get it!  Don’t be selective on who participates in your choir or music ministry.  When someone comes to me and asks if they can sing in the choir I say I only have one question…can you breathe??  If the answer is “yes” then you can sing in the choir!  Challenge yourself to sing something unusual with the choir and/or congregation at least once a quarter.  Moreover, research Christian music writers and composers.  If you research “In Christ Alone” by the Gettys, you will find many other songs that would be useful in your worship settings.  Set a goal, publicize it, promote it, and plan it in order to reach it.  Need new robes?  Find the most cost effective robes for your situation and budget, plan out how much each robe will cost, promote it in the church (with the Pastor’s approval) and ride it out until the end.  New robes would give the singers confidence and momentum in their ministry.  You could replace robes with handbells, new music, a CD recording of your groups, and many other ideas.

9) What To Do In Case of Choir Rehearsal.  That is the title of a humorous book written back in the day about a leader’s perspective of leading a choir.  From this blog, Guest Blogger, John Cashion wrote about leading a volunteer choir here.  John has given us some great things to study in his article…well worth the time to read it.

TIPS: (from John’s article) Enjoy fellowship, give them meaningful activities, excellent music (let them sing more than you talk), and affirm them in the sight of God and others.   One important step is to take time and plan the rehearsal.  Even if you only have 5 minutes, jot down an order or some goals for that particular rehearsal.  The choir knows if you have planned or not.  The choir sings more effectively hen they have direction.

10) No More Teacher’s Dirty Looks? When you have so much on your plate, going back to school is hardly an option.  But don’t see a college or university as on only option.

TIPS: Look to your association or state convention group for opportunities in furthering your education with meetings they may host throughout the year.  Also, there are literally hundreds of worship and music conferences held world-wide that you could attend.  Some are free, others cost a little to register and some may even cost a lot.  But, at the end of the day, you should leave with a refreshed mindset on the calling from Christ to lead His people in worship through music.

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2 thoughts on “10 Issues Part-Time and Volunteer Music Leaders Face

  1. Great list and helpful info! One great way to stretch the music budget is to use the Lending Library sponsored by the Fellowship of American Baptist Musicians. You do have to have a FABM membership (very inexpensive) and you don’t have to be an American Baptist. They have an extensive collection of anthems that are updated annually. Check it out!

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