Maintenance! This by far can be the hardest part of ministry whether you’re in the music end or the technical end. I am reminded of the farmer who, when talking about his dairy, said; “The hardest thing about raising cows is that they don’t stay milked!” Ministry is the same way, especially if you are striving for excellence over the long haul. Over the years I have found that if I do a few things right it makes the daily tasks of ministry much easier and keeps those involved in the worship, music, & technical areas on top of their game.
When we talk about keeping the ministry solid it’s easy to think about having good rehearsals, choosing the right songs and working on cool arrangements. Although that may be a part of my job in this area it is by far the least important. I (and all pastors) must remember that we are in the people business, not the music business nor the audio/video business. Everything that we do in ministry is connected to people. People are serving in ministry because, for the most part, they want to give something to their church. Jesus modeled the role of a servant and therefore, we naturally follow his example. When we begin following Christ, and sometimes even before we make that commitment, people want to be involved, they want to serve. So at the very beginning of this, remember that we are doing what we are doing as leaders to glorify God, yes, but we minister to people. We are in the people business. With that said, there are some things that we need to consistently be working on to keep out ministry solid.
#1 – COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY:
I must keep lines of communication open and when I communicate I must do it clearly. I begin this by setting clear written guidelines for ministry involvement. Many churches have this for ministry in general but what about the worship team or technical ministries. Once we move into specialized areas we have to expand on those general guidelines a little. If we don’t do this we are either in the position of hiring and then firing workers or we bring people who are not gifted in these areas of ministry on the team and settle for mediocre performance from them. Here are a couple of examples.
One of the guidelines I have for team members is that vocalists must be able to sing on pitch. Sounds basic, but I know many teams that don’t have such a guideline and leave it to the audio engineer to “turn this person off”. We must learn to communicate these things honestly and gracefully. Having singers who area constantly out of tune not only effects the overall sound of the worship team, but also can create awkward moments for them personally. I don’t let that happen.
Another guideline for audio folks is that they have a basic understanding of mechanical things. I still remember in my early days as a sound tech having my pastor coming in as I was tearing down after a Sunday service. He picked up a microphone and proceeded to unplug it without pressing the release button tearing all the wires out of the bottom of the unit. Some people are gifted speakers, others are gifted technically. I try to keep the technically gifted in technical ministries and the more creative ones in the creative areas. This requires good communication and these types of things are put in writing. This helps me as we evaluate those who wish to be involved in ministry.
The next thing that I communicate is commitment. I am big on the concept of “TEAM” and believe that those who simply do not show up when scheduled hurt the entire group. I want to know things like; Are they committed to the church? How long have they been attending? Are they willing to take the time to come to extra worship rehearsals when necessary and tech team work nights? Commitment is an important part of keeping your ministry solid. In the most general terms, I want to know that people are committed to the Lord first, our church second, my pastor third and my leadership fourth. These are things that occasionally get overlooked when we enlist workers to serve in our ministries.
The last thing that I make sure to communicate, are the ongoing membership expectations. Many people get burned out in ministry because they don’t know what’s expected of them. Things such as being at rehearsals or occasional team meetings. Oh yes, did I mention being on time? 🙂 How about an apprenticeship period or even a testing period similar to being on probation as a new employee? Both of these are great ways to break new people in and allow them time to explore this area of service. Things such as dress code, being on time and being spiritually prepared as well as physically and mentally prepared are important things to communicate, as well.
#2 – BUILD SOLID RELATIONSHIPS:
If you’ve read anything else that I have ever written, you’ll see this is an underlying principle in most things that I do. It’s important that you as a leader build solid relationships with your team members. Take the time to get to know them as people. One way that I built relationships with my team is that we spend time together socially. At one church where I ministered, we had two morning worship services. The team was required to be in attendance for the entire first service; however the band and vocal team were allowed to leave during the message as long as they were back by the time we had the closing song. On occasion I would take the vocal team or the band to a little Mexican Restaurant that was across the street from the church. We would leave right after the music was finished and were back by the closing song. This was a great way to just spend time together and build relationships.
My favorite relationship building time was several years ago when I noticed that the band, the vocal team and tech ministries seemed to be hanging out with their own groups. I called a mandatory meeting of the entire department. Now the one thing that you have to know is that I rarely used the term “mandatory”. So, when I stressed that everyone MUST be at this meeting you can bet they were all there. I had them come into the church auditorium and I shut the door. As I began to speak to them I had a couple of our leaders pull two vans up outside the door. Then I ushered the band, the vocal team and the technical ministries crew out into the vans and we drove to the miniature gold course. Imagine what happened when they realized what we were doing and that I had already assigned teams to make sure that I had members from each ministry on each team. Now, you might think that this is silly and a waste of church resources. However, not only did the team talk about that for months, but they made new friends with other members of the team and that simple exercise helped to keep our ministry solid. Remember that Jesus died to restore a broken relationship between humanity and God. I think that alone is a good enough example for us to be creative and to build solid relationships on our ministry teams. And…. The team had so much fun that I had to create a position of social coordinator to do other events throughout the year.
#3 – ENCOURAGEMENT IS THE MOST POWERFUL TOOL THAT YOU HAVE.
People respond to praise. We need to reward those who are serving. I Thessalonians 5:11 says; “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up……” Give encouragement to your team, and lots of it. As a leader, especially if you have multiple departments or groups under your care, make sure that those leaders are encouraged, but also go out of your way to encourage those in other groups as well. After one particularly great Sunday morning my pastor spent a good part of our staff meeting praising me for the job I had done on Sunday. When the meeting was over, although I knew he was very busy, I asked him if he would take the time to repeat his praises to the entire worship and technical team. He agreed and wrote them a personal letter thanking them for their efforts in serving the people of our congregation. The fact that our team got a personal letter from the pastor was a tremendous encouragement to them, one that they didn’t soon forget.
Encouraging your team means investing in your team. You need to take the time to support them, let them know that you care about them as people. Let me share some practical ways you can give encouragement. First acknowledge them personally. Remember that people serving are not robots who help us carry out our calling. We are there to help them to discover their calling. One way that I do this is that I make a list of everyone’s birthday and anniversary. I include their spouse and their kids on this list. If you set this up right, it becomes a self managing administrative procedure that means a lot. On my monthly calendar I have a note to send birthday and anniversary cards on the first of every month. I have a pile of fairly generic cards in my office and I send them all out at once. Depending on the number of people, this takes anywhere from one half an hour to an hour per month, a small amount of time when I think about the hours that most volunteers put in.
Another way that I support people personally is that I keep track of important events. I remember several years ago when one of my team member’s father passed away. It was a hard time for him. I marked it on my calendar for one year later and on that date I called him just acknowledging that I knew that this might be a hard day for him. Again, this is a simple task that goes a long way in building a solid ministry team. Secondly, support them practically. If anyone on your team has a physical need, you should be the first one to go to bat from them. Years ago we had a single mom who lost her job and went through a period of unemployment. I went to our food pantry ministry and made sure that this person got groceries on a weekly basis during this time. Over the years I have helped people to get clothes, Christmas gifts for their family and auto repairs.
Third, since they are serving in ministry whenever possible invest in them professionally. Get them the ongoing training that they need to do their ministry. Our church purchased our bass player a subscription to Bass Player Magazine and subscribed to Mix Magazine for our Audio Director. We had quarterly meetings for continuing education and made sure that we were constantly putting quality materials in their hands. Another aspect of professional support is to give leaders the authority to carry out their ministry. Whenever you give someone a responsibility, make sure they get the authority to carry it out. Make sure that they get the credit and the praise for a job well done and make sure that YOU as a leader TAKE THE HIT if they make a mistake.
Finally, remember them in prayer. Ultimately everything we have belongs to God and that includes those he puts in our path to serve in ministry together. Pray for them regularly. You know that in most churches we spend more time talking about prayer than we do actually praying. Let’s change that, and let’s begin with lifting up those who are serving with us in ministry. Sorry to get spiritual on you there, but it just makes good sense.
In closing, remember one of the best things that you can do to keep your ministry solid is to continue to learn and grow yourself. Whether you are in worship and music ministry or in technical ministries, a leader who continues to grow and invest in people, is the leader who will ultimately be able to hear those words; “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”