Community– a group of people “who have a sense of common purpose(s) and/or interest(s) for which they assume mutual responsibility, who acknowledge their inter-connectedness, who respect the individual differences among members, and who commit themselves to the well-being of each other and the integrity and well-being of the group.” Wood and Judikis, Coversations on Community Theory, 2002.
When I read this definition through the lenses of what the church (local and global) should resemble, I was convicted. This definition is convicting and thus challenging because we’ve got some work to do as communities of faith that are unified in one purpose and mutually submissive to one another. In the area of music for our churches, which is too often divisive anyway, we tend to lean on our preferences and not on how we can live in community.
One of the hallmarks of the intergenerational church (music ministry) is that we strive to live in community where all ages should feel valued and important. However, it’s a struggle. Here are a few ideas of how intergenerational communities of faith can make strides in being more authentic in striving for community:
- Involve others in the process of making music. Never underestimate the musical talents of your team. Don’t be afraid to use them to help for sectional rehearsals, orchestra sectionals, and the like. Often, the collaborative team-work approach often produces a better overall sound. Again, all the help from your team must be directed and overseen by you. Don’t let someone have carte blanche when ultimately it is your job to protect the musical and theological integrity of the music ministry. Invest in others and work together—don’t just push tasks off on other leaders without purpose.
- Involve others in leadership planning of worship services. Yes, we should involve others in the “doing” of music ministry, but I bet there are folks with theological and musical training that can assist in helping plan worship services. Planning with a team is hard work, but the creativity gained and ownership from the whole is worth the time and effort.
- Involve others in making overall worship ministry decisions. Beyond musical and worship service related decisions, I find it helpful to have persons dedicated to helping “steer” the direction of the worship ministry. At our church, we have Music Ministry officers that act in this way. They hear the vision and direction from me, while adding add input, revisions, and the like. When decisions are made (even not so popular ones) the group has made them collectively, which I think adds more weight to the decision. With this said, often there are decisions that must be made outside the collaborative experience with your lay leaders. However, when possible, use your lay leaders in helping make decisions.
- Regularly celebrate the importance of each person in the ministry. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is vital all members of your community (music ministry) feel important. Remind them of the biblical importance of music in worship and how they are being the body of Christ as worship leaders in the church.
- Celebrate what makes your local church unique. I cannot stress this one enough. All churches, even those inside the same zip code, are not equal. Some have choirs and orchestras, some have a band only, some piano and organ, or any other combination you can think of. Some are very casual; others are not. There is much to be said here (another blog post soon), but every congregation is different. Their corpus of music is different. In the not so distant past, most Baptist congregations were similar in their congregational music. Now, with the advent of technology, this is not the case. I remember when I arrived almost five years ago to Ivy Creek, I asked our music leadership to make a list of the top 25 or so congregational songs (and choir favorites) so I could get a feel for where the church has been prior to my arrival. I still refer to the list…
- Be authentic as a leader, but willing to stretch. As a leader, you are the sum total of your experiences to date. To be asked to make a 180 degree shift in worship leading style is unfair and ultimately detrimental to the leader and the church. However, the leader should always be willing to stretch out of his or her comfort zone musically to some degree when needed. If we are to truly live in community, we must sing theologically-rich songs, both old and new, and everything in between. The only difference may be that in some churches, the medium of musical presentation might be a band in one church or a piano and organ in another. Whatever the case, strive for excellence and lead with high expectations. I remember my pastor saying to me a few years ago, “Will, you set the bar for excellence for your choir so high knowing that just below that is where they’ll end up and that’s your plan all along.” At first I wasn’t sure how to take this comment until he explained that I’m always striving for the perfect sound/blend/articulation/vowel placement, but I’m thrilled because while they might not achieve professional sound, they are far better than they were and I’m okay with that. Always aim high, my friends. Be authentic and real and appreciate your people when they give their best for the Lord.