My first experience in music ministry happened fairly soon after I first picked up a guitar at 15 years of age. I knew about 20 chords and could play a few songs from a new songbook titled Scripture in Song. Fortunately most of the songs were in guitar-friendly keys.
There were four of us who played guitar in a small country Baptist church. I know one song we dreaded was Rise and Shine (God said to Noah theres gonna be a floody floody
). The chords were simple, but the strumming rhythm was a real wrist breaker.
After church we would retire to one of our homes and listen to the latest Larry Norman or Randy Stonehill album, and try to work out the chords and guitar licks. As Bryan Adams sang, I played it till my fingers bled
those were the best days of my life. The songs were simple and wed try and embellish them with influences from progressive rock bands like Pink Floyd and Yes. However theres a limit to what you can do with a $20 nylon string guitar. Sometimes this went down well. At other times some of the elders would warn us of the dangers of getting so caught up in the music that we forgot the main game. In their quirky country ways, they had a point.
In the years since then I have enjoyed being part of many different music teams. My studies meant I moved around a fair bit, so I was part of a number of churches. Some were well resourced and it was a struggle to get to do what I loved, whereas others were small and welcomed whatever help they got.
When the Willow Creek team first came to Australia I witnessed what was possible with a dynamic, creative and well-resourced team. However, my frustration was that the models of music ministry I was seeing presented by big, well-resourced, upper middle class churches was simply not achievable in the majority of Australian churches.
My interest was in training and developing churches without these kinds of resources. The problem was to distill from 20 years of experience what things really mattered. What were the issues that could make or break a music ministry, whether in a mega church or a church struggling to survive as demographic change followed its course?
That led to the following principles
1. Music is valued as a gracious gift from God, given for our enjoyment, as well as being a strategic tool for strengthening believers and reaching unbelievers.
2. The ministry team should have a biblical understanding of the nature of worship, music, church and Christian experience.
3. Music ministry takes place in the context of a church with a shared understanding of its purpose and mission.
4. The music team are servants with a clear understanding and a passionate commitment to the part they play in that mission.
5. The music ministry is a team who:
a. work together towards common goals.
b. love and support one another.
c. deal biblically and appropriately with conflict.
d. have clear, mutually agreed, written standards explaining what is expected of members.
e. receive regular training and teaching in theology, practical musicianship and teamwork.
6. Music takes place in the context of prayerfully and carefully planned services with an emphasis on cultural relevance, excellence, biblical content, personal authenticity and vulnerability.
7. Music team leaders are involved in the planning and programming of services and special events.
8. The repertoire is regularly and systematically reviewed to:
a. assess its content, ease of singing and relevance.
b. evaluate and recommend new songs before they enter the repertoire.
9. The music ministry has adequate financial support within the churchs existing resources.
10. Human resources are used effectively and supplemented by appropriate use of technology such as MIDI or backing tracks were required.
11. The church supports and encourages local writers by using their material where possible and helping them to develop skills and access training opportunities.
12. The music ministry obeys the letter and the spirit of the law regarding copyright and performance rights.
Ive distilled these into a quick assessment you can use to see where you and your church are at in terms of ministry. You can download this assessment as a PDF document here.
Ken Davis is a life and ministry coach from Australia. He has 25 years experience in Music Ministry and provides training and resources for churches and individuals
© Inside Out Life Directions 2005
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