Being a musician of the church has never been more challenging. With an ever growing body of knowledge, skills, and materials, a diverse body of believers to whom to minister, and a complex cultural context, ministers who serve through music need to do, be, know, and understand more than ever before.
At Baylor, our students have given David Music, Terry York, and me, the designations of “Dr. What,” “Dr. Why,” and “Dr. How.” With our new church music colleague, Monique Ingalls, coming on board soon, there’s already been speculation of where her distinctive skills and abilities will fit into this morphing quadrilateral configuration. Speculation is that she might be dubbed “Dr. Who?” These designations by our students, however much in jest they might be intended, have caused me to think about what students should be equipped to know, be able to do, challenged to believe, and empowered to be.
What is it that we do? What do we need to know?
Such information as theory, history, vocal pedagogy, technological know how, theology, and biblical studies fit within this category. In order to function in music ministry for a lifetime, we must be knowledgeable about what we do. Facts and information are important. While much (most) information is readily available to us, a large body of knowledge needs to be recalled without hesitation. This often-used information is the “stuff” that we call forth in rehearsals, the fodder for after worship conversations with congregants, and the knowledge base that allows us to have meaningful conversations with our colleagues in other churches and with musicians in the larger community with whom we are always building bridges and collaborating.
Why does music ministry matter? What philosophical linchpins ground your church’s music and worship ministry?
Without a solid understanding of why we do what we do, music ministry will lack depth and substance. While worship may occur, and leadership may be enlisted and go through the motions, the foundation that sustains others and us will be missing, and we will find ourselves continually in shallow waters. While others around us are asking deeper questions and pressing for substance, we will be unable to help them explore more profound ideas.
What are the tools of our trade? How is knowledge assimilated and philosophy enacted? How is theology lived out?
Without a solid preparation in worship leadership skills, conducting, singing, playing, administrating, facilitating, etc., our knowledge and depth will fail to be shared with others and make its intended impact. I have observed a number of music and worship leaders along the way who know “what” and “why” but lack the practical and strategic abilities to enact ideas, and motivate people. Being able to use as much of what we know and believe as possible helps to ensure ministry effectiveness.
Who are the people we serve? What motivates them? How are they influenced by their culture, and how do we engage them meaningfully?
Ultimately, people are at the heart of all ministry. Without people there is no church, there are no ministers, and worship in community is not possible. As we move forward in the work of ministry, deeper understandings of people will be increasingly important. As individual needs become greater, an increasingly complex cultural milieu more challenging to negotiate, and choices more varied and enticing, our understanding of the people to whom we minster must be more sophisticated and our approaches more nuanced.
These four markers that we might use to anchor a balanced music and worship ministry are not hierarchical with one being most important and another being least important. They are all valuable and should be fully integrated in a way that they are free flowing and hardly recognizable as independent entities.
In an ideal scenario, all are present; yet, none draws attention to itself. For example what we know doesn’t overwhelm the people we serve, and our philosophical and theological identity is in line with our methodology. Getting stuck at any point in this “What,” “Why,” “How,” and “Who,” quadrilateral can hinder us from the steady flow of each component that is needed.
So, what do we do with this? What effect does who, what, how, and why have on the local context of the ministry in which we are engaged? Consider the following:
• Discuss with a trusted congregant or colleague how he/she sees you related to these four components of ministry.
• Write these distinctives down and post them in a prominent place to remind you of needed balance.
• Evaluate your rehearsals and ministry encounters based on these four pillars and discern where you stand.
• Attend a workshop this summer, and participate in classes that shore up areas where you perceive you need strengthening.