For Pete's Sake- Building Excitement In Your Music Ministry

Featuring Branon Dempsey Posted on July 17, 2008

I had a phone call from one of the churches in which I recently provided a workshop/clinic. The excitement in his voice and the laughter over the phone filled my heart with smiles. He went on to tell me how much fun his worship team had at rehearsal. Even when practice was over, his team did not leave. They stood around describing how much they’ve enjoyed and what they have learned from Wednesday night. Did this really happen? Why all this excitement after an ordinary rehearsal? How did they become so amped-up, that they couldn’t wait for the next Sunday service to arrive? Is this not normal?

“Humility does not mean you think less of yourself. It means you think of yourself less.”
— Ken Blanchard, Motivational Speaker & Author

Here’s the pretext from this phone conversation. Recently, I was asked to conduct a follow-up clinic/rehearsal with this church. I happily accepted and was looking forward to see the familiar faces and friends. Prior to my visit, I was encouraged by the leadership to arrange the rehearsal as I saw fit. In fact, I was told directly to make any changes that I wanted, even if it meant that others were to be “set straight.” The Spirit inside of me said “red flag!” but outwardly I pleasantly responded with a positive level of assurance.

The rehearsal night was here. As I saw the team members pile in, I noticed that they seemed happy, but a bit apprehensive. Maybe not having their regular worship leader directing their rehearsal seemed to fill them with wonder of the night’s agenda.

As we moved through the order of music, I went around the room asking questions to identify concerns and needs. My first concern was to ensure that they not only understood the flow, but the had the means to confidently participate in the rehearsal. Again, I noticed a slight bit of awkwardness. Eyebrows bashfully raised as I entertained some questions. After we made the necessary adjustments, we were ready to roll.

We began rehearsal with a familiar and fun song just to ease the coming-off-of-work state of mind. By the second song, everyone had their groove on. I could tell that the team was closely watching me for any sort of hint or subtle move. Normally, I tend to run the complete song through once, before making any adjustments. After we ran through the second song, I stopped to make a few modifications. Before speaking, all eyes hit the floor. Knowing that their leader was absent, they looked as if they were afraid of something. I stepped back and thought to my self: “hmmm...this team was so energized and uplifted when we last met. What  happened?” I couldn't understand the trepidation.

From the song’s standpoint, I didn’t feel that the musicians and singers were playing comfortably. So I did something. I gave a few pointers on the song’s direction and format, but in the same breath I asked them how they felt. I really wanted to hear what they heard musically. After all, they are the ones really creating the “sound” for the song.  My job was to lead and facilitate.

Each of them began in a timid soft spoken voice. As I listened, the ideas were rolling towards a crescendo of possibility and optimism. Before, I knew it, we were off playing again to the very suggested ideas. Faces were now bright and full of enthusiasm as we played through the music. We broke out into laughter quite a few times during and after the songs. At one point, I noticed the joy was coming back into the room. We covered the rest of the music set in the same manner: mapping out the form, voicing concerns and implementing ideas in a timely fashion. (it’s good to be mindful of your rehearsal time in making it efficient in all respects.) After collaborating with a few more ideas, I showed them a few of my own and we completed the rehearsal. Our time was over, but people were still singing and playing of on their own. As I said goodbye, each of them shared with me how much they enjoyed practice. I returned the similar feelings of satisfaction. In my reflection, it was simple: we had fun.

I am startled by a few perspectives in question that overtime, have altered human thought: what purpose does it serve to place agendas higher than people? Why do we have more “my-ways” than highways. When were we told that having fun compromises our reputation? How do we “look” if we are perceived by others as “not in control.” Will God stop loving us if we fail?
Like you, I find that unnecessary pressures only breed resentment and fear. Ministry is about people. Volunteering is about volunteering and serving is about service. There are those who believe that in order to maintain your status in the church, world or life, you must exert pressure on to others. This simply stems down to a lack of security in one’s self and a lack of honesty and faith in God. As a result, fear and bitterness turns into torment, which widens the gap between strife and grace as well as isolation and community.

Abraham Lincoln said: “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”

I am learning everyday that it has to do more with Pete than it does with me. When we look at the esteeming style of Jesus, he never once turned people away. I am reminded when the disciples were tired and wanted rest, but the crowd of 5,000 were hungry. Jesus faced his disciples who were imploring him to send them away, he replied: “no, you give them something to eat.” That pretty much ended the discussion. There was no discussion because Jesus was here on earth for mankind not himself.

Our family life, personal life and ministry life can easily be infiltrated, shaped and nurtured by the grace, honesty and love of Jesus. May we be a people that esteem other better than ourselves. As a byproduct, people of the world will know us by our love for one another (Jn. 13:35).

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