Practical Help for Music Ministers

A friend and co-worker of mine writes his blog so that other youth ministers might learn from his experience. Though I don’t normally think of my blog as a help in that way, I think I’ll try it for a while. Normally, I just try to show how worship can be an everyday lifestyle, not just a once a week event. But today, I’ll answer the same question my mom asked me as I was about to graduate from Seminary and go into full-time music ministry: “What do you do for 40 hours a week?” Thanks mom…I’ve only been pursuing this for 7 years now 🙂

Basically, as I’ve said before, I feel like Sunday is a culmination of the week, rather than how some view it as the beginning of the week…a sort of “refueling” for the next week’s journey. In seeing it this way, it helps me plan my week better and also helps Sunday mean more to me personally.

Monday: I usually spend a lot of time catching up on emails and phone calls. If I have few to do, I usually find time for other things to catch up on (free time – I’ll explain that later). I’ve also tried to set aside time on Mondays for worship planning. Some might ask, “How hard is that? You just pick a few songs.” I wish it were that easy. For the average of 7 or 8 songs in any given service, I go through about 10 or 12 for each one. 8 x 12 = 96. I go through about 100 songs to find the right 7 or 8 for each week. When I say “go through” – sometimes that’s just one or two lists I have. One list is alphabetical and contains the location of the song (which book it is in) as well as the key it is in. The other list is the same songs, but arranged in like keys. These lists include hymns and contemporary songs. Since it’s nice to go from one song to the next with little transition, this is a very helpful list. (Note: We made this list in Excel so it could be sorted in all these different ways…we also keep up with when each song is sung for our information as well as CCLI reporting needs.)

Outside of this list, I have recordings of many of the songs. I keep them all organized in Windows Media Player 11. Though I liked iTunes when I started this, I hated how iTunes only had the mpeg4 format and no other program could use it. WMP 11 has much more user friendliness to me personally. Anyway, when selecting songs for any given Sunday, part of my selection process may be to listen to some of them.

But, there is also the finding of new songs to use in worship. That is quite the tedious job. For every song that is appropriate for this church, I go through at least 15 or 20. Now, this church is quite particular so I would guess any other church might only have a 1:10 ratio of appropriate to “not right for this church.” But, as I find a new song, I have to consider how long it will take the band to learn it, how I might teach it to the choir who help lead worship and hate to have a new song sprung on them without warning, and when it might be used in worship.

That’s a whole other ball of wax. I think it is very important for worship planners to select music that sets the stage for the Word of God to be brought later in the service. Getting that info early enough to plan accordingly is another story. For example, I knew that our speaker this past week would be speaking on how our affection for one another shows the love of Christ to the world. He said he would expound upon how our love for one another should be like Christ’s love for us…if so, what does Christ’s love look like? In His love for us, we must consider what He gave up to come save us through the cross (specifically the account from Isaiah 6). Here was my setlist:

Better than Life (Israel Houghton) (“Your love is everlasting, it’s an everlasting love…it’s better than life”)

How Great Are You Lord (“How great are the things that you have done for me”)

Oh the Wonderful Cross (“duh”)

O the Blood of Jesus (ending a cappella)

My Savior, My God (for choir – “That He would leave His place on high, to come for sinful man to die”)

What Wondrous Love Is This (Hymn)

The Old Rugged Cross (Hymn)

You Are My King (“That you, my King, would die for me”)

Isaiah 6 (Todd Agnew – the words of Isaiah 6 set to music – quite masterfully I might add)

It was a great time of worship. The speaker stumbled a bit when he first came up to try and form his words. He told me the next day that it was literally the first time he’s ever been speechless. It was a great “flow” and great fit for this Sunday’s message.

Though it’s only 9 songs, I spent at least 4 hours formulating this service and one other service…getting the right keys, choosing the right verses of the hymns, etc. Beyond that, I spent at least 3 hours in rehearsing of just these pieces for Sunday morning. It was all worth it.

Tommorow, I’ll speak on what I accomplish on Tuesdays, or maybe more. Don’t forget that I’ve got to tell you how to manage your “Free Time” – ar at least what I do with mine.

God bless as you seek to serve Him.

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