By Brandon Mowry (@miamimusicman)
I am not a pastor, but I have been called to ministry.
For all of my life, I’ve been connected to the world of Adventism. I grew up in the church. I attended Adventist schools. I’ve even taken collegiate Bible classes with a room full of future pastors.
I love the church, and I want to serve God.
My calling is different, though.
I’m a minister also, though my set of skills means that my area of ministry is not pastoral care.
I am a musician. And I believe that musicians and pastors must work hand in hand in the spiritual care of the church.
After all, that’s how the children of Israel did it.
The tribe of Levi included both priests and musicians. Both were deemed important enough to the spiritual life of Israel to be supported by the other tribes.
Thus, here are some things I wish pastors would understand.
- We can help you.
Everyone has areas of strengths and weaknesses. Pastors are good at preaching and pastoral care. Church musicians are good at knowing what music works for worship. A pastor might find a hymn or praise song that they believe complements their message. However, it may not be right for the congregation. The notes may be unfamiliar. The song may require more vocal technique than the amateur singers in the church can handle (ex.: does one need the range of Pavarotti to sing this song?). If you let us, we can help you find music that fits the theme AND the congregation.
- We need details.
On a related note, we will be able to better assist you in music selection if we know what the key points of your message are going to be. Rather than giving us a vague topic (ex.: “Our February messages will be about love.”), give us some details about what you want the congregation to take home with them. It will help us immensely as we plan to know what direction you want to take the church in the worship experience. It will also help us feel as though our contribution matters and helps to further the overall direction of the service instead of merely being “entertainment” that is unrelated to the theme.
By the way, we also need to know more information about the service than is often found in the bulletin. Is there going to be an altar call? A baptism at the end? A baby dedication? Do you need “walking music” as the children come forward for their story? Knowing these things in advance can help us to have music ready for these occasions.
- Give us enough time to prepare.
It takes time to learn music, especially for amateur musicians. A choir of volunteers cannot simply pick up a sheet of music and sing it perfectly. A praise team needs time to learn vocal parts and figure out the right notes to play. Telling us on Thursday night that you would like a specific song for the Sabbath service is usually going to end up with sub-par results. We want to give our best for God; help us by giving us enough time to prepare.
- We should be compensated.
Pastors have spent many years studying ministry techniques, biblical languages, interpretation, theology, and so on. Musicians have likewise spent many years learning about the structure of music, interpretation (classical music should sound different than contemporary music), and how to sing or play our instrument. For many of us, the practice room is our second home (sometimes, it feels like our first home!). We are dedicating a great deal of time to support the ministry of the church. The church should help us put food on our table as well. Pastors are not usually asked to volunteer; musicians shouldn’t be asked to either.
- Please don’t ask us to break the law.
Many churches today use modern praise music (sometimes known as Contemporary Christian Music, or CCM). Most, if not all, of these songs are still under copyright. Appropriate licenses need to be secured before performing these songs in church. Additional licensing needs to be arranged if the service is to be streamed live over the internet. Please don’t make us steal from our brother and sister musicians who are trying to pay their mortgages based on the royalties that writing these songs provide!
Also, please don’t ask us to photocopy printed music that is still under copyright. It doesn’t save that much money anyway (good paper is expensive), it takes a lot of time (not only are most church copiers VERY slow, one must then organize and staple fifty copies of music), and it’s still stealing, after all.
- We need a budget for music ministry.
Many churches set aside a little money for music. Most of the time, it is not enough. Make sure that in your church budget you are including money for licensing fees (see #5), instrument maintenance (when was the last time the pianos in your children’s Sabbath School rooms were tuned?), honorariums for regular or guest musicians (see #4), and sheet music acquisition.
- We need you to be a model for the congregation.
Picture the scene: the praise team is leading in worship. However, the platform participants behind them are sitting looking bored. The pastor is conferring with the elder next to him about something that may or may not be urgent. What message is the congregation receiving? Most likely, it is that the praise and worship time is not that important. David advises us to make a joyful noise to the Lord. If that’s all you can do, do it with gusto and a smile! Your congregation is looking to you to model worship for them. (PS: This applies to the rest of the service too. An appearance of disinterest will cause the congregation to feel the same.)
We’re not asking for much, right?
Most church musicians want to help fulfill the mission God has given the church using the gifts and talents He gave us.
And, the church will be greatly blessed by having pastors and musicians on the same team.