Posts Tagged volunteers

Messes and miracles

IMG_2513This past weekend, I led worship with my brothers and sisters at the New City South worship site to celebrate their 10 year anniversary. It was a good time. I especially enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and reminiscing about God’s faithfulness in the midst of some pretty severe trials. It is a miracle that this congregation survived but I suppose the same can be said of any Spirit-filled congregation. The power of God is not the most evident reason for the existence of any congregation. If it isn’t, then we’re nothing more than a social organization.

This upcoming weekend, I get to leave my life in St Louis for a resort in West Palm Beach, Florida in order to lead worship at a fundraiser weekend for Serge. Unfortunately, I can’t bring my wife with me. However, my dad will be there and I’m looking forward to quality time with him as we play music together and get one last taste of warm weather before ol’ Jack Frost gets to work nipping at noses in the Midwest.

Meanwhile, we’re wrestling once again with volunteer participation in the music ministry. The Choir has averaged less than 10 people at rehearsals for the past few weeks. For some reason, available sopranos are hard to find in the praise team and choir. I’ve lost a couple of musician/leader this fall to other churches and some musicians have been even absent from worship services in general. What causes the eb and flow of available servants? It might just be the natural effects of overbooked schedules, cold and flu season, midterm school work and post-season sports, the list goes on and on… It’s a wonder we get anything done in the church. At this time in the choir season, we ask for renewed commitments, we evaluate logistical barriers to participation, we pray and worry, and worry and pray. And when there’s nothing else left to do, we take a deep breath and plunge into the holidays, holding our breath till January when we’ll exhale just long enough to get ready for the conferences and concerts that come up in the 1st quarter.

It’s a miracle that we ever survive this mess. That’s the thing about God’s power, it takes a mess and makes it a miracle.

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Church Musician “Madlibs”

The following is a fairly typical experience for most of us who serve as musicians in the church:

This weekend, I was approached by one of the ____________(adjective) members of our congregation. They loved the number of _____________(genre) style songs we sing but they wished that there were more__________(genre) style songs. This made me feel _________(emotion) despite the fact that the worship that Sunday made me feel __________(emotion).

When I came in to work that week, the pastor told me that music was really ______________(adjective) and the Spirit really ____________(past-tense verb) but  he received an email from a __________(adjective) person who thought that the music was too _______________(adjective). I ___________(adverb) thanked him for this feedback and then when he left the office I ________(adverb) closed the door and said ___________(expletive).

At rehearsal that Saturday, most of the volunteers were __________(adjective) but some were__________(adjective). This made me feel________________(emotion) and I ___________(adverb) reminded them that rehearsal was _____________(adjective). When I went home to my _________(adjective) family  that afternoon, I felt very __________(emotion) and was not very _____________(adjective) to them as a result.

By the time Sunday morning came back around, I was ready to _____________(verb) and couldn’t contain my ______________(emotion). If you had asked me that morning, I would have said that my church is ________________(adjective) and that Jesus is _____________(adjective).

Fellow church musicians, how would you fill out this madlib this week? Is there any doubt that Spiritual warfare is a REAL struggle for church musicians and volunteers? When you get to the final sentence, what is your state of mind? Who is filling in the blanks for you? The blanks will be filled in by either the promises of God and the fruit of His Spirit or by the lies of the flesh, the devil and the world. Lord, lead us!


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This makes my day

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Ode to Volunteer Assignments

Here’s a thing of beauty: A packed schedule before the notifications go out. That date in October that’s not done yet is the Church Retreat weekend, so I’m waiting to do that one.  But a calendar that’s full of assignment warms the cockles of my heart. Soon, the emails will go out like my little flying monkeys of ministry. Then all the people with desk jobs who are looking for any possible distraction away from work are the first responders. Later, the house wives who get one quiet moment a day to check their email. A few days pass and then the replies come from the people with unpredictable work schedules then people like Tanya Mark who have over-committed themselves to NCF’s billions of ministries. Then as the actual date approaches I get the responses from the people whose computer is perceived as a millstone around their necks who are making a huge sacrifice just to approach the object for the sake of love for Jesus. As the assignments go out, the neat clean look of the original calendar becomes scarred with crossed out names and lists of subs. The schedule that was once carefully balanced and crafted like an ancient banzai tree then looks mangled and grotesque. For now, I can bask in the order, the ritual, the sublime cleanliness of the schedule. Do I dare to even send the assignments? Could I freeze time and remain here in this moment of perfection?


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Near-sighted and far-sighted ministry

I’m learning a lot this year from organizing the NCF Black History Celebration (this Saturday night. 6pm, NO COVER!). It’s been frustration and stressful at times, but I have also been greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm of our musicians and volunteers. It’s been a process that has forced me to get my focus on both the near-sighted and far-sighted aspects of ministry.

Near-sighted ministry

Sometimes, the best thing for me to do is focus on the immediate circumstance and situation. Who am I talking to right now? What do they need for me to do for them? How can I encourage or support them? What needs to be accomplished with this rehearsal/interaction? I can tend to become overwhelmed with all the details that have to be addressed; I become panicked about my inability to catch every detail. The Spirit is teaching me to take each moment as it is, and to trust Him enough to not become anxious or fearful. This past weekend, I felt like I had invited a crowd of people to a party and then realized that I didn’t have enough food for everyone. I knew that some people would feel neglected and disappointed with my lack of preparation. It was my sin taking control of the situation and bringing a sense of guilt. The Spirit spoke to me on Sunday to get my focus back on the small view of the kingdom…a cup of cold water…a mustard seed…a simple trusting and following the Shepherd’s lead.

Far-sighted ministry

When I look at the weekend by itself, I can become obsessed with performance. The priority shifts to producing an excellent performance. This makes me frustrated with the inconsistency of volunteers, the weaknesses of amateur musicians, or my own inability to lead well and make things work. Yesterday, I was having a special rehearsal with one musician, and the Spirit spoke to me about the long-term benefits that this weekend will have on this individual. Because he is part of this weekend’s event, he will grow in his playing, his practicing, his trust in Christ, his musicianship, his worship expressions, his leadership skills. If I focus on just this weekend being the best performance possible, I am temped to “fire” all the volunteers and hire pros to make everything sound perfect and run smoothly. Working with volunteers in the church who are growing every week, I have to be far-sighted and appreciate that each time they play they are growing in their sanctification and their skills.

Jesus’ Ministry

Jesus was always working in this way. He had a small view of the kingdom that would give him the patience to sit down with the woman at the well and chat or allow children to come sit on his lap. He was not driven by a big agenda to save the world in just 3 years. He taught us that the kingdom is about small acts of justice and kindness. But, Jesus also had a big view of the whole picture of what he was doing with his ministry. He was so patient with the disciples each time they said or did boneheaded things. Jesus knew that the process of preparing them for the coming kingdom would take time. He trusted his Father that the big picture goals were more more important than getting caught up in the stress of making each interaction successful. If he didn’t keep the ultimate redemption in view, he would have never taken the road to the suffering and defeat of the cross.

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