Commitment Defined: How To Stay Dedicated Without Losing Your Passion

One of the most common threads among all of us that work in music ministry is the on-going struggle with just staying motivated and happy. Fighting burn-out. Dealing with the delicate balance of being dedicated to the ministry and still having a life. The whole balance thing is the thing I struggle with most, honestly. But one thing I haven’t struggled with much over the years is being on my post. consistently being at rehearsal every single time, ready to go. Consistently being on my post every Sunday morning, ready to play, direct, or sing.

A lot of people do struggle with such things though, which explains why so many choirs and praise teams struggle with absentee-ism. And even though we all tend to think so, it’s not always a willful thing for those that are guilty of it. Sometimes, I believe, it’s more about a lack of commitment. Many of us start out with great intentions to do something only to find ourselves struggling to keep our promise, or even quitting altogether.

I committed to myself that I’d learn guitar earlier this year. I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get the money to purchase my guitar and get started. Weeks later though, I found myself not practicing. It was just harder than I thought. The instrument itself was harder than I thought it would be, but more than that it was a matter of “finding the time” to commit to practicing. I placed that in quotes because, as any musician will tell you, that’s not something you find the time for. It’s something you make the time for. So is anything else you have a strong enough desire to do.

In one on-line dictionary I found commitment defined as:

1. The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc. (as in a teacher’s commitment to her students, or a company’s commitment to quality)

2. An engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action. (I have a prior commitment).

Definition number 2 for me has always worked for my ministry at my church. Simply put, rehearsal nights are off limits. I’ve never booked voice lessons, taken engagements or anything else on Wednesday nights, because Wednesday nights are rehearsal nights. So whether we actually have a rehearsal scheduled or not, I’ve always treated Wednesday night as a standing engagement; a prior commitment. I view Sunday mornings the same way.

In fact I’ve been so adamant and consistent with this over the years that everyone who knows me already knows I’m busy on Wednesdays and Sundays.  And I think in order to stay committed and dedicated to anything- ministry, learning a new instrument or anything else, we have to make that thing a standing engagement. A commitment that everything else must adjust to and revolved around. When we do that staying dedicated to a thing becomes a lifestyle and a habit. It becomes automatic. Something you miss when you don’t do it.

This has worked really well for me in my ministry because not only have I made it a standing commitment but a way of life. So everything else always revolves around and adjusts to those standing commitments, because, as definition number 2 above says, I’ve taken away the “freedom” do do anything else during those times. The failure to do that is the biggest reason most people don’t stick to their commitments, no matter what they are. It’s also the reason I’m not practicing my new guitar.

When learning it becomes important enough to me to give practicing it a place of priority, I will do with it what I’ve done with Wednesday night rehearsals, Sunday morning ministry, daily posting to my fan page and weekly blogs here. I will give it a place of importance. I will make a commitment. I will set a rehearsal time and treat it as “an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action”. And as soon as I do, the flow of my daily life will begin to adjust around that time slot and make space for it. As we always do for the things that are most important to us.

If you’re going to stay, be dedicated

“If you’re going to stay, be dedicated”. No, that’s not what I’m telling you. It’s what God told me Sunday evening, driving home from an engagement with the choir. He didn’t say it in those words exactly. Sometimes He doesn’t have to say anything at all, you know what I mean? It’s just that heavy feeling of conviction that you get sometimes. Suddenly things become clear and you get an epiphany without anyone saying anything at all.

Such was the case Sunday evening driving home from a musical where our choir was scheduled to sing.  People were missing. Important people. Musicians. Our director. Tenors. But I was there and Monica, my dear friend and minister of music was there. So I could stand in as director and other musicians there could help her out with the song. And we had a choir.

We  were first on the program. We go up, I stand in as director, Monica plays for us with help from other musicians that were there, and everything goes fine. You must be thinking at this point “sounds like everything worked out, what’s the problem?” You’re right, everything did.

But in the hallway after we exited the choir stand Monica came up to me and said “I was so scared, Ron. I thought I was going to have to try to direct and play in front of all these people. I didn’t see you back there.”

Again, I was there to direct, we had all the choir members we needed and everything worked out. But I couldn’t feel good about it because as soon as Monica came up to me and expressed how upset she was before she found out I was there, it’s like God slammed into my head every instance I had put her in that position before by not being there myself like others weren’t there that time. Even if everyone else was.

You kinda have to be familiar with the traditions and practices of Pentecostal/Church Of God In Christ denomination to really understand how often this situation occurs. In the COGIC denomination it’s very common for these “evening services” to occur several times a month, either at your own church or at someone else’s.  You go to your regular Sunday morning service and serve, get out for an hour or two and then you’re back for a second service, usually dismissing around 7.

So music departments are constantly on the go and constantly going to second services. They make for some very long days. Over the years I’d become jaded with the whole thing to the point I was starting to wonder if it was time to switch denominations. But I didn’t feel like I was hearing that from God. I felt like it was my own frustrations with denominational traditions and whatever else I decided to have a problem with.

So rather than leave over it I decided I would simply find my own balance. I’d go to these extra things when I felt like it, as long as I took care of home events. Over time I became known for NOT going to engagements away from the church and was simply not expected to be there.

I hope you’re getting a better picture of what’s going on here and why this particular Sunday ended up being a defining moment for me as far as my ministry is concerned. You see, today I had made up my mind I was going; first because it was a special request of our pastor that we all be there. Secondly I’d really been trying to make an effort to simply be more faithful about going to outside engagements.

So I was there, and thank God I was. But God wasn’t about to allow me to feel like I had come in and “saved the day” or something, no. When my friend of over 30 years walked up to me in that hallway, looked into my eyes and told me how panicked she was in the seconds leading up to  mounting the choir stand…knowing she didn’t have her band there to help her and thinking she didn’t have a director either…I thought of all the other times she must have been the only musician. Even worse though, I thought “what if I hadn’t came today?”

Our drummer and bass player were arriving as we were leaving the parking lot, over an hour late to the engagement. I was angry. But really all it did was heap more coals onto my own head.
I felt so much personal conviction in that car driving down the highway. I didn’t hear any voices, guys. I didn’t think the words. I didn’t hear a small still voice in my head. I didn’t hear my conscious talking to me.

I just knew everything at once. I knew that whatever issues I was having with COGIC and the way they do things, as long as I was going to stay I was simply going to have to be more dedicated. It’s funny because we had a meeting at work one day about a bunch of changes and all the challenges they were throwing at us.

The regional manager put it this way. “I understand that things are tough. I’m dealing with a lot of stuff I don’t like and I’m not happy with. But at the end of the day if I don’t like it I can walk. I can vote with my feet,” he said. “But as long as I decide to stay I understand that I OWN it.”.

That’s what I felt like God was telling me in that car, without saying anything to me at all. If I feel like it’s time for me to go then I need to pray about it, get confirmation and start looking for a new church home. But for as long as I feel like I’m supposed to be where I am, I need to be dedicated. I need to own my position and all the responsibilities that come with it. Regardless of how I feel about anything outside of that music ministry, that’s my job for as long as I “own it”.

About halfway home I sent my friend a text message that read:  “I’ll be there from now on, Monica”.