Acknowledging your ministry support system

Acknowledging your ministry support system

There are people in this world who, by just being in your life, make you a better version of yourself. They may do that in any number of ways, but for the most part they just have a way of making it possible for you to be better at what you do. Many people have such friends, family or co-workers in their circle somewhere, whether they know it or not.

I happen to have 3 such people in my life. And even though I think about them all the time, during this time of year when we are faced with the demanding-sometimes overwhelming task of preparing for our Family And Friends musical, I realize just how much they mean to me and how much of an important role they play in my ability to do what I do.

I’d like you to meet 3 dear friends of mine; Justin Norton, our drummer. Cory Norton, our Bass Guitarist. And Monica Hines, our organist and minister of music. Along with myself on keys, this is the group that makes the band at our church. I’ve been blessed to work with these guys for many, many years. Over those years we have developed a special bond and a “gel” that many bands simply don’t have.

But it’s during these mass choir rehearsals that I really understand how just having the right people around you can make you instantly better at whatever it is you do. You see, before I ever got trained to become a professional vocal coach, I was a song teacher for my choir. I was a director for a while, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that my real calling and special gift was teaching choir.

During Family & Friends I have to perform at the highest level I do all year. I have a large amount of material to learn. I need to be ready each rehearsal to teach every note of every song that we’ll be singing- 7, this year. Not only do I need to come prepared to do that, I need to execute at a high level. I must keep the choir engaged, interested and energized. I must keep the rehearsal moving at a fast pace in order cover such a large amount of material in a decent time.

God blesses me to do that every year, and it’s in large part because of Justin, Cory, and Monica. My band. My support system. My friends and co-laborers in ministry. You see I teach on my feet, in front of my choir. I like to walk around, interact with the different sections, talk to them, pull it out of them. I stand in front of my choir and for an hour and a half, go at it.

In the process of teaching songs, I start songs, stop at any time, start back up wherever I need to, repeat things several times and then keep going when I think they have it. During all of this time, I’m fully engaged with my choir. I never look behind me to see if my band is ready, or if they know where to start. I say to my choir, let’s start here. I count it off, and the music is right there, exactly where I wanted to start.


I give instructions often without any hand gestures at all. Many times just by shouting it out loud to the choir. And every time, from behind me, the band is right there. When I do give a hand gesture, I still don’t look around to see if they saw it. Because I know that if I gave it high enough for them to see it, they’ll be exactly where I want them to be. In fact I posted a little video montage featuring rehearsal footage of 3 songs we did this year. Even in the footage you can see this happening.

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Don’t get me wrong, teaching is my gift. I go other places and I do well at teaching. But I’m never as fast, or efficient, or at that pinnacle of performance as I am when I’m with my band. When I’m somewhere else I look at the musicians a lot more Cues get missed. I have to make sure others see me. I have to adjust where I start and stop. Songs take a little longer to teach.

But my band? My band simply knows. I speak what I want to the choir, my band is there. I raise a hand and from behind me, they stop. I simply don’t perform on quite this level with anyone else. And I definitely don’t play the same when I’m not with them. I guess it would be easy to chalk that up to simply time spent working together, and to a large degree that’s absolutely true. But it’s more than that. These guys are the sharpest, most musically aware musicians I’ve ever worked with. I am a better musician myself when I play with them. I’m a better director when they’re behind me. And I’m the best teacher I can be when they’re backing me.

It’s always been my desire to stand up at some point and tell the choir at Family & Friends about these guys, what they mean to me and how they make it possible to do what I do. But I’m too passionate about it. My choir messed up once and ask me to speak about the choir at one of our Annuals. I was up 20 minutes before I realized it. But I know Monica will see today’s blog, and I hope she’ll pass it along to Cory and Justin.

Everyone needs someone in their life like that. Someone that, by virtue of simply being so awesome in their own right, makes you better at what you do. Who is that person or persons for you? I challenge you to think about it today. Identify them and find a way to let them know.

Monica, Justin and Cory, I love you guys. I do what I do at New Comforter only because you do what you do.

Mixed signals: getting musicians and song teachers on the same page

If you’re a regular reader you know I’ve been in rehearsal for the last 2 weeks for our annual Family & Friends musical. As such my last couple of blogs have been about subjects along the those lines. Last week I wrote about how to survive a mass choir rehearsal. One of my readers, Tracey, wrote me to say she enjoyed it, but then she brought up a situation I had never thought of. ” Do you have any tips for musicians?”, she asked me. She went on to explain that she has been in mass rehearsals where the instructor taught the song completely wrong musically. Tracey also shared with me that when she tried to tactfully get the instructor back on track there was animosity.
I have to confess, I haven’t had much experience with such situations. I’ve been really blessed to work with the same group of musicians for many years now, and we’re very much in sync. So while I can’t give you much information on what to do in such situations, Tracey, I can tell you how we avoid it at my church. The short answer is we communicate. And we do so often. We do it to insure just such a thing doesn’t happen. We do it to make sure that we’ll all be on the same page at rehearsal.

When we have a rehearsal coming up, my Minister Of Music informs all of us what we’ll be learning. She provides us with the music, lets us know exactly which songs to be ready for and confirms that we’re all learning it in the same key. We all have a copy of the same version of the song also.

Musician’s rehearsal is also something we always, always do before a major event like a big musical. On the night of rehearsal we ask that the director be there along with the key song leaders. We go over all of our songs with these people. This helps us insure that we’re all in sync.

I think though, that Tracey may be dealing with a problem that I’m afraid tips like these won’t help much. The sad truth is, some people simply aren’t very good at teaching songs. To do this and do it well, you really need to have a pretty deep understanding of music, harmony and song structure. There are, unfortunately some people who teach who don’t know much about it. Early meetings and communications whenever possible can go a long way towards at least figuring this out in advance.

If talked about before rehearsals you as a musician might be able to catch potential problems before the actual rehearsal. Express your interest in meeting with the clinician/instructor to insure that you both will be on the same page. If he or she is open to it, you might even listen to the music together and talk about the particulars. All of this assumes, of course, that you’re going to be working with someone you’re not familiar with already.

It’s a touch situation to be sure. But when you find yourself in a situation like this, where the person(s) you’re working with simply doesn’t have the necessary skills, it’s important you maintain a level of professionalism and dignity as much as possible. If there’s nothing you can do to help, simply roll with things as much as possible and help as much as you’re allowed.

Communicate with other personnel as much as you can, get on the same page as much as possible, talk about teaching styles and any other policies that may help you do your part more efficiently. After that all one can do is pray and remain professional.


Why some music ministries never get better

Today I have a video blog from you. In all my videos I speak from the heart, unscripted. So you will often see the most raw emotion in my video blogs. Such is the case in today’s video, where I talk about something very dear to my heart. That is the complacent attitude of many church choirs and praise teams-even some bands. What is the mental state of your choir or praise team? Are you stuck in a rut, unwilling to move out of your comfort zone to take your music ministry higher? What can we do about it? Enjoy the video, and please leave me your thoughts.