12 Steps To Discovering Your Call To Music Ministry

If you’re a regular around here you know I try to share information that offers information to help take your music ministry to the next level. That’s really my only requirement for content here. It needs to teach something. Offer some advice, or some tips. Some kind of how to.

Many people who know they’re called to music ministry still find themselves searching for their specific calling within music ministry. I realized at an early age that mine was teaching and directing.  But if you’ve been struggling to really nail down what your specific calling is in music ministry you’ll love this great article I found on Churchleaders.com .

I really love articles that give specific steps. In his article “Discovering Your Call To Music Ministry” Minister Michael Dottin not only gives us 12 specific steps, he also includes specific scriptures related to each one.  This piece is a quick read, but full of great information I know will bless you if you find yourself in this place. Click the title or image below to read the full article.

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Are We Becoming “Too Professional” With Our Worship?

I came across this article on davidsantistevan.com recently, and I was instantly intrigued by the title. The article was a thought-provoking read for me personally, because I believe we often fall short of making the effort to give God our best in the service and presentation of our ministries to His people.

In fact one of my biggest pet peeves over the years has been that thing we have a tendency to say when a a bit more effort is required to perfect a song? Or when a piece is more challenging than usual? When we’re having to press through frustration to get the parts right, memorize the lyrics or just understand how a song flows? You know that bail-out phrase “We ain’t no professionals”.

But there’s a flip-side to that mentality. The other extreme, where we get so obsessed with perfection that we lose sight of what (and whom) this is really about. This article does a great job of really challenging that thin line that separates the two. This one will challenge your thinking on some levels. Click the image below to go to the article. Give it a read and let’s talk about it on the Fan Page.

Are we becoming too professional?

How To Reach Every Goal You Set For This Year (or any year)

Well, here we are gang. Well into another year. Looking ahead with high hopes, optimism, goals defined. Sound familiar? It should, because many of us were in the same spot this time last year, looking at the same goals we find ourselves NOT having attained this year.

If I’m being honest with you, that’s where I found myself more than once. Especially in business. Year after year I have made promises and said to myself “this will be my year”. But not much changed in my business. Things didn’t necessarily get worse, but they didn’t get much better.

I finally had to get really honest with myself and realize that if I wanted to really see this thing be successful I was going to have to start really putting forth an effort to learn what I didn’t know. I had to come to grips with the fact that what I had been doing so far simply wasn’t working. And the fact is, what I was doing was “not much”. More about that in a moment.

But you see I believed, like most Christians, that when God has told you to do something, or promised something for you life, it would all come automatically. Haven’t you heard people say that? “If God told you to do it you’ll know because doors will fling open for you and all the traffic lights will turn green just as you approach them and people will be showing up bringing you everything you need….” You get the idea. People believe that when God has promised you something it will come easy and without much effort on your part. However the Bible doesn’t seem to support that, does it?

The most glaring example of that to me is the children of Israel. God promised them the new land. A land flowing with milk and honey. It was absolutely, positively theirs, guaranteed. And yet even with that assurance, they couldn’t just walk in and set up camp. They had to “possess it”. They had to go and fight powerful enemies and defeat them. Yeah. It was their land, but it was in possession of their enemies. God gave them favor over their enemies, but He didn’t give them the promised land without effort on their part.

So many of us are not reaching our goals because of a sheer lack of real effort on our part. We think because we can sing, all we have to do is sing somewhere and people will flood us with offers to come sing somewhere else. And they’ll tell 2 friends, and so-on, and so-on, and so-on. And even if that does happen (and it does for some people) people who find themselves with a full calendar realize after not much time that they lack the skill, training and wisdom to keep it going.

Most of us don’t know how much we don’t know. We go about our daily lives, blissfully unaware that God has placed in front of us everything we need to attain the promise, and we are simply not “possessing it”. We are waiting for doors to fling open on their own when God has given us everything we need to simply turn the door knob and walk through.

Getting back to my own story, I came to the realization a few months ago that I wasn’t achieving success in my business because I simply wasn’t putting forth the effort to learn how to market it properly. I, like many small business owners, was simply trying stuff. Throwing ideas against the wall. Reading an occasional article. Throwing a little money at this thing or that thing. But I finally had to get real with myself and resolve to do what ever it takes to increase my knowledge. To get the training. Learn the skill-sets I needed. And I still continue to do that.

As I started following business coaches, reading about marketing and growing a business, learning new skills, I came to a stark realization. I’m gonna need to spend some money to go to the next level. I’ve simply learned all I can learn free. So I looked into the costs involved in taking my training to the next level. I know for me, that is hiring a professional business coach. I had to do the same thing to become trained to be a vocal coach, so why wouldn’t I have to do it for my business?

And the thing is, God showed me how my own mental blocks were my hindrance. He showed me that my “reasons” for not moving forward were really nothing more than excuses. One of the business coaches I had been following actually called me one day. We began to talk about the things I desired in my business and my goals for the coming year. And I began to go into my same old song and dance about how I really want to but just don’t have the money. “It’s the ultimate catch-22″, I told her. ” I know I can make more money by working with you, but I need to make more money to work with you.”

What she said to me next confirmed something God had already put inside of me but I wasn’t accepting. She said “I want you to change that mindset. I want you to stop saying “I don’t have the money to do it” or “I can’t afford to do it”. She continued “I want you to instead start thinking more along the lines of ‘ok, this is how much I need to do it’ and then start looking for ways to make it happen.” That was really powerful for me. Because I understood then that when I started putting forth the effort God would begin making ways.

Both for me and for you, reaching our goals this year boils down to adopting one word as our motivator. The word is “INVEST”. This, for me, is not just a business. It’s also a ministry. God showed me that in order to really be successful I have to be able to reach many, many more people. Doing so will allow me to be a blessing on a much larger scale. To do that I need to INVEST. I need to invest my time, my talent, my emotions, my heart and yes, my MONEY.

I can’t just show up here and write a blog twice a week and expect people to come, guys. That’s good, but it simply isn’t enough. Even for the blog to be successful I have to market it. If I don’t then nobody sees it, including people God has chosen to be blessed by it. So one of my top priorities last year were to find ways to earn that extra money I need to invest in my business/ministry. I’ve identified what that is, and now it’s time to make it happen. I’ve already planned to work more overtime. I’ve moved into a smaller place. I go out less.

I’ve decided, in other words, to invest in my ministry and my business. If you hope to reach any of your goals this year, you will have to come to the same realization. Even if your ministry is just a ministry and not a business at all, you must invest in that ministry. You must invest in yourself, your skills, your training. You must invest your time. You must, because if you don’t, the ministry cannot survive. Anything that doesn’t grow in some way eventually starts to wither and die.

So I challenge you, as my business coach challenged me, to stop making excuses and start making plans. Stop saying “I don’t have it” and start saying “how can I get it”. Change your mindset and you’ll change your results this year. That business coach told me to decided on a date I wanted to get started with her and make it my business to do everything in my power to find a way to earn the extra money I needed to start on that date.

I’m issuing you the same challenge. Don’t make the mistake of thinking because God gave you a gift, a ministry, a purpose, that there is nothing else for you to do but show up every Sunday. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your having found me out of millions of sites across the world-wide-web is just coincidence. I know for a fact it isn’t, because I fought tooth and nail against focusing my business specifically on on helping music ministries. Traditionally anything Christ-centered or Gospel-focused has a much harder time of succeeding in business, and I was well aware of it.

But God wouldn’t let me put this aside. He dropped in my spirit one day simply this: “I didn’t give you over 30 years of experience in music ministry for you to share your knowledge with just this one church and a few other people right around town.” He told me it was time to share it with a much bigger audience. And, like we always do, I went looking for proof that the audience was actually out there. I didn’t find any. I looked on Google and used their search tools to find out how many people are actually searching for stuff like this. I didn’t find many.

Yet He told me to do it. He told me you were out there, looking. But even though He told me to do this- even though I have His promise that there will be people out there looking for the training services and products He’ll bless me to provide- He helped me to understand that I’d still need to work hard, learn new things, create new skills, and spend money on this business/ministry in order to reach them.

If I don’t I never attain what God promised me. Doesn’t mean I did what He said and it didn’t work. Doesn’t mean I “thought” He said it and He really didn’t. It means He set it before me and I simply didn’t possess it. If I do my part He will do His.

So my battle cry this year- my one word motivator that will keep me on track- is the word INVEST. If I invest in myself, my ministry and my business- both my time and my money- I know that I can’t help but be successful. I’m challenging you to join me and adopt this new mindset for this year and every year. No more “I don’t have”. From here on, it’s “how can I get”. No more waiting for things to come to us. No more standing in front of doors and simply refusing to turn the door-knob. This year let’s “MAKE” it happen. This year let’s POSSESS what God has already promised us.

 

 

The 5 Biggest Lies Gospel Singers Believe About Vocal Training

 

 

 

 

 

As you may already know, I’m first and foremost a professional vocal coach. As such, over the years I’ve heard a lot of confusion from singers about taking lessons. I thought I’d cover the most common misconceptions in today’s blog.

1. Vocal lessons are for people who can’t sing

I can understand the confusion here. Unfortunately people often suggest taking lessons as a way of insulting one’s singing ability. Truth is, while people who don’t have a natural gift can see some improvement from lessons, it’s people who can already sing who see the greatest benefits. Most people who have a natural gift for singing and have never taken lessons, are doing a lot of things that cause strain, stress and limited range in their vocal abilities. Gifted singers can see a dramatic improvement in almost every aspect of their singing by taking professional lessons.

2. I was born with the gift to sing, so I don’t need lessons

Not true! People who were born with the gift of song need to train their voices far more than people were weren’t born with the gift. Why? Simply because you’ll be singing a lot more often. Vocal lessons not only teach you how to improve almost every aspect of singing, but they also teach you how to protect your voice and use it properly so it lasts you a long time.

3. Lessons won’t teach me anything I don’t already know!

If you’ve never taken voice lessons you’d be amazed at how much you really DON’T know about your voice and how it works. Some of the most simple changes can make a huge difference in your vocal tone, control, breathing, range and vocal stamina.

4. Vocal Coaches just charge you a bunch of money and make you yell and scream for an hour.

Unfortunately I’ve heard horror stories like this, so I understand the skepticism here. Sadly, there are many people out there offering professional voice lessons who have never had any kind of training. Often there are people in church who were simply born with great vocal ability naturally. These people are often asked to give private lessons. Even though they haven’t been trained, it simply gets hard to resist the extra income.

The truth is, however, the last thing a trained vocal coach will allow you to do is scream. When you’re studying with a professionally trained vocal coach, you’ll easily sing for a full hour lesson without any strain, yelling or screaming. Learning to sing powerfully without these damaging habits is the main reason for taking professional lessons.

5. Vocal lessons are a waste of money. I can learn just as much on You Tube for free.

You Tube is a great resource for free information, and you can certainly learn a lot there. But you’re only going to get small sound-bites of information there, and they won’t apply to you or your vocal tendencies specifically. As any of my former students will attest, taking lessons is the best investment a serious vocalist can make in their voice and their ministry.

So there you go! These are the most common things I hear from people about taking voice lessons. I hope I’ve shed enough light on these common misconceptions to change your mind about investing in your ministry with some vocal training.

Listen, if you’re a serious singer vocal lessons is simply something you MUST do if you want to keep singing for a long time. Even if you’ve looked into vocal training before and found it too expensive, you can still get professional grade vocal lessons by investing in a home study program. Home study vocal training programs are much more affordable than live face-to-face lessons, but with some self discipline can be just as effective. Consistency and practice is the key! My own home study vocal training program Vocal Ministry Breakthrough is the most convenient, affordable way to get the training you need to take your ministry to the next level. Get started today!

Until next time,

Ron Cross

 

 

 

 

 

3 excuses you no longer have for not taking vocal lessons :)

 1.  Vocal Lessons Are Too Expensive!

I’m not even going to bother with that whole “you can’t afford not to” thing. True enough, taking vocal lessons live with an experienced vocal coach can get up there a little, depending on where you live. But today that’s no valid reason not to take some lessons. Home study courses can be purchased at a fraction of what it costs to study live. Many courses average somewhere between $100-$200 for enough training to last you several months. When I launched my  6 month home study vocal training course Vocal Ministry Breakthrough I took another step to make it even more affordable by delivering it via a simple membership site. Now you can have professional-level vocal training for under $25 a month.  How easy is it to come up with $25? Skip just 1 pizza night a month and you’ve done it. Take your lunch to work instead of buying it just once a week and you’ve saved enough to cover your monthly tuition for VMB.

2. There aren’t any vocal coaches in my area.  At least not a Christian/Gospel ones like you

Welcome to the 21st Century! We live in the internet age now. We’re all connected. Now you can take live, face-to-face lessons with a coach across the country just by using video chat, VOIP options like Skype. Many vocal coaches, myself included, now offer vocal lessons this way.  So distance no longer has to discourage you from taking voice lessons.

3. I don’t have time! 

We have time for the things that are most important. Because we make the time. As I mentioned above, you can now study from the comfort of your own home via Skype or home study course. With my home study course you can take your lessons whenever you like. No specific time to take them, no driving to the lesson. With Skype you will in fact have an appointed time for your lesson, but you can save up to 2 hours of drive time in some cases by taking your lessons on-line or at home.

Listen, if you’re a regular reader you know I’m going to keep encouraging and pushing you about this until you do it. EVEN IF YOU DON’T DO IT WITH ME.  Few things you can do will make as big of an impact on your ministry than taking lessons.

So come on. You’re pretty-much out of excuses now, my friend. I want you to make a commitment to yourself and your ministry right now and take the step to get the training you know you need. I’m waiting for you!

Get Started Now!

Take care,
Ron

 

A vocal exercise that makes high notes easier

I was thinking over the last several blog posts I’ve done and I realized I haven’t done anything on vocal technique in quite some time. So today I thought I’d get back to basics and talk a bit about one of the most common things we singers struggle with- strain when singing in the upper part of our ranges. Now, I could get really technical here, and if I did it would get really long and really boring. So I’m going to focus only on one element of making high notes easier.

There are several things that need to work together in order to make accessing the higher parts of your range feel easier and less straining. But at the center of all of those things-the hub that holds all the spokes on the wheel in place- is your larynx. The larynx is more commonly referred to as your “Adam’s Apple”. It’s that lump in your throat that goes up and down. In a nutshell, a higher larynx equals more strain when you sing higher notes. A lower, more stable larynx means more relaxed, easier singing in your upper range.

Today I want to give you one simple vocal exercise that will help train your larynx to be lower and more stable. This will help you feel much less strain in the choir stand singing those demanding Gospel songs, or on the praise team belting it out on Sunday morning.

These exercises engage muscles that pull your larynx down, thus helping to train your larynx not to jump up high in your throat when you start to approach higher notes in your range. I’m going to have you do this exercise two ways. Both of them will use the vowel “U”.  For the first exercise we’ll combine that U vowel with what we call a “hard consonant”.  For the second one will use a “soft consonant”. This refers to the amount of air stoppage a consonant causes in your mouth when you pronounce it.

First Exercise:

For the first exercise we’ll use the sound “GUH”. For the right pronunciation, think of the word “guppy” or “gutter”. Just leave off everything after the U. Try using this sound on a simple 5 tone scale. You remember the Major Scale we all learned that uses the words “Do Re Me Fa Sol La Ti Do”, right?  Well for this exercise we’ll sing the first 5 notes of that scale forward and backwards, using the word “GUH”. In other words, it would sound like “Do Re Me Fa So Fa Me Re Do”. Only we’ll be singing those notes using “Guh”.

Start out in a comfortable place in your range and do the 5 tone scale forward and backward, singing “GUH”. Then move up a half step and do it again. Keep doing that until you’ve reached the highest place in your range you can sing COMFORTABLY. Then simple start going back down one half note at a time.

Second Exercise:

Exercise #2 is exactly the same, only we’ll substitute the “G” for an “N”. Now we’ll sing “NUH NUH NUH”, as in the word “nothing” or “nugget”.

Do this exercise exactly the same way you did the first one, doing the 5 tone scale forward and backward, then moving up a half-step and doing it again until you reach the highest place in your range you can sing comfortably.

An added twist:

After you’ve done this a couple of days and you’re pretty comfortable with the exercises, I want you to add a new element. Instead of doing the exercises in your normal singing voice, do it in what we call a “dopey” sound. Think “Sylvester Stalone….Adrian!!! Another example of the dopey sound (and where it gets it’s name) is that sound you make when someone says something that’s really so obvious it’s almost stupid..and you go “DUUUH!”. It’s an exagerated, throaty sound. Using this with your GUH GUH and NUH NUH NUH exercises makes them even more effective because they cause this “friendly compression” that helps force the larynx down even further. Try these for a few minutes a day-5-10 minutes tops. Do them daily for a week or so and tell me what you think. Remember though, don’t overdo it and don’t do anything painful!

I’ve explained this stuff as clearly as I can, but let’s face it: It’s hard to really get the full understanding of a vocal exercise looking at printed text. If you’d like to actually see and hear vocal exercises demonstrated, try my free 5 day vocal training course!