The “5 second rule” of music ministry; Use this to quickly move past any negative emotion

As Time Goes ByIf you’ve spent any time at all serving in music ministry, you know that you’re not always excited about everything you have to do. You don’t love every song you have to sing. You’re not thrilled about every engagement. Sometimes you’re not even all that happy about certain people and what they do, say, sing, etc. Let me give you a personal example.

When I first came to the front in my music ministry, it was as a choir director. I didn’t ask for the position, I was sort of “drafted”. But even at that young age of around 15 or so, God had already placed such a love of music in my heart I was happy to serve in any capacity. Over the years though, I started doing many other tasks with the choir, and other gifted directors came up behind me.

To make a long story short, I seldom direct anymore, because I have other roles and responsibilities. My main roles now in my music department are that of voice instructor and keyboard player. Still though, there are times when I’m called upon to direct. To be honest, when I am it always irritates me a little. It’s easier for me to deal with if my director simply can’t be there and needs me to have his back. But it’s really irritating to me if he IS in fact there and just not prepared or doesn’t know the song we’re about to sing for some reason.

In both situations, the source of the irritation for me is the same. It’s not that I don’t enjoy directing the choir anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to help out. I love my music ministry and I believe the sole reason I have any musical gift that I have is so it can be used to help the ministry. What I don’t like about it though, is that any time I have to direct it pulls me away from the keyboard. That’s frustrating for me because I’ve prepared myself to play the piece. The band has prepared for the piece as a unit. What I have NOT done is prepare myself to direct the song. So I’m at a bit of a disadvantage, the band is at a bit of a disadvantage because we all depend on each other, and it’s just a mild irritation all around.

This is one small issue that kind of bothers me, but it could be any number of things for any member of any music department- or any ministry for that matter. In music ministry, often it’s something as simple as not caring for the song we’ve chosen to sing that morning. Whatever it is that you find personally irritating at any given time though, has to be very quickly dealt with. You must have a way to quickly-often within seconds- deal with your personal issue with the song that’s been chosen, or the fact that you’re being asked to lead it again for the 100th time, or the fact that you PREPARED to lead but the song selection had to be changed and now you’re not singing after all that practice….I could go on and on here, but you get the idea.

We need something for those negative emotions that pop-up seconds before we’re about to stand before God’s people. I don’t think many of us really understand how even things as small as facial expressions have a profound impact on the effectiveness of our ministry. If you allow negative emotions, feelings, dissension, irritation or disappointment to remain in your spirit while you’re up ministering to God’s people, then the truth is you’re not ministering at all. You are, at that moment, completely in self.

Nothing matters about what’s going on at that moment except you, your emotions and how you feel about whatever is happening at that moment. That’s something that can’t be hidden from the audience or from God. As someone who is always out front; whether it’s in front of the entire congregation or simply in front of my own choir at rehearsal, I knew I needed a way to deal with something like this quickly. So I developed my own music ministry “5 second rule”.

You may or may not be familiar with the 5 second rule regarding food. But there’s a running joke here in the United States that says if you drop a piece of food on the floor and it’s there for less than 5 seconds, it’s ok for you to pick it up and eat it (lol). Well, as I kept being asked to direct the choir-usually with virtually no notice, I had to find a way to deal with the irritation I felt, and do it in the few seconds it took me to rise from the keyboard and walk over to the director’s spot. That little mental routine became what I now call my 5 second rule.

I had the opportunity to work with a choir a few years ago for about 2 months. The choir was simply paralyzed and unable to move forward with their ministry because it’s ranks were full of people who were simply refusing to do things that they could in fact do that would help the ministry move forward. There were people who could direct that wouldn’t. There was one who could play that wouldn’t. People were singing in the wrong sections for their vocal range because they didn’t like the section they belonged in.

God impressed upon me to share with them the way I deal with directing when I don’t want to, so I began to explain my 5 second rule to them this way;.

“There will always be things you don’t want to do. Songs you don’t want to sing, whatever. We’re only human. But you have to remember that the music ministry is NOT about you. And when it’s time to sing, you must set aside everything you’re feeling that IS about you, and focus on ministering to God’s people. You can’t allow any kind of negativity in your spirit when you’re up in front of God’s people.

Now, I wouldn’t dare stand here and tell you not to feel it. We’re all human and I’m not sure we could avoid it if we wanted to. But here’s what I do when I’m asked to direct and I don’t want to. I give myself 5 seconds to feel whatever I feel. Acknowledge it, pout about it, say it ain’t fair, whatever. From the time I’m told until the time I raise my hands in front of the choir is all the time I’m allowed to let it be about me. Once I get to that director’s spot, that’s over. I take a deep breath, blow it out and say to myself, “ok this is not about me anymore.”And it isn’t. It’s not about us, what we feel or even our right to feel it. Not at that moment.

It’s about God and it’s about ministry. So from that second I raise my hands I’m committed to giving God everything I have in that song. In fact many members of my choir would be shocked to find that I ever feel anything but complete joy about directing. Because that’s all they see when I’m in front of them. The same is true when I’m teaching a song at rehearsal, whether it’s my favorite song or one I really don’t care for at all. They’ll never know how I feel about it based on my outward emotions, facial expressions or lack of enthusiasm.

It doesn’t matter how I feel about the song, or directing, or anything else at that point. Because none of it is about how I feel. So from now on, that’s what I want you to do. Whatever it is you don’t like, you have 5 seconds to feel it. Once it’s time to minister though, it’s not about you anymore. Remind yourself of that every time you feel a negative emotion right before you’re about to minister in song. Just say “5 seconds”. Then get over it and give God your best.”



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24 Responses to The “5 second rule” of music ministry; Use this to quickly move past any negative emotion

  1. Lesa says:

    Very good advice. At times, I tend to sulk when I don’t like a song. I even voice my displeasure to other members of the team. Then I have to try to readjust my attitude while singing. That just doesn’t work. I am learning to prepare myself before its time to rehearse and minister with the team in worship. Thank you so much for this blog post.

  2. Sandra Robinson says:

    Thanks for posting this really needed to hear it today. I belong to two choirs at my church. So this means I sing evey Sunday. We also have a young adult choir and a mens choir. The choir that I have issues with is the one that is made up of senior citizens after me the youngest member is 59. We sing mostly hymns and anthems with a few older traditional songs. We are going away with our pastor in a few weeks and since we are small in number it was suggested that the gospel choir and the senior choir combine and that we sing songs that the gospel choir sings. Well the first thing the organist says is I can’t play those songs. She’s reads music we are not asking her to play anything that she’s never sung before. So I sent her an email with some suggestions for songs that I feel the choir does very well including two three that just require a soloist. After reading this I have decided that if she doesn’t use my suggestions I am going to apply your rule. I will also remember that I don’t do this for e but to glorify God. Thank you for reminding me that its not about us.

  3. J. A. says:

    It takes maturity to “feel and deal” in 5 seconds. Really Good perspective!! It’s like grace for grace. We extend it just as we’ve undeservingly received. It’s fantastic to model flexibility/willingness for those who serve with you!!

  4. Dee says:

    I’m emailing this to my phone so I can share with my choir this morning.

    Love it!

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  6. ruth says:

    God bless you Ron,am thrilled at your suggestions,ever thought of putting down all this in a book?

    • Ron Cross says:

      Hi Ruth,

      It has definitely been suggested to me, but I haven’t thought seriously about it. I’d have to actually write a book on a particular subject rather than just a collection of blogs I’ve written. Although I did do something like that in a recent e-book called “Praise Team 101” .

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  10. George says:

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
    There is a person that I have to deal with this week, and this is very helpful. As the world says (Right on time), But I like to say Thank you Jesus.

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  12. Sonya Holmes says:

    Love this! You know, sometimes when your in that moment of frustration, you really do forget that it has nothing to do with you and how you feel, but about God! Thanks for the reminder.

  13. Olga Hermans says:

    I have learned a great lesson here; the 5 second rule. I love it. To be honest I never realized what all is going on in a worship team before Sunday mornings. It is a fact that we need to get our eyes of off ourselves and also from all the others and give all of our heart to God. I also will look up that book that Matthew suggested. Thanks Ron!

  14. Jenny Shain says:

    “If you allow negative emotions, feelings, dissension, irritation or disappointment to remain in your spirit while you’re up ministering to God’s people, then the truth is you’re not ministering at all. You are, at that moment, completely in self.” YES! Right on brother! It’s not about me. It’s about God’s glory shining through. Thanks Ron!

  15. Claudia Looi says:

    Great 5 second rule and that 5 second change of facial expressions have a profound impact as well in any situation.

  16. Pat Moon says:

    Ron, I love your 5 second rule. It can be applied to most any situation we might encounter. I like it because it gives 5 seconds to dwell on the negative and then I have to move forward and give God my very best from then on. Great concept.

  17. C. Hamilton says:

    Excellent article, Ron. Well said!

  18. Sunny Mays says:

    Thanks Coach! I really needed this!

  19. Chavon Washington says:


  20. Helen says:

    I like that 5 seconds rue and will definitely apply the same. I would however wish to know what to do when you feel like the way issues are sorted in a team demoralizes members from time to time; yet you have no authority to say a thing! These are some things that weigh others down just before ministry or after ministry.


    • Ron Cross says:

      Hello Helen, without asking you to be more specific, I’d say that if you or a group of you feel like you’re being treated in a way that demoralizes you, it has to be addressed with the leadership. There’s no such thing as not having the authority to say anything in my opinion. Not in a situation like this.

      The first thing to remember is original message of the article. When it’s time to minister it’s time to minister. You must separate anything you’re feeling personally from the task at hand and not allow it to overshaddow your ability to minister effectively and from a genuine place.

      Some time after that though, real and valid concerns must be addressed somehow. I do believe everything must be done decently and in order, with tact and respect. But there has to be an outlet of some kind to address issues of concern with leadership. That could be a letter signed by all concerned parties, requesting a meeting with leadership or anything along those lines. If you feel like leadership is simply refusing to listen to any concerns brought up by the members, then it may be time to move up to the next step in the chain of command there.

      • Matthew Reed says:

        Great reply Ron.
        The purpose of the 5-seconds isn’t to deny the truth of the situation. The purpose is to take the focus off of how you feel about it and onto what is of greater importance, doing the task at hand.
        Helen, a great book on building teams is 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I have turned to it over and over again

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