Originally published April 10, 2014
I’ve been married to a minister of music for over 20 years. My husband has served at many different churches in a variety of capacities: on staff, interim, supply, revivals, conferences, retreats, etc. Over those 20+ years and in those various capacities, I’ve observed a number of things about him, pastors, church musicians, and congregations from a unique vantage point.
Now, with a little help and a lot of input from a few sister minister of music’s wives, it’s true confessions time. Time for us to tell all, here in Part 2 of Real Ministers of Music’s Wives of Anychurch, U.S.A.
Turn Your Radio On, and Listen to the Music in The Air
The minister of music understands that there are songs we love to sing along with on KLOVE or Pandora that we’d also like to sing in church, and, in a lot of cases, he’d probably like to, too. There are a variety of reasons why the songs we like might not get sung in church:
- It’s a solo. Most of the songs we hear on the radio (especially contemporary ones) are written and performed as solos, and don’t work for congregational singing because: the timing is difficult for a large group to follow, there are too many spontaneous riffs and change ups, there are complicated and/or numerous bridges and tags that are difficult for large groups to follow, etc. Not every song works for large group singing.
- The lyrics contain faulty or watered down theology. The minister of music’s job is to lead us in worship. We can’t worship if we’re singing something that conflicts with God’s word or doesn’t focus on Him and His nature, character, and deeds.
- The accompanists aren’t comfortable with it. A lot of the songs people want to sing in the worship service can be difficult for pianists and other instrumentalists whose main experience is in other genres of music. While every musician should strive to improve his skills, the minister of music doesn’t want to put his accompanists on the spot if they’re uncomfortable with the technical requirements of the music.
- Your minister of music isn’t comfortable with it. If the minister of music is in his 60’s he may not feel he can carry off a top ten CCM song made popular by somebody in his 20’s, especially if he doesn’t have a worship band equal to the one we’re used to hearing on the radio.
- There’s no sheet music available. Or it’s not available in the right key or for the right instruments, etc.
- It’s “off limits”. Occasionally, and for various reasons, the pastor, elders, or others in leadership over the minister of music will make a decision that a certain song is not to be used in the worship service. Depending on the circumstances, there may not be a diplomatic way to explain this to people who love that song and want to sing it in church.
Play Us a Song, You’re the Piano Woman
Just by way of information, not every minister of music’s wife plays the piano. I’m one of them. Sorry. I wish I could.
One Singular Sensation
Regardless of how many pop stars got their start by singing in church, the purpose of the worship service is to worship God. There are many wonderful and talented soloists who, in humility and faithfulness, pour their hearts out to God in song at their local churches and do a great job of it. There are also a few divas on their way up the ladder looking for a stepping stone to greatness. Church isn’t American Idol. Find a karaoke bar.
Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness
It’s always encouraging for a minister of music to hear that he did a great job with the choir or that you really worshiped this morning. It’s encouraging when a pastor mounts the platform for his sermon and says thank you, or I really liked that song, or refers back to/quotes one of the songs during his sermon. Little things like that go a long way, so offer your minister of music a word of encouragement when you can.
Also, if your church participates in clergy appreciation month (usually the month of October), please don’t forget your minister of music, youth pastor, associate pastor, etc. They all work hard to shepherd you, and it doesn’t feel good to be left out.
War- What is it Good For?
The worship wars (contemporary worship music vs. traditional hymns) are alive and well. Sometimes, rather than being a general in that war, our minister of music might just be a casualty of it.
Everybody has particular genres of music that we’re most comfortable with. When a different style comes along, it can be jarring. It can cause angst. It can cause arguments. But when we worship God, our focus is not to be on what makes us happy or comfortable. Often, we get so concerned about whether the worship at church pleases or offends us that we don’t stop to think about whether it pleases or offends God.
But that’s the main concern of the minister of music. Which songs, regardless of style, will be pleasing to the Lord and lead people into truth about Him? While he’s trying to do his best to sort this out week by week, he’s possibly being pulled in a variety of directions by a variety of people over style. How many people will leave the church if we sing more hymns than contemporary songs? How many people will stop giving in the offering if we sing more contemporary songs than hymns? Who’s going to accost me after church and complain? How will the pastor and elders react to this week’s order of service? It can be a lot of pressure and take his focus off of where it needs to be: what will be pleasing to God?
Just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, the songs we don’t like might just be someone else’s favorite. What if we looked at singing the songs we don’t particularly like as a way to serve and encourage our brothers and sisters in the congregation who do like those songs?
Why’s Everybody Always Pickin’ on Me?
There’s no nice, sweet way to say this, so I’m just gonna throw it out there. Church members can sometimes be mean. I mean, mean. Let me hasten to add that most of the time, most church members are not. The majority of church members are kind, loving, supportive, and definitely appreciated by the pastor and staff. However, the others are definitely out there. I have seen church members treat pastors, ministers of music, and other church staff the way I wouldn’t treat a dog. There’s no excuse for that.
The minister of music isn’t perfect. There may be times when he does something unbiblical or hurtful and at those times, it’s necessary for the appropriate person to talk with him, under the provisos of Matthew 18, about whatever is wrong. But there are other times when people get their feathers ruffled –even though the minister of music hasn’t done anything wrong or unbiblical—simply because their personal preferences haven’t been catered to.
It’s OK to talk with our ministers of music about things, even personal preferences, but let’s do it in an encouraging and helpful way rather than a griping or attacking way. Screaming, threatening, name calling, constant complaints, and nasty anonymous notes and emails are never appropriate, and if that’s what is transpiring, then the problem is not with the minister of music it’s with the person who’s acting that way. If we know that a member of our church is acting that way towards anyone, pastor, staff, or layperson, we must intervene and be a catalyst for making things right.
God calls us to encourage one another and build each other up, so let’s get at it! Let’s try to affirm our ministers of music (and pastors and other staff!) whenever we’re able!
What’s something you can do
to be an encouragement to your minister of music?