Ministry nuts and bolts: Music matters

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One of the things that church leaders spend quite a bit of time thinking about is the music or corporate sung worship in church life.  Now, when it comes to nuts and bolts issues, a lot will depend upon your context and outlook. 

If you are a smaller church, happily following a traditional approach to church music, then providing you have someone in the congregation who can play the piano then you don’t have too much to worry about in terms of things like rotas and p/aHowever, those things can increase in complexity as your church grows and as you begin to consider other questions about how you approach music and singing.

Here are some of the things that we’ve had to consider over the years in churches that we’ve been part of.

  • Is there an appropriate mix of songs in terms of style and era?
  • How do you encourage musicians to contribute in a manner that enables them to use their gifts without compromising on quality (or should you compromise on quality) and without over working/becoming over dependent on some.
  • Who chooses the songs and how?
  • Is it helpful to make use of recorded music via MP3 and YouTube or should all church music be live.
  • How do you get a balance between musicians helpfully and sensitively giving clear direction and preventing it from becoming a performance from the front.

There are of course many technical conversations that have happened beyond those considerations. 

When it comes to church music, I do believe that elders have certain responsibilities. Beyond that there’s plenty of flexibility about how you approach things.

I believe that they key things you are responsible for are:

  1. Ensuring that the diet of sung worship is doctrinally sound. This doesn’t mean that you have to pick the songs or that you must make sure that every song is a doctrinally precise treatise.  It does mean helping to train and equip anyone who does take responsibility for picking the songs.  It also means reviewing the overall repertoire of songs and hymns used.  It means being willing to veto choices.
  2. Ensuring that the diet of sing worship is pastorally appropriate. It’s important to be alert to what is going on in the life of the church and how people need to respond to their circumstances and what God is saying/doing in them.   This means that we are concerned with orthopathy  (right feelings) as well as orthodoxy (right beliefs). We want to make sure that our corporate worship helps rather than hinders appropriate emotional response.
  3. Ensuring that corporate worship helps the congregation to glorify God and enjoy him. This is after all not just the purpose of our singing but of our whole lives! This includes being pastorally alert to what jars and what distracts.  It means making sure that those leading worship are fit to do so.  As a basic principle, I would insist that only believers who belong to the church are asked to participate as musicians. You may also want to determine as leaders together both under what circumstances you would intervene in a time of worship and how you would go about it.

There are lots of good resources out there to help train and equip church leaders when it comes to music and worship. I would particularly recommend Music Ministry UK as a starting point.

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