Music Ministry: Foundational Principles and Practical Applications at Myrtle Grove EPC

What should the arts ministry of MG look like in the 21st century and what should be its impact? I suggest three non-negotiables: 1) it should have its roots firmly in Scripture and be directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit; 2) it should reflect the relational diversity and unity of the Trinity and the Body of Christ; and, 3) it should communicate in terms and forms that are understood by the culture it is trying to reach.


1. Rooted in Scripture and directed by the Holy Spirit – in arts ministry. We embrace both Scripture and the Holy Spirit in our worship, “…we worship in Spirit and truth.”
a. Truth: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The truth is found in Jesus himself and in Scripture, the Word of God, which is our foundation, our bedrock. Who we are and what we do should be guided by Him and his word, in ministry and all of life.
b. Spirit: the Holy Spirit, who is both the Spirit of Jesus and the Spirit of God, is the source of our spiritual life, our spiritual growth, our comforter, our guide, and the source of our gifts, power and wisdom for carrying out our ministry. We should follow the direction of Scripture and the Holy Spirit in our worship together.

2. Reflecting the diversity and unity of the Trinity and the Body of Christ – in arts ministry. John 17 and 1 Cor 12 teach us to live out both the diversity and unity of the Trinity in heaven and the body of Christ on earth.
a. The Trinity: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three persons yet one God, and Jesus prayed that we should be one just as He and the Father are one.
b. The Body of Christ: the Body of Christ has many members serving many functions, yet is still one body. Therefore, we should make every effort, with God’s help, to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace among us. This means that we should build one another up, prefer one another in love, refrain from gossip, forgive offenses readily and settle disagreements by going to one another individually in a spirit of love and reconciliation. And, as fellow artists, we should encourage one another’s gifts and strive to live in community with one another so that we can learn to love one another from the heart, maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.

3. Communicating in language and forms understood by the culture we are trying to reach – in arts ministry. We should use worship language and worship forms that are familiar to the people we are trying to reach.
a. Language: Cultural studies in missions have taught us that people worship more fully when they do so in their own language. That is why missionaries like Doug and Beth Wright have spent their lives translating the Scriptures into other languages. Also, the apostle Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 14, teaches us that we should use language that builds up the entire church. The use of other languages is appropriate as long as they are interpreted so all can understand and be edified.
b. Worship forms: Cultural studies in missions have shown that people of all cultures become most engaged in worship when they use godly forms that are more familiar to them. A negative example of this occurred during the late 1800s and early 1900s when missionaries working in China or Africa, for example, required national converts to adopt western forms of worship such as singing traditional European hymns in European languages. The nationals felt “out of their element” when doing so and were not able to be fully engaged in worship. However, in the late 20th century, missionaries began to encourage nationals to compose and sing worship songs in their own languages using music forms that were more familiar to their own culture. As a result, they were able to become more fully engaged in worship. We see this in churches in America and in our own church. Some of our people grew up in an earlier time when more so-called traditional forms were used and tend to engage more deeply in worship with those forms, while others came of age in more modern times and tend to engage more readily with modern forms. At Myrtle Grove, we seek to both “keep up with the times” by learning and using more modern worship language and forms and to “connect with the past” by adapting more traditional forms to modern culture. We should have the same attitude as Jesus when he said, “I have not come to be served but to serve” and the Apostle Paul when he wrote, “I become all things to all people that I might save some.” That is not to say that we will totally discard language and forms that are familiar to us, but that we will willingly adapt those forms so that others can more fully engage in worship with us.

Those are the non-negotiables in my view according to Scripture and reason. These inform and direct us in the church and in our ministry. Following are the specifics for the coming semester and year. As I’ve prayed and consulted with other leaders in the arts ministry as well as the pastors and elders, we believe the following should be our direction in the coming months. However, we know that God can and may redirect us along the way. When Paul sought to go into Asia, he had a vision from God that redirected him to Macedonia/Phillipi instead. Also, the writer of Proverbs tells us, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but the Lord directs his steps.” So, because of my background in science, I like to think of our plans as experiments. We’re experimenting to find the best way to do things at this point in time. We’re not locked in to anything we try. We don’t have to do things the same way all the time, and some things must change when new people come in or people are sent out. For example, Nathan Storey has been called to serve at North Grove, so that may require a change at Myrtle Grove. We can make other changes as we go if it’s not working. So, like the weather in Wilmington, if you don’t like it right now, wait around, it’ll change. We’re trying to do our best to both “equip people for their work of ministry” and release people into ministry in such a way that our strengths are maximized and our weaknesses are minimized for everyone’s good and God’s glory. However, in order to function as a family of artists we need some guidelines so that everyone can have the same expectations.

In 1 Chronicles 25 we discover that in the ministry of the temple, the musicians were appointed by King David: 1) to minister to the Lord and lead the people in worship through prophecy and music; 2) to serve under authority (he appointed some to be overseers under his direct authority and others to be under their authority); 3) to be trained and become skilled; 4) to serve, young and old – teacher and student – together; and, 5) to serve on a rotation basis. All godly kings of Israel and Judah after David returned to this model when they took the throne. We use this as a model for our ministry at MG. Presently, I serve under the authority of the Elders/Session and Pastor Steve. Pastor Steve and I meet with the worship leaders on a regular basis to plan, pray for and organize the arts ministry. I recently spent a weekend with the worship leaders to plan and pray for the coming year. Following are the results of that gathering. Our hope and prayer is that this will most glorify God and edify the believers at MG in the coming year.

1. Ministry to the Lord and leading the people in worship

a. Minimum expectations for worship leaders/service planners
i. Post the service you are leading on Planning Center and send out invitations to the participants two weeks in advance of the service
ii. For example, if the service is Sunday, February 21, invitations should go out no later than Sunday February 7

b. Minimum expectations for all musicians
i. Upon receiving an invitation to participate in a rehearsal and service via Planning CenterOnline.com
1. Respond (click on Accept or Decline) in 2-3 days (no later than Wednesday) so that the leaders will know if they need to get a substitute for you
2. If you’re not sure, send us an email telling the leaders when you’ll be sure
ii. Before attending rehearsal
1. Listen to all music to be rehearsed at least one time through
2. Download and print out all music to be rehearsed except pre-printed choir music
iii. During rehearsal
1. Listen attentively to the rehearsal director
2. Make accurate notes of sections you are to play, sing or rest
3. Sing or play your part to the best of your ability
iv. Before the service
1. Listen to all music you are playing or singing one more time through
2. Look over all your music one more time making note of sections you are to play, sing or rest
v. During the service
1. Humbly give yourself body and soul to praise God and edify the body of Christ
2. Sing, play or rest your part to the best of your ability in a manner that complements the other singers and players
3. When you make a mistake (we all make ‘em!), forgive yourself, smile and keep going.
4. Give thanks to God for the opportunity to serve
vi. Since we normally hold only one rehearsal per service, rehearsal attendance is required in order to sing or play in a service
vii. If you don’t know how to use Planning Center to respond, listen and download, or want to learn more, attend a Planning Center workshop.

2. Serving under the protection of spiritual authority
a. I will meet with Pastor Steve on a weekly basis and with the Session on a monthly basis to plan, pray for and evaluate worship services and practices
b. Worship leaders will meet with Pastors Steve and me on a quarterly basis for Saturday breakfast or more often as needed
c. Worship leaders for the initial period are Dean Hewett, Beth Sonnenberg, Jud Smith and Peter Mattis

3. Serving young and old together on a rotation basis
a. Teams and groups for the beginning of 2010
i. All participants as a whole on a given Sunday – whether worship leaders, vocal leaders, band members, vocal team, choir, orchestra, dance, drama, visual artists – will be called “the worship team” because you are all part of the worship leading team
ii. Bands and vocal leaders will remain much the same as last year, but because we are short on instrumentalists and long on singers we will go to three (3) bands instead of four (4) rotating every three (3) weeks
iii. A new vocal team made up of singers from Dan/Steve’s team and returning worship leaders will be joined to Jud’s team rotating every three weeks
iv. The choir and orchestra will be joined to Dean/Beth’s team rotating every three weeks
v. Other creative arts teams and individuals (dance, drama, visual arts, youth, children, soloists, ensembles, etc) will be joined to Peter’s band on a rotating basis
vii. A list of qualified substitutes will also be developed and distributed to the worship leaders

4. Training and skill development

a. Training and development for new people coming into the ministry
i. A get-together with the ministry leader to discuss your intention to serve
ii. A required one-day 2-3 hour intensive DVD-based workshop on the basics of serving in the arts ministry
iii. A period of service as a substitute before becoming a full member of a team as determined by ministry leaders
v. And /or a period of service in the children’s or youth’s arts ministry prior to serving in adult music ministry
v. Pairing with a mentor for 6-12 months
vi. Other required DVD-based workshops during the mentoring period according to your ministry area
vii. Accountability by your mentor and ministry leaders to maintain the basic standards in rehearsals/services

b. Training and development for returning members
i. A get-together with the ministry leader to discuss your reasons for leaving and intentions for serving
ii. Required DVD-based workshop(s) to “catch up” in your ministry area

c. Training and development for returning worship leaders
i. A get-together with the ministry leader to discuss your reasons for leaving and intentions for serving
ii. A period of 3-12 months of service as a non-leader to prove willingness to serve before leading
iii. A get-together with the ministry leader at the conclusion of service period to discuss your new leadership role
iv. Required DVD-based workshop(s) according to ministry area determined by ministry leaders

d. Training and development for current members
i. Required DVD-based workshop(s) as they are offered on Sunday mornings at 9:45 according to your ministry area
ii. Other optional DVD-based workshops will be offered on Sunday mornings at 9:45
iii. Optional guest artist events will be offered on Sunday mornings at 9:45 and possibly Friday nights featuring some of you as well as outside visiting artists and artists from our community

e. Rehearsal locations and times
i. All rehearsals will be on Tuesday evenings except when they run into holidays
ii. All rehearsals will be in either the sanctuary, music room or both
iii. The Tuesdays Dean/Beth’s band is in the sanctuary, the choir will be in the music room
iv. The Tuesdays Jud’s band is in the sanctuary, the vocal team will be in the music room
v. The Tuesdays Peter’s band is in the sanctuary, the orchestra will be in the music room preparing for the following week
vi. Sometimes, the vocal team, choir or orchestra will join the band in the sanctuary
vii. Other times, the vocal team, choir or orchestra will not join the band until Sunday

f. Using Praise Charts with band, choir and orchestra
i. This is our best tool currently for including choir and orchestra with our bands
ii. But we don’t have to be limited to using the charts in the order exactly as written
iii. Choir and orchestra members should note where verses, chorus and bridge are located in their score
iv. Choir and orchestra should practice jumping around from section to section so that worship leaders can follow the leading of the Spirit in worship

g. Audio operations
i. Some of our worship leaders and musicians will be trained to operate the sound board in order to help Jeff
ii. Musicians are often very good audio operators since they understand music vocals and instrumentals and can hear the “mix” of all the parts

h. Use of In-ear monitors for bands
i. Band members should practice putting in the mix only what you need to hear to sing or play well; most don’t need to hear every part
ii. We should encourage the use of in-ear monitors once again and use fewer stage monitors to provide the best sound for the congregation
iii. We should get rid of headphones if at all possible since they make us look like Mickey Mouse

i. Congregational training in learning new songs and growing in worship expression
i. Congregation learning new songs
1. Currently, we teach new songs strictly as preservice and offertories when the congregation is not expected to sing along but can just listen. Our goal is to let them hear new songs enough times in these settings that they will feel comfortable singing along and worshiping freely in the main worship times
2. Other ideas to help them learn new songs
a. Post a list of CDs including Sunday’s songs on the website
b. Teach them a whole group of new songs over a weekend in preparation for making a “live” worship recording
ii. Congregation growing in worship expression
1. Wednesday night prayer services are very “experimental” right now, using a variety of forms of worship not currently used on Sundays.
2. I hope that many of you will join us and that this will overflow into our Sunday worship times

j. Fellowship and ministry among arts members
i. My deep desire is to develop a “community of artists” at MG who gather together regularly to enjoy Christian fellowship with one another and to encourage one another in their art.
ii. Last semester, I offered an artists’ “class” on Sunday mornings in the fellowship hall that included vocalists, instrumentalists, writers and visual artists. We studied and discussed Rory Noland’s book, The Heart of the Artist. About a dozen attended regularly. It was a start, but I’m not satisfied.
1. This semester, I’d like to alternate two things on Sunday mornings:
a. Paul Baloche’s DVD-based worship workshops on various topics including Leading Worship: Creating Flow; Worship Vocal Workshop; Worship Band Workshop; Music Styles; Music Theory Made Easy; Acoustic Guitar; Electric Guitar; and, Writing Worship Songs. Each video will run two to three weeks, so they’ll be like mini-seminars. We’ll announce them in advance so you can make plans to attend.
b. Between the mini-seminars, I’d like to offer Featured Artist Events as mentioned above. Some of you and other artists in our church would be invited to share their art with us from 9:45 – 10:45 on Sundays in Fellowship Hall. Maybe Kim and Travis Price would be willing to sing and play for us, or Steve Curtis or Nathan Storey could share some of the songs they’ve written or Anne Blackley could share some of her paintings, or someone else could read some of their poetry. Maybe if this is well-received we could do some of these events on Friday nights simultaneous with or after Family Game Night. Maybe a “coffee house” of sorts could develop using gifted artists from our own body.
c. To pull this off, I’ll need some help on the fellowship side of things. Would you be willing to help set up/decorate the room in a creative way to make it a special event for all or provide refreshments for that morning?
2. Another fellowship that someone suggested is to plan a quarterly non-arts event (like bowling) quarterly for the artists to just go out and do something fun together. Would you be willing to coordinate such an event or group of events?
3. Another “way out there” idea for you to consider and pray about with me. Could we take a group of musicians to Haiti this summer to work on construction and recovery from the earthquake in the daytime and minister in music in the evenings? I was part of a team that did this in Guatemala after the earthquake in 1976. It was hard work but it was a blast and very rewarding. What do you think?

k. Care ministry for our fellow artists in times of need
i. We need those who can help us stay in touch with people in the arts ministry who have needs. We need those with the gift of communication and information. Would you be willing to be a contact person and keep other members updated for us?
ii. We need those who can send cards, make meals and fill in the gap in other ways. We need those with the gifts of helps and service. Would you be willing to help in this way?
iii. We need those who can help coordinate these efforts who have a gift of administration or leadership. Would you be willing to help in this way?

Thank you again for your participation in the arts ministry at MG and for your continued prayers for us as we seek to lead, equip and release all who serve together here.

10 Tips for Final Rehearsals of Major Musical Events with Worship Band, Choir, Orchestra, Dance and Children

We are preparing for two large musical events coming up and held our final rehearsal today. Following are 10 lessons I learned or utilized in the final rehearsal:

1.Give yourself an extra hour more than you think you’ll need to set up and check the mics and monitors before the participants arrive. We hadn’t planned enough time for set up and sound check and as a result the participants had to sit and wait an hour before the rehearsal began.

2. Rehearse first the songs that include the largest number of participants. That way, those who are participating in only a few songs don’t spend a long time waiting around with nothing to do. For instance, we have a children’s ensemble singing one song with us. We did that song first, then let the children go home. Also, we have a dance troupe joining us for three songs. We did those songs next, then let them go home.

3. Get the monitors right. Nothing seems to bother singers and instrumentalists more than not being able to hear what they need to hear. And different groups need different things. For instance, everyone needed to hear enough of the piano, drums and lead vocals to take their harmonic, rhythmic and vocal cues. However, the choir did not want to hear much from the electric guitars. But the guitars certainly needed to hear themselves, so we put them on in-ear monitors so they could hear themselves but not be in the floor monitor mix. The orchestral instruments wanted to hear each other. So we grouped the winds and strings together on the opposite side from the percussion and trumpets, so the quieter instruments could hear themselves and not be overpowered by the louder. However, we needed to put the strings and winds in a monitor so that the brass could hear them.

4. Place one sound operator on the platform and one at the sound board. The person on the platform can check mics and monitors while the person at the board can raise and lower levels. Sound operators can understand one another better than sound operators can understand musicians. Operators speak more of the same language and can better communicate with one another and get the job done quicker. Once the musicians take the mics, if one of the operators remains on the platform the musicians can tell him/her what changes they need and he/she can tell the operator at the board. This is preferable to having the musicians “holler” up to the person on the board.

5. Take a break in the middle of a longer rehearsal. Especially if much of the group is standing, after an hour or more on risers or in one position on the floor, a break is needed to be able to finish the rehearsal with a clear mind and without a backache. We stopped today after about an hour and were able to start again in only ten minutes. Everyone appreciated a few minutes to relax and talk.

6. Give the participants a written rehearsal order. That way, everyone knows what your plan is for the rehearsal. As stated above, we didn’t rehearse them in the same order as we’ll perform them so that we could let the children and dancers go home earlier. So the songs were in a different order than usual. If I hadn’t done this, they couldn’t have corrected me when I skipped a song! I also gave them a written performance order for the presentation on the same page.

7. Give the participants written times and dates for the presentation and stagger arrival times for the sound checks. On the same page as above, I wrote down what times they should show up for the presentations. For instance, on one date, the band is scheduled to arrive at 4pm to unload and set up their instruments, the vocal team at 4:30pm to test vocal mics and the choir and orchestra at 5pm to do the final sound check. Give yourself extra time for this, but don’t make people wait around too long before a presentation or they’ll be too tired to perform well.

8. Give the participants a written dress code for the presentation. That way, you won’t have to hear them say, “I thought you said….” when they show up in a weird outfit. Keep everyone on the same page through written communication.

9. Provide seating and water for the participants. Fortunately, we were rehearsing in the sanctuary, so the long wait mentioned earlier was spent on padded pews. Also, we have a water fountain just outside the sanctuary door. One of the participants encouraged the others to bring folding chairs to the presentation so they can be seated while waiting in the wings before the performance, and he offered to bring sixty bottles of water to the presentation for all the singers.

10. Keep the room comfortable by controlling the temperature. At one point, the participants complained of the heat in the room and we had to ask the sound operators to lower the thermostat. We should have anticipated that and lowered it when the rehearsal began.

8 Steps to Preparing a Conductor’s Score for Worship Band, Orchestra and Choir

Modern worship music often includes not only the parts for the worship band (guitars, drums, bass, keyboards and vocals), but also parts for four-part (or more) choir singers and full orchestra. The score that contains all these parts is often called a “conductor’s score” or more simply called “the score” since it contains all the parts of a given musical work in one score.

 
In order to help all the musicians stay together throughout such a composition, the modern church music or worship director must learn to read, interpret and conduct from such a score. I have seen some directors who ignore the score and attempt to direct without it by using their gifted “ear,” memory, or some other intuitive sense, but it usually results in frustration of the instrumentalists or singers because the director does not know exactly what they should be doing at any given moment and cannot answer their questions.

What is a conductor’s score?

  • A score that contains all the parts for the instruments and vocals of a particular musical work
  • Sometimes, it is a reproduction of the original score as written by the composer
  • Often, it is a reproduction of the score as arranged and orchestrated by the arranger or orchestrator
  • Finally, it is the master score from which all the individual parts are extracted to create individual scores from which the musicians play and sing

What does the conductor’s score do?

  • It tells the director/conductor of a musical work what each instrumentalist and vocalist should be doing at any given moment in the music

Why is it important for the director to “prepare the score” or “mark” the score ahead of time?

  • By marking the score, ahead of time, in larger handwritten notes, the director can see at a glance what individual parts and whole groups of musicians should be doing in the music
  • Often, conductor’s scores are in very small print to get all the parts on 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper that fits on a standard music stand
  • And often, when directing a large group, the conductor’s eyes are well above the score which is placed on a music stand at about waist level
  • Thus, while conducting, the director cannot see the detail of every part from such a distance
  • Therefore, by making larger handwritten notes, the director can see which groups of singers or instrumentalists should be playing or singing, and can cue them at the precise moments of entrance or release

A method for marking the conductor’s/director’s score:

  • There are many ways to mark the score. Following is a method I was taught and have adapted and used for many years:
  • Use the following tools to do the marking:
  • 1. Use highlighting multi-colored markers, like those used to highlight textbooks for marking things you want to notice but not cover up.
  • 2. Use colored pencils for writing words on the score. If not colored pencils, use something that stands out from the other words written on the score. If the words already on the score are typed, handwritten notes, even with a pen, work fine because they are usually not as neat as those that are typed, and they are usually larger.

1. HIGHLIGHT THE REPEATS: I use orange highlighter for this. Run the highligher from the top to the bottom of the score at the beginning and end of a repeated section. I also add brackets at the top and bottom to indicate which direction (right or left) the repeat is headed.
2. HIGHLIGHT THE KEY CHANGES: I use green highlighter for this because green means “go” to me, and a key change often is used to give the song a boost. Run the highlighter from top to bottom of the score since all the parts usually change key together.
3. HIGHLIGHT THE TIME SIGNATURE CHANGES: I use blue highlighter for this. Run the highlighter from top to bottom of the score over the new time signature. Often, the time signature will change back to the original shortly, so mark each change.
4. HIGHLIGHT THE VOLUME CHANGES: I use pink highlighter for this. Mark the crescendos and decrescendos that appear in the score. Often, these will be found on several lines of the score. I mark one of the lines about 1/3 of the way down from the top where it’s easy to see.
5. HIGLIGHT THE TEMPO CHANGES: I use yellow highlighter for this. Highlight the intial tempo marking (e.g., 80 bmp, allegro, etc) and later tempo changes (e.g., ritardando, a tempo, etc.). Usually, these appear at the top of the score.
6. MARK THE ENTRANCES: I use colored pencils or a pen to mark these. Everytime an instrumental or vocal part enters (e.g., Violin, Timpani, Horn), write the name of the part just to the left of it, so you’ll notice it and can cue the entrance with a hand gesture or a look in their direction. If it’s a whole section or group entering (e.g., all brass, all voices, all strings), I draw a left bracket connecting the scores of all those parts (e.g., all brass might include separate parts for 1,2 trumpets, 3 trumpet, 1,2 trombone and 3 trombone, tuba). After bracketing all the individual scores, write “Brass” to the left of the brackett. I use a shorthand notation for many of the parts (Violin is Vln, Brass is Brs, Timpani is Tmp, Woodwinds is WW, etc.) because there’s not a lot of room on the page. Sometimes, an entrance comes just after the page turn on the score. I mark the entrance at the appropriate place at the far right side on the previous page, before the page turn, so I’ll know an entrance is coming up immediately after the page turn.
7. REWRITE IMPORTANT WORDS ON THE SCORE: Sometimes the Rhythm line of the score has notations (words in very small print) for multiple parts (acoustic and electric guitars, drum set, electric bass and keyboards). For example, one notation from a score in front of me has “E.G. distort riff, busy HH + BD quarters” in very small print below the Rhythm line. I wrote this out by hand in larger print so I’d know what the electric guitar, high hat and bass drum should be doing at that point.
8. ADD NOTATIONS FOR OTHER PARTS NOT INCLUDED ON THE SCORE. Sometimes, the band is playing from a chord chart that is not included on the conductor’s score. It may not have the same rehearsal numbers or measure numbers as the other parts extracted from the conductor’s score. The director must ADD notes to the score to indicate what they are seeing on their score (e.g., Intro, Verse 1, Verse 2, PreChorus, Chorus, Bridge, Instrumental Interlude, Tag, Ending, Outro). In so doing, the director knows what everyone is seeing on their score and can call out simultaneous cues for multiple groups as needed (e.g., “Rehearsal #2 and Chorus” or “Measure 37 and Bridge”).
By using these methods and other adaptations, the director can rehearse and direct large and diverse groups of musicians simultaneously, seeing at a glance where the music is going and cueing entrances for individuals and whole sections of the ensemble to provide a satisfying musical experience for everyone involved. Enjoy, and to God be the glory!