This time of year always begins to ramp up the work and busyness as we anticipate the return of the full congregation settling back into fall schedules. This is also the time of year that I break out a list of areas in my ministry that I need to refine. It’s an exciting time to fertilize and prune in anticipation of healthy growth in the Fall!
1. Refine Your Song List
I do this in a couple of ways – I call this time spent ‘pastoring my repertoire’
Balance – I want songs that are going to reinforce the themes of the Sermon series in the Fall (for us the book of Ephesians) and I want to choose songs that will reflect under-emphasized themes. So, in lieu of Ephesians we will sing songs that reflect the spiritual blessings we have in Christ, grace through faith, the unity of the body of Christ, walking in Love, etc (a simple jaunt through the thematic headings in the ESV) – and in contrast a few songs that strongly speak to both the Spirit’s and the Father’s presence with Christ in all things.
Church Universal – I also want to begin to gather in songs that extend behind my own comfort zone. I always consider this part of being prophetic in my song choices. I will pursue this through songs from worship leader networks I have. I will look for songs in surprising places. Songs from global worship, songs from the Taize community, songs from CICW resources, songs from various web and blog sources.
Evaluate My Own List – What songs did we sing last year? Are their songs that need to be retired for a season? Are their songs that need to be sung more consistently? Are their new songs we sang a lot this summer that people returning for the Fall won’t know? I will also reexamine my core song list. Does my core songlist speak to the whole Gospel? Does it reflect the breadth of emotional concerns the Psalms models? Is it inter-generationally active?
According to My Actual Congregation – How is my congregation doing? Has the demographics changed in the past year? Do I now have a lot of young families, more college kids, more grad and career? Each of these groups bring unique challenges and opportunities with them to corporate worship. How is the liturgy and music going to serve and encourage them? How can my music choices carry them better through their joys and sorrows? Our musical choices and sensitivities need to be fluid to our actual congregation, not just the one we ideally picture in our minds!
2. Refine Your Musicians
I always gather with my musicians and techs for a general meeting in late august. We will spend some time hearing from scripture, praying, and working on new songs and arrangements. We’ll eat together and talk about the contours of worship for the next month or so. This is also a good time to reemphasize standards, weekly commitments, and get a feel for people’s schedules. This will help you a ton in anticipating places where you will be thin (vox, instrument, tech) and spur you on to recruit and connect with new musicians and minister to those in overwhelming seasons of life.
3. Refine Your Music to Better Serve Your Liturgy
I always find that the summer months provide some extra space to think about the big picture. As we moved through the last year what were some of those little moments, promptings of the Spirit, that I need to engage with. Maybe it’s moving a song around, inserting a new song, increasing or decreasing a praise set, introducing a doxology, being more intentional with preludes or postludes, etc. Maybe it’s getting kids more involved with music, using the choir less or more often. Here I’m simply trying to make sure that my house is in order for the coming ministry season. This will give you more space to pray, disciple musicians, and be creative!
Is there anything I’m missing? Let me know!