Leadership 101

Leadership 101

It’s been a minute. I’m bringing this one back to the top of the pile. Let’s jump right in. Want to know if you’re a leader? Leaders Solve Problems One of the purest marks of a good leader is their ability to solve existing problems. This entails knowing what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, and even more importantly, why it’s being done. If there’s a problem, a follower will only look at it subjectively and mull over what happened and how terrible it is. A leader will see the same problem and begin identifying ways to alleviate the issue once and for all. That’s why the quality of leadership is often seen in emergency situations. Good leaders must be quick on their feet. A missed opportunity can be the fall of a great leader or great organization. Point blank: as a leader, if you’re not solving the problems that occur under your purview, then you are perpetuating them. Leaders Assess Situations Assessing assignments is key to problem-solving and all other leadership qualities. A good leader is able to accurately assess what is happening on their watch. This may entail discussion, investigation, asking questions, brainstorms, think tanks, or other ways of fruitful discovery. However the assessment has to be done, a leader worth his or her title knows what is going on under them and knows how to properly analyze current reality so that they can then work toward a better future. Leaders Create Systems The larger the organization, the more important systems are. However, no matter how small the following, systems are paramount...

A Model Choir Member

A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to serve alongside several of my Mount Calvary Holy Church of America comrades in music ministry during our organization’s “Outcry” youth and young adult conference. During the week I served on the praise team and as a choir director for the conference choir. The whole experience is a blog all in itself. However, I want to talk about our last choir rehearsal of the week. On Friday afternoon, we were preparing for the evening service. We were rehearsing “We Win” by Vincent Bohanan and Sound of Victory. Just before we were about to take the song from the beginning again, Zion, the son of our organization’s Bishop of Administration, stopped me and asked “Hey, how do you do the moves?” So I showed him how to stand and then how to do the choreography. He watched me and then began doing it on his own. Later that night during service, we were singing the song, and I saw Zion, doing the choreography just like I had shown him earlier, and doing it well! This got me to thinking: I wish all choir members were like Zion! Let me tell you why…. He Realized His Limitations Zion recognized that he didn’t quite have the choreography perfected. Truth is, I noticed it too, but because he was a kid I was more than satisified with him doing the best he could. However, Zion saw his lack as an opportunity to learn and improve. He didn’t see it as an excuse (even when it wasn’t perfect, he was doing his very best), and he didn’t...

In Praise of Church Choirs

It’s Saturday night, which means, for most church choir members, it’s time to make sure uniforms are out, robes are pressed, shoes are shined, hair is presentable, and alarms are set to be sure that we arrive on time and ministry-ready in the morning. So tonight’s blog is a shout out to the church choir. The ones who rehearse weekly, sing for multiple services, travel with the Pastor, and repeat this week after week and year after year. Several years ago, my choir and I went to minister at one of our “sister churches”….wait…time out….do people still use the term sister church? Do churches still have other churches that fellowship with regularly and know each other’s members almost as well as their own? Cooking food…ok, wait, I digress. We went to sing at this church for their choir anniversary. The emcee for the night, Isaiah Thomas, a local DC artist made the statement just before we sang that the power of music ministry has been given to the church. However, because the church has not handled it with the utmost care and responsibility, we now have community choirs that are taking music ministry and choir music to the masses. He began to name several of the church choirs that really laid foundations in gospel music for the rest of us, such as Kings Temple COGIC under the direction of Benny Cummings, Love Center Choir, pastored by the late Bishop Walter Hawkins, and also the Institutional Radio Choir, who we ended up ministering one of their signature songs “Satisfied With Jesus”. The way the Spirit of the Lord filled the...

Fundamentals of the Church Musician

“The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers.” – Roy Ayers  “Musicians should not play music. Music should play musicians.” – Henry Rollins   Some people don’t know this, but before I was a choir director, I played keyboard for my church choir back home. I started playing for the church choir at age 10, and I made a whopping $25 per Sunday. It may not sound like much, well actually, it isn’t much, but to a ten year old who has never made any money of his own, it was a fortune. When I joined my current church, my first actual assignment was to play for a couple of the choirs. I had arrived. lol Not really, but it was definitely a huge blessing and confidence booster to play with all of these great musicians (not to mention nerve wrecking and completely different than the two piece band from back home….me and a drummer). I said all of that to say, I’ve actually worked in the office of a musician in the church. Here are a few fundamentals from my time as a church musician. They all center around respect, for your craft, for the assignment, and for yourself. Respect Your Craft There’s no discipline like the discipline needed to play for weekly church services, learning new music regularly, and hoping that you don’t choke when it’s time to actually play it. With the help of my mother, who made sure that I stayed prepared, here’s a few things that I learned as a musician...

Fundamentals of a Great Music Ministry

Happy New Year! As we start off the year many of us make new year’s resolutions for our personal lives or even for our ministries. While resolutions are commonly discarded by the end of the first month of the year (at least that’s what Google says), I believe that resolutions, goals, or benchmarks are as important in ministry as they are in our personal lives. Leaders, and specifically music ministry leaders, this is a fine time to to fine tune your music ministry for the year. Refocus, rebrand, rebuild, regroup, refresh, restore, renew, reinvigorate, reignite, re…..you get my point. 🙂 Here’s what I call a few “foundational pillars” that your ministry must be built on in order for it to succeed. While some of them are more crucial than others, depending on your ministry profile and structure, they all hold importance for succesful music ministry. You can carry these with you into 2018 and beyond. Vision “Without a vision, the people perish.”  There’s no way around it.  In order to have a great music ministry, vision must be clearly established and accurately executed.  People work more intently, more cooperatively, and more productively when they know where their work is taking them. Follow Through Vision is not enough if implementation is lacking.  There must be a plan to go with every vision, and then those in authority must have the wherewithal to actually make the vision and plan work.  You will lose everything if you are full of vision but devoid of plans for follow through. Innovation Find what niche your music department has, and work that niche.  Don’t ever...

Leadership Check In

In talking about music ministry, especially as it relates to the church, I find myself addressing or feeling the need to address leadership more and more. So….here’s a few “Characteristics of Leadership” that can be applied across the board from church, to ministry, to the workplace. Fasten your seatbelts, I’m jumping right in. Leaders Solve Problems One of the purest marks of a good leader is their ability to solve existing problems. This entails knowing what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, and even more importantly, why it’s being done. If there’s a problem, a follower will only look at it subjectively and mull over what happened and how terrible it is. A leader will see the same problem and begin identifying ways to alleviate the issue once and for all. That’s why the quality of leadership is often seen in emergency situations. Good leaders must be quick on their feet. A missed opportunity can be the fall of a great leader or great organization. Point blank: as a leader, if you’re not solving the problems that occur under your purview, then you are perpetuating them. Leaders Assess Situations Assessing assignments is key to problem-solving and all other leadership qualities. A good leader is able to accurately assess what is happening on their watch. This may entail discussion, investigation, asking questions, brainstorms, think tanks, or other ways of fruitful discovery. However the assessment has to be done, a leader worth his or her title knows what is going on under them and knows how to properly analyze current reality so that they can then...

Praise and Worship: Part 1

I think I’ve touched on this before, so let’s jump right in. I truly believe that leading praise and worship is more about your audience and preference than it is about the anointing. Wait…don’t close the blog. Let me explain… I would never minimize the anointing of God. It’s imperative. However, leading praise and worship is a gift that God anoints, similar to any other gifts such as preaching, singing, choir directing, book writing, etc. As levites, our prayer is always that God will anoint what we do so that is effective beyond our own ability. I do believe that there are worship leaders who are gifted and/or anointed in a way to be effective in multiple environments. There are those who are able to walk into almost any type of church or worship gathering and effectively lead the congregation in worship. Now, I also believe that a congregation that wants to be led in worship, that truly has come to the service with the intent to worship, it takes very little “anointing” to sing or lead worship. All the leader has to do is lead and the willing congregation will follow without hesitation. Here’s the thing: most congregations have their preferences in style, personality, song selection, and expression of worship. Because of this, I’ve watched worship leaders, who are indeed anointed, be very successful at home and very unsuccessful in other settings. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think it is. I think the bigger question is what can be done about this. I believe we have two choices that, depending on the person, can either be...

Whatever Happened to Decorum???

“Everything you need to know about the world is likely to be learned in a church choir.” – unknown The 3rd Sunday in September marked 17 years that I’ve been a member of my local assembly. Interestingly, I actually joined the choir the day before I joined the church (don’t tell my Bishop lol). When I first joined, I remember going to an orientation where I was told about the do’s and don’ts of serving in the music ministry in a very comprehensive, thorough manner. I was told what I could wear, what I could not wear, when I should arrive (and through which door), and all other rules and regulations that I needed to adhere to. However, recently I’ve been wondering “Whatever happened to that standard of excellence and decorum?” Choir decorum is the other side to choir preparation. While we can prepare a choir for a performance in a set amount of time, decorum is timeless. With willing members and persistent leaders, it can be achieved, but not overnight. With unfaithful members and laxed leaders, it can be undone, piece by piece, until it no longer exists. What happened to the days when we came to rehearsal on time, or risked a late fee? What happened to the days when you didn’t miss rehearsal and if you did, you didn’t sing? What happened to being apologetic when you missed a day singing? What happened to not entering the choirstand after service had begun, or not leaving the choirstand until service was over? What happened to the day when suit jackets were required and skirts had to cover...

How Do You Handle?

I’m writing this blog post to help you non-creatives deal with us. We can be a hard nut to crack. I think that the only thing more difficult than dealing with a creative is getting a group of us together in one room with no buffer (non-creatives). Whether musicians, painters, decorators, stylists, writers, or the like, there is a set of codes and ethics you should employ when dealing with any creative. These tips are meant to give insight into who we are and why we are the way we are. Let. Me. Help. You. We Often Think We Know More Than We Do If you’re not careful, we’ll convince you that the sky is green, because from our vantage point, it is. We Often Need Help Organizing Our brains can be like an episode of Hoarders unless we also have the gift of administration. We often need help getting our creative vision into a manageable and palatable state. To Us, There Are No Limits Extreme creatives can usually imagine their way into and out of anything. There’s no limit to what we can create when given the time and space. Sometimes We Just Need Space There are moments where we just need to be alone to deal with our thoughts and feelings. We wear our creativity deep within, and sometimes, that process can be gruesome for us and everyone around us. We Often Feel Misunderstood We very seldom feel as though we fit into the norms of society, or even sometimes with our closest friends and associates. Our lives are usually pretty lonely because of it. We Often...

#AllLyricsMatter

I recently sat in a service and heard a song that was “good church” but made no sense.  The lyrics contradicted each other, but the beat was good. We all know the songs we sing in church, many of them for years, that really don’t make spiritual or, in some cases, logical sense but we still sing them.  Now, this can be an indictment on songwriters.  Yes, I get that, but I don’t have a number one song out so I’ll keep my commentary for songwriters brief and to the point: Write songs that make sense.  However, as a Levite responsible for song selection for different types of services (youth and young adult Sunday, Pastor’s anniversaries, Christian holidays, communion service, etc), I want to address the process of song selection in our worship services. Let’s get right to it. Seek God First and foremost, God is your best advocate for song selection in His worship service. If God is the lead of our services, then He knows what He wants to hear in each worship encounter. Ask Him and He will lead you.  I’ve found in my experience that God will lead me and even confirm for me what He wants the musical aggregations I’m responsible for to minister, and even when and at what point in the service He wants to hear it. I find that my greater challenge is having the faith to do exactly what He says how He says it, when it may go somewhat “against the norm”….but that’s another blog…. Check God’s Word Check every song you minister against what you know and even...