When I began working in church music ministry, the tools that you needed were straight-forward and simple. Indeed, my education reinforced that all you really needed were:
- 1) library of good anthems
- 2) hymnal
- 3) choir robes in which to vest
- 4) a decent budget to foster creative music and hire instrumentalists
- 5) good worship space with excellent acoustics
Outside of that, nothing else was offered as tools for effective ministry.
All of those are still essential for effective ministry today; but, many things have been added over the years. Here are some things that have changed since my time in seminary.
1) Working knowledge of sound system technology
In my education, it was assumed that most folks would either acquire or eventually be led to a worship space with excellent acoustics. We were taught to work for all hard surface so that choirs would sound excellent and could hear the sounds ringing about them. They were right in the sense that this is the best way for choirs to sing in worship and for congregations to be encouraged to “sing lustily” on the hymns. But, if you don’t have a strong, working knowledge of how to work sound in a room, how to work with your sound tech, and how to equalize it in the room, then the spoken text can become inaudible in the worship space.
2) Understanding of Video and Visual Technology
I went to seminary at a time when most of this technology was just coming into it’s own. It was ridiculed and looked down upon. No one would have ever dreamed that making film and projecting it with cinematic quality would have become accessible to most consumers. Now, we have become such a visual society that hymns and liturgy on screens are the norm in most worship spaces.
3) Worshipping with a Band
Again, I went to a seminary when this aspect of worship was in it’s infancy and thus, looked down upon. Yet, almost of my college classmates either participate with or are in connection with a team that handles a worship band. It is important to understand, relate, and connect with those who lead worship in this way and essential for effective and effective ministry team.
4) Connection of Ministry via Computer
At the beginning of my ministry, I had a computer but the most you could really do was prepare a letter to be mailed out. It took time to get a response. Instant communication was done one way — the phone call. You spent a great deal of time phone calling each and every person that I needed to connect with for Sunday. Now, very little is done via the phone call, and most certainly snail mail. Most communication is accomplished via social media and e-mail, with a phone call reserved for essential and most personal communication.
5) Instant Hymns and Worship Songs
I read recently that the United Methodist Church has suspended writing a new hymnal because by the time they finished editing and completing the document, it would be out of date. New hymnody is written every day. Worship songs that are released have chord charts that accompany them for your worship band to learn and play. Our classic hymnody is being used — even more so to a degree as long since dropped hymns from previous hymnal editions are now resurrected on the internet and are in public domain.
6) Music Publishing Software
My first purchase for my computer was the original version of Finale. Now, twenty years later, I have the latest and greatest edition of that software package. I can hear a variety of digitally sampled instruments play back what I’ve arranged or composed. While the software was available back then, much has been added for the creation of full scores and easily understood worship band charts. What was an effective tool then has morphed and remained a effective tool now.
What are some things that have changed in your ministry of leading those to worship the Holy?