Better Worship - 12 marks of an effective music ministry
My first experience in music ministry happened fairly soon after
I first picked up a guitar at 15 years of age. I knew about 20
chords and could play a few songs from a new songbook titled
Scripture in Song. Fortunately most of the songs were in
There were four of us who played guitar in a small country
Baptist church. I know one song we dreaded was "Rise and Shine"
('God said to Noah there's gonna be a floody floody...'). The
chords were simple, but the strumming rhythm was a real wrist
After church we would retire to one of our homes and listen to
the latest Larry Norman or Randy Stonehill album, and try to
work out the chords and guitar licks. As Bryan Adams sang, 'I
played it till my fingers bled...those were the best days of my
life'. The songs were simple and we'd try and embellish them
with influences from progressive rock bands like Pink Floyd and
Yes. However there's a limit to what you can do with a $20 nylon
string guitar. Sometimes this went down well. At other times
some of the elders would warn us of the dangers of getting so
caught up in the music that we forgot the main game. In their
quirky country ways, they had a point.
In the years since then I have enjoyed being part of many
different music teams. My studies meant I moved around a fair
bit, so I was part of a number of churches. Some were well
resourced and it was a struggle to get to do what I loved,
whereas others were small and welcomed whatever help they got.
When the Willow Creek team first came to Australia I witnessed
what was possible with a dynamic, creative and well-resourced
team. However, my frustration was that the models of music
ministry I was seeing presented by big, well-resourced, upper
middle class churches was simply not achievable in the majority
This sparked my interest in training and developing churches
without these kinds of resources. The problem was to distil from
20 years of experience 'what things really mattered'. What were
the issues that could make or break a music ministry, whether in
a mega church or a church struggling to survive as demographic
change followed its course?
Since then I've had the privilege of speaking with hundreds of
music ministers and team members here in Australia and from
overseas. From those conversations, these are what I believe are
the 12 "biggies" for creating an effective music ministry.
Notice that I said effective, not "successful". Many people
equate success with big budgets and large teams. An effective
music ministry can be one talented and gifted person doing what
they do in harmony with their church and surrounding community.
So here they are:
1. Music is valued as a gracious gift from God, given for our
enjoyment, as well as being a strategic tool for strengthening
believers and reaching unbelievers.
2. The ministry team should have a biblical understanding of the
nature of worship, music, church and Christian experience.
3. Music ministry takes place in the context of a church with a
shared understanding of its purpose and mission.
4. The music team are servants with a clear understanding and a
passionate commitment to the part they play in that mission.
5. The music ministry is a team who: a. work together towards
common goals. b. love and support one another. c. deal
biblically and appropriately with conflict. d. have clear,
mutually agreed, written standards explaining what is expected
of members. e. receive regular training and teaching in
theology, practical musicianship and teamwork.
6. Music takes place in the context of prayerfully and carefully
planned services with an emphasis on cultural relevance,
excellence, biblical content, personal authenticity and
7. Music team leaders are involved in the planning and
programming of services and special events.
8. The repertoire is regularly and systematically reviewed to:
a. assess its content, ease of singing and relevance. b.
evaluate and recommend new songs before they enter the
9. The music ministry has adequate financial support within the
church's existing resources.
10. Human resources are used effectively and supplemented by
appropriate use of technology such as CD's, DVD's MIDI or
backing tracks where required.
11. The church supports and encourages local and "lesser known"
writers by using their material where possible and helping them
to develop skills and access training opportunities.
12. The music ministry obeys the letter and the spirit of the
law regarding copyright and performance rights.
I've distilled these into a quick assessment you can use to see
where you and your church are at in terms of ministry. You can
download this assessment as a PDF document here. It will give
you 60 quick ideas to improve your music ministry.