There is something my Senior Pastor said to me a few weeks ago that I can't seem to get over. I am really trying to take it as constructive and that he was trying to be helpful but its been hard. let me know how you would take this, he said:
"The last few weeks the special song (offertory) has been really bad. The songs were not in your style and you seemed to have a hard time hitting some of the notes. A couple of times I had to cringe when you went for certain notes and it didn't make you seem like a good musician. I don't want to hurt your feelings but you are a much better musician than that and I want you to come of as that. You are a great musician and thats why we hired you, I just think you should do songs that are your style."
This is almost word for word, no exaggeration
I agree that one songe was rough but the rest went great I thought, I even heard compliments.
A few months earlier he asked me to branch out of my "style" and try some more creative things.
I think I know his heart and intent was good, but they delivery seemed cutting and harsh.
What are your reactions to this?
This is one of those things that's hard to respond to without a recording or something. I would make recordings of those songs and have (good) musicians listen to them to get additional feedback. Criticism is hard, and if what the pastor is saying is true, I don't know of a softer way of saying it than how he did, with exception that if he was telling you to branch out and than you did, and now he's saying he doesn't want you to he should at least own up to his mistake in telling you to do so in the first place, or suggesting other styles you could work on, etc...
If what he said was not true and you hit all the notes (or most of them anyways) fine than maybe he just needs to get his ears checked, or maybe he doesn't like that style and he's trying to use that as an excuse.
yeah that makes sense. I consider myself a good musician both vocally and on the guitar so most of the time the comments I get are good. I do make mistakes though and hit a wrong note here and there so I'm sure he was just picking up on some of those bad notes.
he did buffer his statement by saying he thought I was a good musician thats why he hired me. I may just be an over sensitive musician :)
thanks for the reply
I was a teacher's aide (accompanist) in a high school choir, subbing that day in the teacher's illness. Trying to reinforce the sermon ("don't get discouraged over failure) I got on the floor and crawled like a baby, attempting to walk and falling down, over and over -- but keeping on trying. An illustration that all of them could at least identify with, because they eventually succeeded! Most of them got the point... but guess what showed up on my performance evaluation? Inappropriate illustration... unprofessional... some students couldn't figure out what you were trying to do...
I've experienced comments of a similar nature from my senior pastor in a previous church, though the remarks dealt with song selection and style -- but they produced both hurt and confusion. It's nothing unusual for a music minister to go home hearing a nice compliment from a parishioner and get blindsided in a pastoral conference or staff meeting.
Likely your pastor has realized or learned that when a person blazes a new trail he's going to stumble on some rocks. I think when he first encouraged you to "branch out" he pictured all this great new music going as smoothly as always.
A few years ago I joined a jazz group. I've always loved jazz, but had not ever before had a venue and time to do rehearsals. These were pro musicians, and they welcomed me (I'm a good sight-reader and can improvise), giving me tips every once in a while. I felt like I was a lot better in this new style than I actually was, simply because my expectations for myself were lower than for my established styles. Eventually there was disharmony among the group, some who wanted me there, some who wanted to get a "real pro" for the piano. In casual conversations with the men, I learned how much they studied jazz. If I wanted to play at that level, I would have to make some real sacrifices of time and listen to jazz greats for many hours and learn how to hit altered thirteenth chords point-blank at 160 beats a minute. Just feeling like "Gee, I'm a jazz player now" didn't cut the mustard.
I work with a choir -- always wanting to give them something new and fresh, while my wife says, "that's fine, but we need several weeks to let it mature, or it will fall flat on its face." And she's right.
And sometimes when she says that, it feels harsher than it actually is. Your last line -- your reference to what you felt from your pastor's criticism -- seems to be the most important issue. How to prepare and deliver a song is just "stuff"; but your personal relation, your understanding of each other in music and in ministry, are of top importance, and should be tended to so they don't start to fester.
Hey Greg thanks so much for your insight
you make a lot of good points here!
Christian's are not spectators and when you step up sometimes you fall. However, with God nothing's wasted, I expect you having an off monment was a blessing to someone who felt that Church is aways perfect and a bit unreal.
I think that maybe the Senior Pastor needs to know what it is to be out of the comfort zone and relient on God. If God's in what you're doing you will be attacked and it will hurt.
If you feel you can discuss with it with the Senior Pastor suggest the idea that he spends time with a youth group or trys a radical teaching style. Anything that's not comfortable for him.
thanks for your insight, I may talk to him again once I process everything
I'm tempted to suggest a response along the lines of "... the last few weeks your attempts to encourage people have been really bad. You've said some things that really hurt people and, even, though you tried to dress it up with some compliments, it didn't make you seem like a good pastor...". However, I think the idea of recording yourself is probably better than sarcasm as the path to follow.
The intention of the piece also matters; is the offertory song meant to be entertainment or is it about worship? For you, was it a tricky performance or laying your heart bare before the Lord?
ha that response did pop into my head a few times :)
the songs we do for offertory are songs that set up and enforce the them of the sermon for that day. Sometimes they are worship songs and sometimes they are not "worship songs" but are used to prepare people for the message.
thanks for your response
I feel the same way about my pastors opinion. I want him to be satisfied with the job that I'm doing. I guess I should just ask him because I really can't read if he thinks im doing a good job or not.
our relationship is good and in my head I know he was trying to help me grow, its just figuring out how to get my heart to think the same as my head :)
thanks for your imput
I'd rather have direct criticism delivered face to face than have grumbling that I hear about second hand. In fact, I'd rather have the face to face criticism than to hear about someone who liked what I did but never said so. At least something you did mattered enough to say so, and the criticism may mean that your previous performance has generated high expectations. It's not always a bad thing to be reminded of a high standard that you yourself have set. Prov 27:5 - Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
yeah I agree I would rather have it face to face than hear about it later. the more replies I get the more I am aware that he was and is trying to help me along. After all I'm sure it took a lot of guts to come to me and be that honest. I've only been in full time ministry for 3 years and some of these lessons I am still learning ;)
thanks for your insight on this