When you look at your music ministry, worship leading, etc... what is your scale of measurement as you determine if it is successful or not? What would you need to see for you to feel that something has come of all of your time and efforts? What would make you feel like you've successfully lead the worship/music ministry of your church? What would make you feel like your actions as a Christian artist had been successful?
I ask all of these questions as they came to me because of a comment from another Christian artist. He was bitter towards music ministry as he felt that "nothing had come" of all of his efforts in his music. So it must be because God just hadn't stepped in yet to do anything with him.
What is he looking for and waiting for? What about you?
Well, the pastor who started our church had a saying, "Any worship service you walk away from was a good worship service." (that's a play on the old line about landing an airplane) So on those days when we struggle, I tell myself that. We have a pretty forgiving congregation (and pastor), anyway...
Personally, I'm more of an organizer than an "exhorter," so I tend to measure myself on getting the song list to the office in time to get it in the bulletin, getting all the chord chart books set up, having all the mics set up, having the MediaShout show match what we actually do up there... more the logistics of it all than the spiritual impact.
I probably measure myself more on "did the people in the band feel like they did a good job?" than on any effect we might have had on the congregation.
The way we're organized, I don't even find out the scripture reading or sermon title until Thursday afternoon, when the bulletin gets printed (and even there, when I try to guess what the focus of the service is going to be based on the scripture & sermon title, I'm wrong about half the time). So unless it's Mothers' Day or something like that, I don't even worry about picking a relevant offering special.
One other thing about the way we're organized is that we have our contemporary service from 9-10 and our traditional service from 10:30 to 11:30, and I personally think that that half hour between services is as important as the hour we spend in services. So on those Sundays when our service isn't over 'til 10:15, I've been known to kick myself for not having chosen shorter songs. By the time I know how we're doing time-wise (the end of the sermon), we (the band) don't have a whole lot of options to shorten songs... but, yeah, "getting out on time" is something I tend to be aware of, even if it's usually the pastor's fault...
One other thing that I realized recently during one of my spells of thinking "I'm getting too old to be leading the 'contemporary' band" - umm, our church just sorta reorganized around the concept of a smaller administrative council of just 8 people... and I think four of those eight are also members of the band. Technically, the bass player in the band is also my "boss." But I did think about it for a bit, that the band has kinda brought in a lot of the people who are, umm, steward-ing our church right now are involved at least partly because of the band. I don't exactly know what that means in the grand scale, but it's one of the things that keeps me from just leaving my keys on the pastor's desk after some Sundays. And it's not the kind of thing I would have signed up for when we started the band - "oh, yeah, by the way, everybody in the band also has to be a committee chairperson..." and so maybe some of this "measurement" stuff isn't something you can lay out ahead of time... you just do it and at some point you just sit back and think about, "well, what ARE we accomplishing, even if it's not what we set out to accomplish?"
I suppose I faced this recently, though in a rather different way: I'd not been asked to play in a couple of months, and ended up contacting someone to ask "was I now quietly dropped?". Apparently not.
In one sense, success could be measured in whether you get invited back again.
We don't make a product that lasts, although we may influence people because of what we do - I can name a few guys now playing guitar in worship that started because they liked what I did and wanted to do it too. Our leading may enable people to go places they might not otherwise, but there again it may be that God's actually at work anyway, and if someone else had been leading then they might have got there too or possibly even to a better place. If I play or lead & God moves so people worship during that time then that is success, regardless of whether it's a musical trainwreck or technical perfection. If I play or lead well but people haven't found a way to worship then that's not a success, and I question what happened and whether I did something that was wrong.
Now if you've pretentions to be an 'artist' and cut records etc, you have an easy metric, same as everyone else uses. But if you're just one of the troops like most of the guys who play in worship or lead then it's better to self-apply the 'humble servant' scripture than it is to think you're 'something'. Church work can be like playing a BBb tuba - you can blow everything you have into it, and it can turn round and ask "is that all you've got?".
FWIW after 4 decades playing exclusively in christian circles I've started playing in a couple of bands that play in pubs: one does gospel blues (www.gospelbell.com) and the other rock & blues covers. We can end up treating music like a monastery, and sometimes it's helpful to lift our eyes out of that perspective.
I played in a non-church band for a little while a few months ago, but finally got dropped when I explained that if I was playing until late on a Saturday night, I had to get home directly after, I couldn't make a big side trip to take the drummer and his kit home after. We parted on good terms, but we agreed that my schedule didn't work with theirs...
While playing earlier this month during congregational singing, I became aware that the congregation wasn't singing. We were effectively playing a solo. Afterwards another band member approached me and asked if I'd seen a mutual relative of ours come into the sanctuary during our run through with a scowling face and ears full of fingers. We aren't loud, so I would have to assume then that we were awful. During the service I couldn't bring myself to make eye contact after the realization that no-one was singing so I was quite thankful for the music stand. What am I waiting for? I don't know anymore and outside opportunities to play are my most frequent answers lately.
An electric guitarist is not without honor save in his own church and in his own mind.
Hey Greg! I'm sorry that you had that experience! We've all been there to one extent or another. You can't let that discourage you, but instead consider the reality of this...
When it comes to music in the church, EVERYONE is a self-proclaimed expert. Everyone knows how to run sound, how loud or soft it should be, what songs should be done, how long you should sing, etc. Dealing with that element is just part of what we do. Ministry would be great if it wasn't for the people, right? :) People say that jokingly, but there's a bit of truth to it I think.
Just because someone came in the sanctuary acting inappropriately with ear plugging (yes I think that's inappropriate and immature) does NOT mean that you were too loud. It also does NOT mean that you sounded horrible. You need to keep that in perspective. When someone in the church complains about the sound level, quality, or anything else related... it means ONE thing. THAT'S NOT THEIR MUSICAL STYLE PREFERENCE. Sometimes you just have to let their wrong response roll off the back. It's certainly not easy to do sometimes, but you can't allow it to shut you down from using your gifts for God.
Hang in there Greg and keep doing your thing!
I suppose that's one of the drawbacks, or benefits, of being in a family. We get used to things that seem really awkward when viewed from outside, the little offenses and quirks, but we let them go and move on. I'm sure if the Hiwatt and Stratocaster were harsh and noisy that the SG and clean-boosted FrankenMarshall will be smoother and blend more effectively. ;)
Besides, Sunday is Fathers Day and I feel compelled to play the Gibson that was made on Dad's birthday.
After reading this, I decided I should play my dad's '57 Strat for the worship service Sunday morning. If my (Epiphone) SG would stay in tune like the Strat, I'd play electric a lot more... I've been working on the intonation, but there must be something messed up on the nut because even though it intones pretty well up the neck, the G string definitely goes off tune when fretted at the first fret. Was hoping to take a guitar repair class this summer, but not enough people were interested. And I used to have courage enough to tackle these things myself, but even though it's a relatively inexpensive guitar, I'm no longer brave enough to fiddle with truss rods and nut adjustments...
Anyway, point was,thanks for inspiring me to pull out my dad's guitar for Father's Day. It doesn't normally leave the house very often...
Hey Charles, it sounds like the nut isn't cut quite deep enough, and the tension caused by pulling the string down to the first fret is just enough to send it sharp.
If you're a little nervous of tackling it then it's well worth visiting a tech & getting a general setup, though if you did try & made a mess then a new nut is only a few dollars. If you don't have a set of nut files then a junior hacksaw blade can make a reasonable slotting tool for the G *if you're careful*. Remember to cut the nut in line from the nut to the string tuner and just do a couple of strokes & the re-check height.
Thanks, Toni. The funny thing is that I bought the Epiphone SG rather than the Gibson one so that I'd have a less-expensive guitar I wouldn't be afraid to work on, and now I'm afraid to work on this one.
Our church council voted to go to a single service for the month of July, so once this Sunday is over, I'm going to have 2 1/2 weeks "off," and so maybe I'll gird up my loins (old-testament-ese for "grow a pair") and really attack this thing.
Looks like Gibson makes a zero-fret nut for SG guitars, haven't quite figured out how to buy one at this point, but if I manage to screw up the nut that's on the guitar now, Guitar Center at least appears to sell replacement nuts so I can try again... thanks!
So what am I waiting for? Perhaps an end to this internal (infernal?) need to suggest "improvements" in my current praise team environment, so that I'll be in compliance with questionable best practices from people I've never met in places I've never been. And to just soldier on.
Not to be snarky, but... have you tried calling around to see if there's a church in your area that is looking for a contemporary worship leader ? It does seem like you've got a leader personality inside who is frustrated at not being able to... what was the phrase? Lead from behind...
I'd want it to be a church that actually enjoys music in the abstract sense - that is neither afraid of singing hymns with a real piano and organ nor afraid of playing contemporary material both like and unlike recordings. And that might have higher standards than to select me as a worship leader.