If you’re a music director, your summers probably are balanced with catching up from the previous year and working ahead for the next one. Use some of that “working ahead” time this summer to step back from your regular weekly tasks and maintain the infrastructure of your music ministry. Some of the projects we suggest are to get your music organized, learn what music your congregation prefers, and recruit new musicians.
1. Create a Music Database
Keeping a spreadsheet of all the music in your library makes it much easier to see what your options are when you select pieces to use. At the same time, this will help you see which areas have fewer options and may need to have their selections broadened. You also can use your database to keep track of how often your church uses each piece, which is important to know for copyright purposes.
Excel Online and Airtable are some tools you can use to create your music database and allow others to view it. Additionally, you can use Lutheran Service Builder to keep track of the hymns you use from Lutheran Service Book.
In your database, consider tagging your music by difficulty level, vocal and instrumental parts, Scripture references, holidays, and number of times used. You may need to include a field in whhich you can include the last date the piece was used. Because every church is different, you can tailor your database to suit what your music ministry needs. CPH’s technology arm, Concordia Technology Solutions, has great blog posts on best practices for maintaining a database and Excel tricks to use to help you get your database set up.
2. Survey the Congregation to Learn Their Favorite Hymns
This project is easier if you’ve been using the hymn tracking in Lutheran Service Builder. But even if you’re just getting your database set up, you can look at previous bulletins and planning sheets to see which hymns you’ve used recently.
With this information, make a list of the hymns your church has used frequently. (Maybe choose fifty or one hundred hymns.) Then, print sheets with all these hymns listed and ask members to mark off their top five or ten favorites. This can be done quickly at the beginning of Bible study, and you can have the sheets available for several weeks to catch anyone who wasn’t present or didn’t fill out a sheet the first time.
Use these surveys to find out which hymns are more highly preferred among the congregation. Work these hymns into the liturgy more often to pique people’s interest and attention, or use different vocal or instrumental arrangements of these hymns to try to encourage people to participate in the music ministry.
3. Recruit Musicians
During the hustle and bustle of the school year, sometimes we find ourselves in urgent need of musicians with little time to find any. Use the time during the summer to reach out to potential musicians and build relationships with them. Consider meeting them for coffee to share ideas and learn how they might be interested in getting involved in your church’s music ministry.
If a musician is on the fence about participating, give him an individualized reason to join—something that depends on that person’s participation and no one else’s. This is not to manipulate the person, but to help him see the value of his contribution. For instance, if a musician is on the fence about joining the handbell ensemble, tell him that with him playing, the ensemble can take a certain piece from two octaves to three octaves. Reasons like this can help musicians feel needed and compelled to participate, and it can help them see how God uses their talents to His glory.
With a music database for your church, information on what the congregation enjoys, and time to build personal relationships with potential new musicians, you’ll lay the foundation for a smooth and fruitful year of music ministry!
Don’t have a hymn database set up?
Learn about the one Lutheran Service Builder offers and see if it’s a good fit for your music ministry.