God created us to be in community, and that applies to every aspect of our lives, including our jobs. If you’re a church music director, you need musicians to make music with, coworkers to run ministries with, and other music directors to learn and get help from. All these things require relationships—in other words, a network. Here are some ways to build a network that can help you continue to grow and move forward.
1. Attend Events
Go to conferences, performances, and other gatherings you know church musicians will be attending. Conferences offer a great opportunity to meet other people who do your type of work and to learn from experts. Strike up conversations with people you sit near, and talk with speakers after their sessions.
Attending music performances held at churches (or performances of church music at other venues) also gets you in the same space as other church musicians. After a performance, go up to a few musicians, congratulate them on their performance, and ask about their involvement with church music. Let them know what you do as a music director. If they seem interested, offer them an opportunity to participate at your church. You also can strike up conversations with music directors, introduce yourself, and share ideas for ministry.
2. Be Able to Articulate What Sets You Apart
Prepare ahead of time to meet new people with whom you’d like to work. Develop a thirty- to sixty-second summary of who you are, what you do, and what you want to get out of the interaction. You can use this “speech” at conferences when people ask what you do, or when you approach musicians at performances to start conversations. Here’s an example of one:
I’m the music director at Christ Lutheran in Minneapolis. I teach music at our K–8 school, play organ for worship, and lead rehearsals and conduct our ensembles. I heard your solo and thought you were wonderful, and I’m actually looking to grow my church’s string ensemble. I was wondering if you’d have any interest in playing during a service one Sunday.
Practice so that you remember your talking points and can say them in a natural way. Try rehearsing with a friend, or if that feels uncomfortable, you can speak out loud to yourself a few times. Preparing in advance what you will say means you don’t have to think as much on the spot. It can ease anxiety and ensure that you convey exactly what you want.
3. Make it Easy for Others to Contact You
When people have your contact information at hand, you eliminate a potential sticking point that could prevent them from following through after your interaction. Printed business cards still are very useful because they can provide a physical reminder of a conversation. When people you’ve talked to empty their pockets at home, your business card will appear, and they will remember your conversation.
When online methods of contact are available, connect during your conversation. Send a Facebook friend request, connect on LinkedIn, or send a quick text or email with your name. Digging online for contact information can be frustrating, and there always is the chance that the wrong information will be used. Taking care of this while you’re still talking makes sure that you both get each other’s correct information. To start, just reach out using the method of contact they provide—just send an email for now, and hold off on friending them on Facebook. This shows people that you respect their privacy.
4. Offer to Collaborate on Projects
A network is a community. It’s made up of relationships, and ideally those relationships are reciprocal. You may network to recruit musicians, explore employment opportunities, or find help with a project. You want something from the people in your network, even if it’s just personal support. But because networks are reciprocal, it can benefit you to give something right away rather than jumping to receiving.
Listen to the people you meet and think about what value you can provide them. Offer to help a fellow music director with a composition she’s stuck on, or offer a church-seeking musician an opportunity to perform during a service or special event. By meeting others' needs, you show what value you can provide. In the long run, you also meet your own need by creating the foundations of relationships.
5. Follow Up
When someone shares his or her contact information with you or connects with you online, reach out later to remind the person about your conversation and thank them for their time. Mention a specific detail the person is likely to remember. “I’m the one who mentioned that mashup of Christmas carols I’m composing.” “I really enjoyed talking about our choir trips overseas.”
Include a gentle hint about what you want from the person. “If you’re interested in playing violin during worship on Sunday, we’d love to have you!” “I’d love to talk about that combined hymn festival between our churches if you’d have time.” Or just simply, “It was great to meet you at the composers’ conference in Minneapolis last week. I hope your music ministry goes well in the coming year.”
Building a network takes time and energy, but it ensures that you have a community in which to operate. Over time, you’ll find it well worth the effort!
See more tips for church music directors.