Alleluia Conference follow up

Including this summer, I have gone to the Alleluia conference at Baylor for the past 8 years. Every year, I have been encouraged, challenged and left with new ideas, hope, and a renewed focus. This year is no different.

I know that it will take me some time to process through it all, but I leave today with new tactics to work with my adult choir, as well as my children’s choir. I am excited to get home and get to work planning and preparing.

But what hit me the hardest was the three presentations I went to by Rory Noland, focusing on the artistic temperament (I’ll be blogging on that in a couple of weeks), spiritual formation for the artist and worship as it is in heaven. These three presentations made me look in the mirror at my heart and my life and prayerfully ask serious questions of myself. Not only that, but as I encourage others, I have some new tools to help me.

It was awesome to get away, rest, renew and be challenged. I’m prayerfully looking forward to what God has in store. I highly encourage you to consider going next year, if you’re able to. Or to find a conference to not only give you new tools, but excitement, encouragement and hope.


How to keep a healthy prayer life

I’ve written a few times about prayer, yet I find myself coming back to it. Today, I want to spend a bit of time talking about how to keep it healthy in the midst of busyness and full schedules.

First and foremost, pray often. The Bible says, “Pray without ceasing.” Many us were probably taught to fold our hands, bow our heads and close our eyes and children. And that can help us focus, but it doesn’t say anything about that specific posture. And remember that Jesus has called us friends. So, think of your prayer time as a conversation throughout the day. God is with you at all times, in all places. He’s listening.

Next, one of the things that has helped me is to make a list. Start with your family. Move to your friends. Next, to your church. Then the nation. Then the world. Then, whatever comes to mind. Or, as you see things, say a thank you. I do this when I see a beautiful sunrise or a glorious sunset. Yesterday morning, when I went for a walk, the sky was clear and the moon was full and bright. Of course I rejoiced and thanked God for it!

Focus on the needs of others. All too often, we can view God as a sort of a genie in the sky. We may pray for blessing and prosperity for us, which is not a bad thing, but what about our neighbor? What about our enemy? Those who don’t have what we have? Those who aren’t healthy? Those who are fighting for their lives? When we pray for others and make that a focus, our attitude changes. We’re less focused on self, and our attitude and perspective changes to be outward focused.

Finally, the hardest one for me. Be quiet. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Whether that is kids, ministry, spouse, family, whatever in our life, being still, being quiet and listening to God and listening for God is so hard. Take time to put away the devices, turn off the TV, find a quiet place and listen. One of the things I’ve found that has helped me is to kill two birds with one stone. In the morning, I’ll get up and walk. It’s quiet, I get exercise. Sometimes I’ll listen to music, sometimes I’ll meditate and be quiet. But tuning out all of the noise and listening to that still, small voice is essential.

In all things, good or bad, pray. I don’t always do it as much as I should or need to. But every day is a new opportunity to start again.

Check out tomorrow’s post as well!! I’m going to try to summarize my thoughts of my week at the Alleluia Conference at Baylor. 


Recruiting and working with volunteers

Yesterday, I had the honor and privilege to participate in a panel discussion at the Alleluia Conference at Baylor University on how to recruit and work with volunteers. It was a great opportunity and I was thankful that it was well received.

So….how do you recruit volunteers? Well, there isn’t a “magic bullet” that makes people jump in droves, but I’ll share some things that have (and haven’t) worked for me. 

First, what hasn’t worked. Putting something in the bulletin. Most of the time, people don’t read their bulletin. But, if they do, the probability of getting a person to participate isn’t that great. Even, to some extent, me talking with people and encouraging them to participate doesn’t work. The response I have received from many when I talked to them is that it is my job, so it isn’t always taken seriously.

So….what does? Individual outreach. Empowering your group to listen in the congregation, to encourage and invite to participate. While each congregation is different, this is the one thing that has worked the best for me. 

Once you get people to show up, how do you keep them participating? Great question. Value them. Value their time. Pray for them. Pray with them. Give opportunities for fellowship. Feed them. Love them. Encourage them. Give them the tools for success. 

How do you value the time of your volunteers? Have a plan for your practice. I’ve been in rehearsals where there was no plan, there wasn’t good, clear communication and it was frustrating. Whatever the group, plan ahead, write out the plan to help keep you on track, and go! 

A lesson I learned early on in serving as a church musician was to say thank you as often as possible. Your volunteers could be doing anything else with their time, so while saying thank you is simple, it goes a long way. 

Fellowship is extremely important. For some, volunteering is one of the few times they have opportunity to interact with people throughout the week. Giving your volunteers that fellowship time is essential. Food also goes a long way in this, because when we fellowship, food gives an extra measure of connectivity.

Finally, praying for your volunteers focuses you on the blessings that their volunteering is to you and to the church. Praying with your volunteers gives them an opportunity to connect on a deeper level, praying with and for one another.

This isn’t an extensive list, and as I said before, each church is different. But these have worked for me. If you’re not trying these ideas, I highly encourage you to. Yes, it is a little more work in the short term, but over the long term, it will be worth it!

If you have things that have worked for you, comment with them, join the conversation at the Harmanny Music group on Facebook, or email me at


Working with a challenging member

I promised this post last week, and didn’t get to it. So we’ll start off with it this week. Today, I’m at Baylor University at their annual Alleluia Church Music Conference and I’ve been asked to participate in a panel discussion on recruiting and working with volunteers. Tomorrow, I’ll go more into detail on that, but this does go hand in hand with the idea of volunteers. If you have someone willing to volunteer their time, but their attitude or actions aren’t working in the construct of the greater team (choir or otherwise), how do you nicely ask them to “unvolunteer”? Or do you?

When I interviewed for a previous position, I was asked many hyptothetical questions on how I would respond if a person was doing this or that. After a few questions, I asked, “So, who is this person?” In my experience, I’ve learned that hypothetical questions may sometimes be hypothetical, but more often than not, there is a specific person in mind with that question. When we are in a leadership position, whether that is a praise band, a church orchestra, choir, or any aspect of a music ministry, there will be people who will see things differently than us. They may have their own ideas or agendas. And all too often, and quite sadly, I have seen this be one of the main contributors to a music ministry that struggles, falters or leads to a musician quitting.

So how can it be fixed? I have a few thoughts based on experiences that I think will help immensely. First, pray for your group. That’s an obvious one, but yet, I don’t know how many of us actually do it. Not just praying that people will show up, but pray individually for those people and when we build relationships with them (more on that tomorrow!), we’ll know what needs prayer, care and concern.

But what about that person that thinks that they should have every solo? Or that person wants to know why the choir isn’t singing the song that they love? Or why the church isn’t using the keyboard that they gave money to purchase? That’s a little stickier topic to be dealing with. Prayer helps, yes, but interpersonal skills are essential at this point. Most of my learning on this topic has come through trial and error. Miserable, hurtful, painful error. But through all of that, I have learned. I still make plenty of mistakes, but I think that I have decreased the errors in this area. I love volunteers that are passionate about the church and about music and the music ministry in the church. That speaks volumes to me. But, I do get concerned about the “overvolunteers”. The ones who are involved heavily with everything relating to music. From my experience, you need to look a bit deeper. Why are they volunteering? Is it because they love music? Maybe. Is it because there are issues at home? Possibly. When I was trying to assist a praise team at a previous church (that didn’t really want my help), the conga player blew up at me for no reason at all. In sitting down with him and having a discussion, I figured out the way. He and his wife were under much stress because no only were they dealing with their daughter having aggressive cancer, they were caring for their two grandsons. There’s usually external stressors that lead to outbursts.

But what about the person who just is that way? The “extra grace required” folks? Sometimes it is an easy answer that you can deal with on a one to one basis. An aside on this. E-mail is wonderful for mass communication. DO NOT deal with interpersonal issues via e-mail. Do it face to face. As challenging as it may be. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to deal with issues via e-mail that I made worse because of the medium I used. Any form of conversing via text when it comes to personal discussions shouldn’t happen. Do it face to face. But, if you deal with it face to face, and they still have an issue, then take it to your senior pastor or Board of Elders or whatever structure you have in place in your church. This will give you witnesses, and will hopefully have others on your side and mediation in the discussion. For me, that has been very beneficial, as in the past, I could get a little bit testy when I felt attacked, and I would attack right back. Not a great response, but maturity and wisdom along with perspective have helped me to approach things better and much differently.

It may seem like a trite, small and silly thing to you, but to them, it may be a major issue. Don’t be dismissive. Listen. Pray. Focus on glorifying God in the situation.


Healthy musician update #27

Well, this last week was alright. I made good choices and even lost a couple of pounds! I didn’t walk as much as I should have, but I made progress. I’ve set two weeks from today, August 1st, as my goal to restart and refocus. Why? Well, this week, I’ll be in Waco for a church music conference (more on that later in the week) and then next Sunday through Tuesday, my wife and I are going on a getaway without children. So, there’s a few things coming up, and maintaining through these two weeks is the goal. Then, come August 1st, we’ll be back in routines and I can start stepping on the gas and seeing changes over the rest of 2016. Which I am very excited about.