The Joy of Generosity – A Story

Sometimes we forget that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

Just yesterday evening I spent time with a worship pastor I am mentoring and his worship team.  I was planning on enjoying myself, but I was not prepared for the experience I received.

This worship pastor and I have been talking about rehearsal effectiveness, training worship team members, music theory, piano, and so many other things, and I was looking forward to seeing how he was doing and how he worked with his team.

I had never been to one of his rehearsals before, though, and frankly, I was a bit nervous.  I have never had the opportunity to speak into someone’s ministry in this way.  Would I freeze?  Would I have anything at all to say?

My mentor, Stephen Michael Newby of Seattle Pacific University, has given me guidance and encouragement many times, and I have wanted to do the same for someone else. Now that I had the chance I felt a bit tentative.

Sometime during the evening I remember praying, “God, give me something to say.”  The human side of me selfishly wanted to avoid looking like I didn’t know what I was doing, but the spiritual side of me really wanted to make a significant investment into this worship pastor’s ministry.  I blog regularly and I meet with this leader because I want to help others with what I have learned, even as I am still learning myself.

As I said, I was not prepared for the experience I received.  His team was warm, gracious and open to suggestion.  We had fun and they had a great rehearsal.

This morning I met with the worship pastor and we talked for an hour and a half about what is going well and what he could be thinking about.  We talked about how he can figure out the next steps for worship at his church, how to keep his voice healthy, how to encourage the newer and younger musicians on his team, and a myriad of other topics.

By the time we were done I was seriously jazzed because God had given me something to share that was of value to this worship pastor.  I enjoyed giving to him, especially because he is open to suggestion and learning.

This week, ask God for someone you can encourage with what you have learned from your successes and failures.  Giving trumps hoarding every time.

Who are you going to encourage and invest in this week?

Why We Value the Challenging Over the Easy

Think about it. What do you value more?

The car you were given or the one you paid for with sweat equity?

The partner you have to do nothing to win, or the one you have to pursue?

The A you got because of a curve, or the A you got as a result of a lot of study and hard work?

Why do we value challenging things over easy ones?

Probably because when we invest and risk ourselves heavily pursuing a girlfriend or making an “A” we have something to lose, and when we have something to lose we fight to keep it because no one likes losing.

Why I Write – A Reader’s Story

Not long ago a friend shared with me how she had read a blog post of mine to a family member.  This family member was going through some very difficult circumstances similar to what I described in my blog post and was very encouraged by my words.

That story perfectly describes why I began writing in the first place.  I want others to learn from and be encouraged by my experiences.

Not because I have a better understanding than anyone else of all of the chaos God allows in this world, but because I believe all human experiences are shared experiences.  We are unique individuals who have common experiences.  We are not alone, and that fact is in itself one of the greatest comforts God has given us this side of heaven.

So thank you for reading, and if something I have written is encouraging or helpful to you or a friend, I would love to hear about it.  That’s why I write.

You’re why I write.

Has one of my blog posts made an impact on you in some way?  I would love to hear your story.

How to Start Well in Your New Job

Leaders emphasize the importance of beginning a new job well, but often our best lessons come from our mistakes.

This past week I accepted a new job as full-time Interim Director of Worship at the church where I have been working part-time for the past year.

I searched the web for advice on how to begin a new job and here are some of the recurring themes I found:

  1. Dress right and make a great first impression.
  2. Learn everything you can about the company.
  3. Identify key leaders and find ways to align with them.
  4. Start earlier and stay later than your new boss to let him/her know you are committed.
  5. Keep perfect attendance the first 2 years of your new job.
  6. Be friendly.
  7. Report your progress to your boss weekly, whether they ask for it or not.
  8. Ask questions.

While these are good suggestions, I did not find the lessons I learned from mistakes I made beginning a previous job.

In 2010 I became the Interim Director of Music at a church in upstate New York. I had just finished eight and a half years at a much larger church in a much larger role, so I quickly began to apply what I had learned in my previous role to my new job.

Very soon I realized I was off track. Team members were working hard but were getting stretched thin, and I was getting frustrated in rehearsals.

The answer was simple: I was not working at my old church, so my solutions for the old job were not working. After some time we were able to get on track and move forward as a team in a more healthy way.

Here are a few of the lessons that I learned:

  1. Start slowly. I am a big proponent of notated music charts, and so I quickly began converting the charts at the new church to notated charts. I also began adjusting keys of songs where necessary. Finally, I began trimming old songs from the rep and introducing new ones. I did all of this at the same time. As a result often 70-80% of the music in a week was new to the band. Not good. Once I slowed down the team began to get back on top and catch their breath.
  2. Honor the past. I was so focused on the future that I would discount the way the team had worked before. I found later that carefully learning how things used to operate earned me the trust of the team. I also gained a better understanding of how to move ahead.
  3. Be patient. I am a dreamer and I can get all kinds of ideas in my head that I want to do now. Patience, though, is much more effective, whether you are transitioning culture, changing leadership, growing new worship leaders, or challenging difficult personalities. After all, Christ is very patient with us; why shouldn’t we be patient with others?
  4. Be humble. Admit you do not have all the answers, and admit it when you make a mistake. Don’t make excuses; just say it like it is and take steps to improve.

I definitely was humbled yesterday. After announcing my new role in the second service, the pastor commenced with giving his message. Because I had been through the entire first service I stepped out when the message began.

I was standing in the office when the pastor ran in and said, “Maurice, I’m off the platform.” Oops.

Here I had just been given a new role, and I blew it on the first Sunday.

Wow.

Fortunately one of my leaders stepped up and led that final hymn for me, but I had to profusely apologize to my pastor for my mistake. Trust me when I say I will be very careful not to make that mistake again.

What steps have you taken in order to begin a new job well?

Remaining Connected with God While You Are on Vacation

Last night I returned from a weekend trip with my family.  We spent the weekend at Virginia Beach celebrating my mom and dad’s 50th anniversary.  Incidentally, that is the reason I did not post on Monday.

Vacations and reunions are fun times of catching up on family happenings, laughing over favorite stories, and playing and eating to together.  We all need these times, and I am very grateful for the time we had this past weekend.  It was too short!

But why is it so hard to remain to connected and in tune with God when I am on vacation?  Just because I am going on vacation should not mean that I go on vacation from speaking with God.  Last time I checked vacation did not enable me to suddenly and miraculously live well without God’s help.  Last time I checked I still do and say stupid things when I am on vacation.

I imagine I am less connected with God on vacations because of one main reason.

On vacations I have a limited amount of time to hang with my family.  The goal of vacation, after all, is to cram in as much connection with your family as possible, knowing we will not have the same opportunity again for a while.  Stopping and setting aside time to be with God requires me to act in contrary motion with that goal.

When I take time for myself and God I feel like I am taking time away from my family.  To put it bluntly, I feel guilty.

Despite what I may feel, however, God is my most important resource and friend.  When I spend time in his presence I am refreshed and am better able to enjoy the time I do have with family.  I am also better equipped to give to my family, whereas when I do not spend time with God I am more likely to take things personally, be emotionally spent, or simply say things I should not.

This past weekend was a wonderful time with family, but I was only moderately successful at staying close to God.  How can improve my next trip?

  • I need to set aside 30 minutes a day for me to spend with God.
  • I need to not feel guilty about being away from my family, knowing that this 30 minutes will refresh and strengthen me for the day.

How about you?  How do you remain focused and reliant on God when you are on vacation?

Life’s a Runway, and You’re the Model

Tonight I am leaving for a family celebration of my mom and dad’s 50th anniversary. Pretty cool, huh?

Their marriage has not been easy and has been marked by challenging jobs, cross-country moves, bitter resistance from once-thought-to-be-friends, financial shortage, and many other things. Through it all, though, their faith in God and unbreakable commitment to each other have brought them through.

Which reminds me that the greatest way to teach good marriage skills is to model them.

And the best way to teach leadership, or how to worship, or anything else, comes through modeling.

So this begs the question: What am I modeling for my kids, my congregation, or my coworkers?

How about you? What are you modeling for others?

Why Your Perspective Matters

In leading worship your perspective matters.  By perspective, I mean the way that you think about what you say and sing and how you lead.

Man with Glasses

For instance, if your perspective is that you are supposed to give something you have to people who do not have it, you will come across as an evangelist.

On the other hand, if you try to understand the perspectives of the people coming through the door in order to speak directly to them, you will come across as compassionate.

The next time you lead worship or speak, take a few minutes to think about the people walking through the door. What if that person is a widow? A teenager? A single mom or dad?  A downsized worker?  A newly divorced person?  Will it make a difference in how you speak or lead or not?

Can I suggest that choosing to ignore these details will make those people feel ignored?  We often simply think about what we are giving to people rather than about the people to whom we are giving it, and our message can sound aloof and pretentious.

I remember once as a young worship leader saying, “I don’t care if you’ve had a difficult week, this is the time to worship with all you’ve got.”  I am grimacing right now just admitting this.  Wow.  The height of arrogance.

Learn from my mistake.  Have a little humility and compassion when you prepare to lead.

How do you need to change your perspective in your preparation for leadership?