Getting Back to Work
One of the anthems in my choir's folders right now is Elizabeth Alexander's When the Song of the Angels is Stilled. It is a wonderful post-Christmas anthem, with an outstanding text (the punchline is "...the real work of Christmas begins...").
Which has me thinking...
At this time of year, many church musicians are neck deep in Christmas concert preparations...you know, the logistics, the extra rehearsals, proofing the programs, getting the posters up, making recording arrangements, turning up an audience...the whole drill.
Then comes the event, and it is magical. Everything goes right, everybody loves it, and then...It's over.
Well, there is the obligatory party, and rehash, and perhaps the facebook page of photos.
But then, you know, Easter is coming. (cue Fleetwood Mac: "Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone...don't stop thinking about tomorrow...")
The reality of ministry, and especially music and worship ministry is that Sunday's coming.
And no I'm not referencing the great sermon you'll hear if you click the link the previous sentence. I mean EVERY Sunday is coming, and no matter how great your event was, you have to get back to work. And the members of your ministry have to get back to work as well.
So part of the preparation for your big event needs to be realizing, and communicating, that the mountaintop is not the end of the work. Sunday's coming...and in order to get back to the mountaintop you have to come back down and start back up again.
For many volunteers, like professional athletes, the temptation is to "go out on top." You know people like this. The best days of their lives were in high school, or at summer camp, the day they became a Christian, or closed a big sale. But life, and ministry, go on (and sometimes it feels like on, and on, and on, and on...). As a leader, it is part of your responsibility to prepare your team members for the long run, not just the sprint to the finish. In fact, the sprint to the finish demands extra effort after the long run. And if a volunteer doesn't know, or understand that, all the hard work can go for naught at the end.
But the real work, the weekly grind, so to speak, can be tedious, repetitious, frustrating, and, sometimes, downright boring. Yet that very real work is where the mountaintop experiences are made. I know from experience that unless you build that real work into your rehearsal routine, you never know how a group of volunteers will react under pressure. And without assigning rehearsal time to expose a group of volunteers to pressure, they won't know how to react. It is only when even the pressure becomes routine, that it is overcome.
So am I advocating making every rehearsal so stressful that your ensemble is prepared for the worst? Emphatically no. But without rehearsing EVERYTHING, including the things that are likely to cause the group to feel pressure, the members of the group won't be entirely sure that they can depend upon each other when they encounter what they don't expect.
And when they are prepared for the long run, the pressure of the final sprint will be a thing that they know is a signal that the mountaintop is near...and when they get to the top, they will appreciate it even more.
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