Volunteer or Called?

I remember attending a music ministry conference as a very young music minister upstart.  One of the ideas I took home was an attendance motivation project for choir.  In this stealth attendance campaign the director/leader put a poster board chart up in the choir room that had every member’s name listed in a column on the lefthand side of the chart.  Across the top were the dates of Wednesdays and Sundays for a specified period of time (I think they suggested a quarter, or three months).  An impressive grid was created across the chart drawing vertical columns under each date and horizontal rows across from each name.  Then the clever part: in each intersection of name and each Wednesday/Sunday date a colored dot was placed until the entire grid was filled.  I think they used a different color of dots for each section of the choir, such that sopranos were yellow, altos green, etc.  No explanation was to be offered in choir regarding the poster’s meaning.  At the end of each Wednesday or Sunday dots were removed from the spaces of any and all who were absent that day from the rehearsal or service.  The dot was placed on a postcard that would then be addressed to the person who was absent and mailed without explanation to their home address.

The idea was that the first dot would likely raise curiosity on the part of the choir or instrumental member, but that eventually they would begin to figure out what was going on.  OK, I have to admit that I actually tried this one time and found that people got upset over my removal of their dots more than they were concerned with their inconsistent fulfillment of their responsibility in worship leadership.

My purpose in retelling that exercised is not to give everyone an idea of how to motivate stellar choir attendance (of course if you want to try it – knock yourself out).  To the contrary, what I want to suggest is that we need to assist leaders in living up to their calling.  First of all, I guess that means that we need to have and convey a view of talent and musical sensitivity as a grace gift.  We need to be able to convey the difference in having an interest or ability as might be the case for a hobby singer, or community chorus singer, and a sense of calling as should be the case of a follower of Jesus.  It seems to me no less the case for the choir singer, band member, sound technician, or keyboard player than it is for the worship music leader.  Granted, the roles and responsibilities are significantly different, but the bottom line is that the responsibility should be in line with the calling of the ministry.

Even though Tennessee is the “Volunteer State,” I agree wholeheartedly with Randall Bradley that we need to “see the church not as a group of volunteers but as a group of people called out for specific purposes and responsibilities.”  Bradley offers these suggestions for enlistment:

1.     Communicate a vision and establish a sense of purpose.

2.     Model genuine enthusiasm.

3.     Organize for success

4.     Provide continued encouragement, and utilize every opportunity for encouragement.

5.     Serve as an available resource.

6.     Evaluate and provide conclusions.  Let people know how they are doing.[1][1]

There is a vast difference in responding to a need of my church as a community organization, and answering a sense of calling on my life as a follower of Christ.  In the former I may hear the worship music leader or others say something like this: “We really need more folks in the choir!  If you can sing you oughta be up here!  And even if you can’t sing, we’ll work on teaching you how.  Come and join us on Wednesday night in the choir room.  We have a lot of fun and you will always have a reserved seat in church!”  In the case of the later a better approach is for the worship music leader, choir member, or other leader to approach an individual presenting them with the opportunity for ministry of worship leadership through the choir or other music ministry group, inviting them to pray concerning the Lord’s design for their life and involvement in this ministry.  Prayer is key to serve as a forerunner of any such approach.  The Holy Spirit may prepare the way for loving confrontation that invites someone to join the work of building the temple of worship.  There are scriptures that help to underscore our need to be engaged in ministry;

See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” (Col 4:17)

“As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him- 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 2:4-5)

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.” (1 Tim 1:12)

Rory Noland draws this distinction between how volunteers and called persons see their service:

1.     Volunteers see their involvement at church as community service, but people called of God see it as ministry.

2.     Volunteers whine about what it’s going to cost to serve, but people who are called are committed to serving.

3.     Volunteers shrink back from resolving relational conflict, but people called of God seek to resolve relational conflict for the sake of unity in the church.

4.     Volunteers look upon rehearsal as another commitment they’re obligated to fulfill, but people called of God look forward to rehearsal as another opportunity to be used by God.

5.     Volunteers do no outside practicing or preparation, but people who are called of God come to rehearsals and a performance as prepared as possible.

6.     Volunteers are not open to constructive criticism; they get defensive about it.  But people called of God are grateful for feedback because they want to be the best they can be.

7.     Volunteers feel threatened by the talent of others, but people called of God praise Him for distributing gifts and talents as he chooses.

8.     Volunteers want to quit at the first sign of adversity or discouragement, but people called of God dig in and persevere.

9.     Volunteers find their main source of fulfillment in their talents and abilities, but people called of God know that being used of God is the most fulfilling thing you can do with your life.

10.  Volunteers can’t handle being put in situations in which they’re going to be stretched, but people called of God respond to God’s call with humble dependence on Him.[2][2]

At roundtables and in other settings I have heard from many of you worship leaders in our Tennessee Baptist Churches who ask your people to sign, or in other ways agree to a covenant of worship leadership participation in the choir, band, or other ensemble.  Some of you do it with a specified period of time indicated, such as a covenant for the year, a semester, or quarter.  Some begin the “choir year” with a commitment retreat, or observe a dedication ceremony in a rehearsal.  If you have anything in writing that you would like to share with others please send me a copy, or write a brief description and I will include it in next week’s enewsletter.  SEND REPLIES TO pclark@tnbaptist.org

“I beg you brothers and sisters to offer your bodies (your whole selves) as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, for this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Rom 12:1)

Response to God’s call upon our lives has to be more meaningful than responding out of curiosity as to the meaning of a colored dot!  Much more rewarding as well!


[1][1] Randall Bradley, from Prelude to Postlude: The Other Six Days of Music Ministry.

[2][2] Nory Roland, The Heart of the Artist: A Character-Building Guide for You and Your Ministry Team.

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Singing Worship, Worship Reminders

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