My head is spinning…

by vernsanders on May 20, 2009

As a worship music professional, my work flow is constantly taking place in two alternate universes.

In the first universe, I need to “be present in the moment” with what is happening now. This is particularly true on the platform during a service, where, if I am still processing/dwelling upon an already happened “musical mistake” it will affect my ability to play what is happening now. At the same time, if I am worried about what is coming…be that a transition, a difficult section of passagework, a high harmony that might not now be possible because I’m vocally tired, for example…then I’m not concentrating upon what is in front of me.

But it is also true of the non-platform part of my ministry. If I am not present in conversations, staff meetings, and other people-to-people encounters, then I may be missing the “silent information”–body language, triangulation, the “real question” and other things.

In the second universe, I must always be “planning ahead.” On the platform, if I am not thinking about that upcoming transition, passage work, etc., then there is a real chance that it won’t happen when the time comes. It is a gift to be able to “feel the room” and continually modify what does come next based upon my life in the first universe while dual-core processing what might be “best” for next. (I once did an online training for the worshipteleseminar which now seems to be unavailable, or I’d redirect you there.)

Off the platform, from a planning standpoint, I am basically living in the “next season” mode all year…planning Lent while doing Thanksgiving, Easter while doing Christmas, Pentecost during Epiphany, and so forth. For big projects, like concerts, festivals, and workshops, I know that I need to plan a year in advance for the best results, because there are so many details that need to be dealt with along the way.

So…in some sense…the ability to compartmentalize, to do “background” cranial processing, and meet deadlines is a critical piece of my success quotient as a worship music leader. But at certain times of the year (in my experience the worst is early in the Advent season, but early Lent is bad too) that means that, from a left brain/right brain perspective, I’m on overload. I can get cranky, short with people, and so planning/project/delivery focused that I seem distracted in everyday conversational interaction.

In my particular case, because I also run a business, I am also subject to the specific bi-vocational minister’s maladay of needing to be in two places at once…and it always seems to happen at the busiest times (see above…). In my experience, church leadership (and by that I mean the real decision makers, not just the hierarchy of the org chart) has a tendency, if not a preponderant disposition to be uncaring about any leader’s “outside life.” Staff member or volunteer. We can be so “my timeline” driven that we fail to recognize that our people’s lives do go on off campus.

It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I see the “bigger picture” of the schedules of the people I work with, and, especially of those who on the org chart at least work “for” me. Some people come by this trait easily, but I am living proof that one can learn to care more about people than program, because, in the end, in ministry, your people are your program.

What have you learned? How do you deal with the bi-seasonal dichotomy? Leave a comment below, if you will…

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October 30, 2009 at 12:48 pm

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Janice May 20, 2009 at 6:41 pm

It took me a couple of years into my first (post-graduate school) church to actually know, realise, and *act like* people are the most important part of any program or pastoral ministry! I like to think it was a lack of maturity (I was pretty young then, early 20′s) and I am so thankful for and grateful to the patient and spiritually mature church leadership that taught me otherwise. They guided me to a much better place for all of us!

Maybe the bi-seasonal dichotomy (as you have so aptly named it) is a brain difference thing? Is it a woman/man thing? I know that, as a mom, I am able to multi-task and compartmentalise all over the place! I haven’t thought about it before, but I have been doing this forever, not just as a parent. Personally, I get stressed and cranky when I am overextended time-wise and don’t get enough sleep – maybe Christmas and Easter as opposed to early Advent and Lent. I love the slowness of summer because of all the “ordinary” planning time.

And the bigger picture… that we all have a whole life, and some of it is spent off-campus. For many of us, most hours of our lives take place away from church (or school). Currently, I find that it’s our Pastor just doesn’t get why our parishioners aren’t at (or thinking of) church 24/7. Or why the other staff members aren’t either. Perhaps this is an individual thing from person to person and those folks just happen to be in leadership positions? Or…. are they in leadership positions because they (pretend to) put the church first 24/7? Talk about mixed up priorities, but that’s a whole different rant.

vernsanders May 20, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I think the bi-seasonal dichotomy is, more and more, a function of the hyperspeed culture that we live in, crossed with the overflow of information, and strained through the filter of our particular calling. I find myself, often, actually in an adrenaline crash mode in the week before Christmas, because things have been going full tilt, and then, suddenly, there is nothing left but Christmas eve and everything’s been done. Once my big Christmas (or Easter) event is done, it is like “why is it so quiet in my life?” I wish I could say that I enjoy Christmas eve, but often it is just a bit of autopilot because I’m already on to Lent.
I think that the 24/7 thing is partially a result of the CEO training mentality that seems rampant in seminary training for pastors these days. My friend Doug Lawrence is more of an expert at this than I am, but it seems like a lot of pastors want to be “string pullers” with everyone else doing all the work. I really value a colleague, and I treasure one who encourages me to have a life.

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