Home Up 1. Seeking a Standard 2. Setting a Standard 3. Attaining the Standard 4. Maintaining the Standard

GEMLOsm.gif (1973 bytes)   Article 1.3. 
Topic: Music Ministry.   
Title:   Setting Standards for Effective Music Ministry. 3. ATTAINING THE STANDARD
Author: Grant Eaton. Grant Eaton. Date: Original: July, 1997.  Last modified: 08 January, 2003


Setting Standards for Effective Music Ministry

by Grant Eaton

3.   Attaining the Standard


We have looked at the:

  1. 'Why seek standards?' and

  2. 'What standards should we seek?' questions,

Now, we need answers to the:


'How can we attain the standard?' question.


What can I do today to start to make a difference?

Step 1 Practice.

The short answer is:




I can just hear my piano teacher's weekly admonition: "Practice makes Perfect!"
BEWARE. Practice really only makes Permanent! - and bad habits die hard!
It is vital to practice the right things and to practice the right way. That is why coaches are vital to a team's success, and why the LEADERSHIP issue is essential to an effective music ministry - to guide, motivate, encourage, and maintain focus during the PROCESS, and to provide direction and strategies through to the PRIZE.

Why should we be practicing?


Putting it into PRACTICE, = Making it a HABIT. [Phil. 4:8 - "If there be any excellence... SET YOUR MIND on these things." see Quote by C. Swindoll.]

  1. So that techniques and skills can be perfected

  2. So that they become HABITUAL - second nature, so that in the heat of the battle (or performance), it will happen instinctively, - automatically.

  3. To develop fitness / stamina, to last the distance

  4. To minimise FEAR of making MISTAKES


  6. To be aware of strategies for facing the enemy / opposition.


What should we be practicing?


This goes without saying! Or does it? Why is it that we so often miss the obvious?
But I suspect, if we could just get this right, everything else would fall into place.

Psa 1:1-3 NIV
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. {2} But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. {3} He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
God is:
bulletour source
bulletour inspiration
bulletboth the subject and the object of our communication

In God's Presence is:

bulletlight for our path
Practicing the Presence of God is a lifestyle, not a once a week activity.
bulletWorship leaders and worshippers need to make worship a lifestyle, and not something they turn on and off at will.
bulletDon't come to Church to worship, but
bulletCome as worshippers to church.
Ezek 47:12 NIV
Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing."
"The most significant benefit of a worship service is connecting with God. It does not matter how chatty and interesting the celebrity interviews, how captivating the drama, how stunning the soloist, of how relevant the message. When personal interaction with God is absent, church loses much of its appeal."
bulletSally Morgenthaler Worship Evangelism Zondervan 1995 p.23


As a 'couch potato' it is easy to look at AFL footballers, or Olympic athletes and say, "Wow, I'd love to do that!" But you can be sure, it doesn't just happen! What we see on TV is only a fraction of the story.

(1 Chr 15:22 NIV) Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.

(Psa 78:72 NIV) And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.

(1 Sam 16:17 NIV) So Saul said to his attendants, "Find someone who plays well and bring him to me."

Worship and effective communication skills don't just happen.
The Church has been too ready to accept mediocrity.
J S Bach, among others, pointed out that musical composition is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. It is all too common to hear songs in which the writer felt inspired, but the evidence suggests a distinct lack of perspiration!
Sometimes a gifted song writer may find a song just falls into place easily, but generally an effective song is the result of meticulous craftsmanship.
I am sure David didn't front up to Goliath without extensive target practice!
And he didn't get to play his harp to King Saul, without the skills developed from years of practice.  
We also need to work at honing our skills.
(Zec 9:1-4 NIV) The word of the LORD is against the land of Hadrach and will rest upon Damascus--,... though they are very skillful. {3} Tyre has built herself a stronghold; ... {4} But the Lord will take away her possessions and destroy her power on the sea, and she will be consumed by fire. Beware, Skill alone is not enough!

(Amos 6:5 NIV) You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments.

...but remember what God thought of their music.

(Amos 5:23 NIV) Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.


Non-verbals communicate!

  ...More on this later...


Step 2 Make Choices.

The other side of the PRACTICE coin, is CHOOSING music wisely:
This is vital.
Gone are the days when we can call for a few "favourites", or worship leaders can throw some well known numbers into the hymn sandwich, and expect an edifying result.




Choosing can be a personal process, and criteria for making choices will depend on a number of factors. These will vary from place to place, situation to situation, and the cultural, theological and musical backgrounds of each local church. I will therefore present here 3 contrasting sets of advice from different people. Each of us should discern what is helpful and relevant for our own situations. I believe there are valid points in each set of advice.

Advice set 1:  -   THE "PASS" FORMULA

Taken from Sally Morgenthaler's book, Worship Evangelism. (P. 214) Sally's formula is for assessing music which communicates effectively to both Seeker Bob and Saintly Bill.




They relate in some way to people's everyday lives, and involve their whole being, including emotions.
bulletDo Seeker Bob and Saintly Bill feel as if the song is coming from them?
bulletDo they see themselves in it - their need to be close to God, their elevation, hurt, awe, or even doubt?
bulletIt may express both positive and negative is real music




They hold people's attention.
bulletDoes the song "grab" people?
bulletIs it hard to forget?
bulletIs it well crafted, both lyrically and musically?
bulletDoes it show intentional effort and creative excellence?




Both Seeker Bob and Saintly Bill can understand and latch onto them quickly.
bulletSingable and understandable without being trite or innocuous.
bulletVisitors and regulars alike should be able to sing, enjoy, and understand it without rehearsing for several Sundays or referring to the Dictionary of Christianese.




They have a thoroughly biblical message that is faithful to the whole counsel of Scripture.
bulletAre the lyrics balanced with both spirit and truth?
bulletDo they express doctrine and devotion, truth about God and a heartfelt response to God?

Sally suggests the following types of songs should be avoided: (p.217)


Difficult or frustrating to sing


Just plain boring


Poorly written (This includes lyrics, melody, rhythm, harmonic progressions, and song structure. Usually songs which are difficult to sing or are boring are poorly written in one or more of these categories.)


Unscriptural or contain confused theology


So full of religious jargon, Christian terminology, or obscure biblical metaphors that on-the-spot translation is not practical (This includes the use are graphic militaristic metaphors, which can be a stumbling block to unbelievers.)

Sally Morgenthaler, Worship Evangelism. Zondervan 1995 (P. 214-217)

Advice set 2:  -   Choosing music for "Effective Worship"

This advice is take from a teaching cassette, "Effective Worship" by Dennis Prince, Resource Christian Music P/L 1996.








(Psa 33:1-3 NIV)

"Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. {2} Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. {3} Sing to him a new song; play skilfully, and shout for joy."




  1. Singing constitutes a vital part of our worship, we need to get it right.

  2. Music is selective - music chooses its audience.

  3. The church has a mandate to win souls for the Kingdom. If a person becomes a Christian, but along with that also needs to make a cultural change in their style of music, this can be a hindrance. Therefore choose a style of music so that it is easy for that person to become a Christian.

  4. The contemporary pop-rock style with piano, drums, keyboard, electric guitar - is the style that will be most acceptable to the typical Australian. (For those that this style doesn't suit, they can have another service for the “older folk who like traditional hymns and slower classical style” - (“older folk like to get up early, so they are happy with that”)

  5. We need to have contemporary music in our churches to reach the unchurched

  6. We also need contemporary music because 5 times in the Psalms and twice in Revelation we are exhorted to “Sing a NEW SONG” Songs have limited life, people tire of them. There’s something about a new song!

  7. God has given us creativity. It’s a reflection of God’s nature to be creative, alive, fresh, like His Grace, “new every morning”

  8. Research done on the content of worship songs, comparing the post-war hymnals with the choruses of today. There is a significant trend upwards of songs of intimate worship - directly addressing God, and songs with reference to the Holy Spirit. Downward trend in songs of proclamation, and references to the “Cross”, “Blood”, the Name of Jesus, & Heaven.

  9. Choose songs on frequent Biblical themes, - “Praise” - but make sure you actually praise (with an attribute of God and extol that attribute) - “Rejoicing” - “Thanksgiving”

  10. Check for doctrinal accuracy. eg. “I come into Your Presence”, “I am weak”, “I want more of You”

  11. Make sure the musicians can handle the music. Songs are getting more complex.

  12. Commune with God - avoid annoying interruptions to the flow. (Same key)

  13. Don’t be over critical or judgemental. Join in anyway. Evaluate later and improve.

by Dennis Prince, Resource Christian Music P/L 1996.



Advice set 3:  -    Principles for Choosing Music.

These principles are adapted from "Music and Worship" by Lovelace and Rice, Abingdon Press, 1976 p.203-205

Phil 2:1-11 NIV)

Phil 2:1-11 NIV)

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, {2} then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. {3} Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. {4} Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. {5} Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: {6} Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, {7} but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. {8} And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! {9} Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, {10} that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, {11} and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

“The purpose of worship is to elevate, not to degrade. The quality of the music used should be above rather than below the cultural level of the congregation. If the music seems to be ‘over your head’ the best thing to do is to raise your head.” Joseph Clokey, quoted by Lovelace and Rice. p.204

(Isa 6:3-4 NIV) "And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." {4} At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke."


  1. Choose music primarily for its MEANING. What does the song say? Is it worth saying?

  2. Choose music that can speak to the entire congregation. If it is divisive, if most of the people do not understand what is happening, if it does not have meaning to most, then it is probably a poor or inappropriate choice.

  3. Does it have a sense of personal involvement, of spontaneous involvement, and joyful celebration?

  4. Does it fulfil our Lord’s command to “Feed my lambs”? Or is it mere junk food, dressed up to appeal to the masses? To offer non-spiritual food is indefensible.

  5. Does it communicate and express a sense of awe and wonder in the presence of Almighty God. Lead thoughts towards God rather than towards ourselves.

  6. Does it proclaim God’s power and purpose in our lives and guide us to respond.

  7. Is the unity of the congregation being strengthened as we worship together?

  8. Good church music should be primarily concerned with the mind of Christ rather than “blowing the mind” Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death... not enough composers are willing to make sacrifice of time, energy, and talent to produce music which shines with clarity and glory.

  9. Be open to any new style, for there is nothing sacred about any particular style or period of music-making. There is either good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate music.

  10. If the temple is ‘filled with smoke’, who is to say the music is wrong? But if the temple is filled with stagnant, dull, stupefying sounds, how can it be right?

  11. All music chosen and performed must be prepared with a zeal for perfection.

  12. Educate the congregation. If they know something about the different style and understand what the piece is supposed to do and say in the service, the congregation will tend to be more open and receptive.

  13. Be a communicator. If a musician is a prophet and priest, communicating the love of God through love of people, no matter what music is chosen, it will not be a matter of entertainment, but of involvement of the whole community in a total response to God.


Lovelace and Rice, Music and Worship, Abingdon Press, 1976 p. 203-205


B.  Practical Issues.



We have seen that "without a vision the people perish", and that "we need visionary leadership..."  The first step to an effective music ministry is clearly Leadership. (see Notes and Quotes: Leadership)  

2 Chr 29:11 NIV

My sons, do not be negligent now...


bulletleaders with a "not on my watch" attitude - single minded, uncompromising commitment to the task, determined to see it through.
bulletcommitment of  lives  for ministry’s sake, and not  just
commitment of  skills  for music’s sake.
bulletdevelop team of leaders with common goals and diverse talents.
bulletmilitary model, able to deny self for the sake of all, willing to submit, responsive to Commander in Chief.
...for the LORD has chosen you... CHOSEN LEADERS:
... to stand... CONFIDENT LEADERS:
...before him... REVERENT LEADERS:
and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense. COMPETENT LEADERS:

Leadership training

  ...more later....


The Relationship of the performer and the audience.





Coping with change:

bulletif people feel valued, have a sense of belonging, feel secure in their relationship with the leadership, they will be more willing to deal with change.



1 Chr 9:33 NIV
Those who were musicians, heads of Levite families, stayed in the rooms of the temple and were exempt from other duties because they were responsible for the work day and night.

Neh 13:10 NIV
I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and singers responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields.

(1 Ki 5:6 NIV) "So give orders that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay you for your men whatever wages you set. You know that we have no one so skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians."


bulletTo pay or not to pay?
bulletWhy do we pay anyone?
bulletOur social structure means that all day to day tasks are shared
bulletPeople with particular skills and training are freed from regular duties to give of their best to their area of calling and specialty
bulletWe pay people because we value their service
bulletWe pay people to free us from doing some unwanted tasks
bulletWe pay people to help them excel at their task
bulletWe should NOT pay musicians to do our worshipping for us, anymore than we should pay Pastors to do all the ministering.
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To investigate ..., go to Maintaining Standards for Effective Music Ministry, Part 4. Maintaining the Standard.   

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