Music Ministry Survey - Some Initial Observations

Music Ministry Survey

Conducted by Magnify and Effective Ministry

Some initial observations

Magnify is a collective of pastors and musicians who want to serve the wider church, providing community, thinking, ongoing training, songs and resources to help us magnify the reality of our glorious God together.

To this end, we are keen to get a clearer picture of what is actually happening in churches around Australia.  So over the last six months, in partnership with the team at Effective Ministry, we have been surveying both lead pastors and music directors about a range of issues to gain insight into:

  • What value does singing bring to church life and the Christian walk?

  • How can we carry out our music ministries most effectively?

  • How do we shape our gatherings to effectively disciple our congregations?

  • How does music in church impact our mission to our community and church growth?

At this stage we have survey results from 32 Music leaders and 22 Pastors from Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist and Independent Evangelical churches.  Around two thirds of the churches are in the greater Sydney region, with the other third from Perth, Brisbane, Auckland and rural / regional areas.

Within these churches, there was a range of church sizes and models represented.

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Among the music leaders, roughly 50% were serving in a volunteer capacity and dedicated up to ten hours a week to the role.  Among those serving in a paid capacity, nearly 70% were dedicating three or more days to the role, sometimes combining their work in music with other ministry areas.

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While we aim to continue to reach out to churches and expand the reach of this survey in the future, at this stage there are some initial observation that are worth noting and exploring further.

THE ROLE OF SINGING AND MUSIC

It was encouraging to see that both pastors and music leaders indicated that music and singing played a significant role in their own personal spiritual life.

 PASTORS

PASTORS

 MUSIC LEADERS

MUSIC LEADERS

And all the pastors affirmed that music and singing contributed to the spiritual growth of their congregation.  

It’s hard to measure, but there is something about being able to voice praise and encouragement which I am confident is part of engaging and addressing the whole person.

Almost all pastors indicated that they had also spent time considering the content of their church’s songs and the theology they communicate.  

And most pastors affirmed the holistic aspect of singing to help engage hearts, minds and bodies together, and the way it should complement the preaching and other elements of the church service.  

I think they should work in tandem. They should be integrated, not as compartmentalised separate units but elements of the one story that is the service.

However, opinion was more varied as to music’s impact on the numerical growth of the church and its connection with its community. Some pastors saw very clear correlations between investment in their music and singing ministry and growth.  

With the improvement of the standard of music quality and overhauling the repertoire to reflect the genre of the demographic we’re targeting, our evening service has grown from averaging 10 to averaging 40 in the space of 18 months.

However, many indicated that it was hard to measure its impact effectively, and close to 50% of all pastors indicated that they hadn’t seen any connection between music, singing and church growth.  Related to this is the observation that, of the factors of church life that we suggested singing and music may contribute to, connecting with unchurched community was clearly the weakest correlation in the opinions of both pastors and music leaders.

  Pastors - Does singing and music in church:

Pastors - Does singing and music in church:

  Pastors - Does singing and music in church:

Pastors - Does singing and music in church:

  MUSIC LEADERS - Does singing and music in church:

MUSIC LEADERS - Does singing and music in church:

  MUSIC LEADERS - Does singing and music in church:

MUSIC LEADERS - Does singing and music in church:

This warrants further examination in the future.  It is a surprising contrast to the anecdotal impressions we have perceived that many churches view music as a key attractor, and poor quality music as a barrier to connecting with their local community.  But it may reflect a concern we have observed in some churches that singing together can be regarded as weird or off putting for unchurched visitors. It would also be interesting to view these results in light of recent literature that suggests that rather than avoiding peculiar Christian practices, some unchurched millennials are seeking more historically connected and liturgical expressions of Christianity. *

THEOLOGY OF MUSIC AND CORPORATE WORSHIP

A majority of both lead pastors and music leaders are intentionally looking to biblical principles to inform and shape their approach to their singing and music ministries.  Many cited Colossians 3 and Eph 5 as significant passages towards this end.

However there seems to often be issues of communication and clarity between pastors, music leaders and the congregation in regards to this vision.  While 90% of music leaders affirmed that their pastor had clear views on the role of singing and music ministry in church life, many were unsure as to what they were specifically.

He hasn’t articulated a clear theology of singing and music ministry to me. He’s left that to me.

And it was clear from responses from many music leaders and pastors that these views weren’t often or clearly articulated to the congregation.

How is the process of communication with the congregation on the subject of music ministry taking place? Who is initiating? And I guess the answer you have caused me to realise is that the communication only really starts from the congregation to me or the pastor - usually when things go either really bad or really good.

Such responses suggest that proactive communication on issues of church music - between pastors and music leaders, and to congregations - is an opportunity for growth and development.

DIVERSITY OF ROLES AND EXPECTATIONS

One of the significant challenges facing churches that seek to grow their music ministry is the breadth, diversity and clarity in their role descriptions and expectations for those leading music ministries.

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This breadth of role descriptions and expectations is not surprising.  Each local church will have their own particular cultural contexts and emphases, historical backgrounds, size related issues, ministry structures and more to take into account when defining the role that the music leader with play.  Added to this is the fact that, as a whole, music leaders aren’t being appointed out of any particular training or development streams.  So there is no assumed baseline of knowledge or experience for music leaders in the way you would find with other more formally trained pastoral roles.  So the role description will often be adapted to the individual’s mix of gifts, abilities and experience.  

This has a clear impact on the music leaders and their working relationships with their pastors.  Of the factors causing stress for music directors, misunderstandings about roles and expectations was the most frequently identified issue.  And we have heard first hand of many instances of perceived mismatches between the gifts and abilities of music leaders, and the role descriptions and expectations from pastors and congregation.  Further research would be helpful to ascertain how prevalent an issue this actually is.

The role of the Music Director / Magnification Pastor is so vague/confused in the minds of church members and pastors that we need this conference, clarity of value and role, and more people doing what they’re gifted at in their pastoral role, rather than doing everything, and none of it really well.

Connected with this issue above is difficulties that can be seen with evaluation.  In response to the question “What criteria are used to measure your effectiveness in your role?”, around one third responded with “Unclear”, “None” or similar.  Another third articulated some evaluation areas and processes.  However, only four individuals mentioned any specific goals, objectives or health indicators that formed a part of their evaluation. The remainder described their evaluation as informal or ad hoc.

However, this doesn’t correlate with a lack of feedback given.  Only four respondents indicated that they received no feedback (which is an issue in itself).  The remainder identified many sources of frequent feedback - often unsolicited!

It is our observation that music and singing in church tends to raise strong and vocal opinions and preferences among the congregation, music team and pastoral staff.  And in the absence of clear evaluation criteria and processes, this can lead to significant stress for the music leader and impact the clarity and effectiveness of the music ministry.  We feel that ministry tools and training to assist churches in defining and implementing clear evaluation objectives and processes in this area would be a great benefit to many churches.  However, this would have to be done in a way that allows flexibility for diverse application into each local church context.

TRAINING AND FORMATION

Another significant contrast between senior pastors and music leaders can be seen in the factors and sources that influence their approach to music ministry.

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Key contrasts to observe here are the role of formal college / seminary training (Senior Pastors 28% vs Music Leaders 11%), and training events / conferences (Senior Pastors 7% vs Music Leaders 23%).  It is also worth noting both indicated that blogs and online resources had minimal influence.

As Magnify seeks to play a role in shaping and encouraging music ministries across Australia, we are encouraged to keep developing conference, events and content (such as the 2017 Team Pastoring Conference) that seek to speak to senior pastors and music leaders together.  It also affirms our long term goal of helping to establish clear formal training pathways for music leaders.  

But it does also sound a warning in regards to online efforts.  While we are committed to online resourcing to serve a wide geographical base, this indicates that we should do so with a constant eye to the effectiveness of these tools and training.

CONCLUSION

While there is much more work to be done, we feel these particular observations are clearly emerging from the survey results, and correlate with our own observations as we interact with pastors and music leaders.  Some key opportunities for growth are the deep need for more dialogue between pastors and music leaders on both the place of singing in church and what is expected in the music leader role. There is also a need for more intentional training within local parishes on the value of singing to church life.  We look forward to exploring these areas more thoroughly, and hope to eventually provide helpful thinking and resources.

We would still value further responses to the survey - and so would invite you to participate if you haven’t already.  It will help strengthen our results, but we have also intended it to be a helpful exercise for pastors and music leaders to do together to promote healthy discussions in these areas.   Complete survey

We would also encourage you to connect with magnify.org.au   We’re praying that this might grow to be not only a place to go for resources, thinking and training, but a community that can encourage and spur one another on as we serve God and our churches together.



*Smith, J.K.A., You Are What You Love - The Spiritual Power of Habit - Kindle Ed. (2016, Grand Rapids, MI, Brazos Press, 2016)  “I’ve witnessed this firsthand as a college professor who has watched a generation of young evangelicals wrestle through their disenchantment with the Christian faith only to find their way back again by remembering things the ancient church already knew. I’ve seen the jaded cynicism bred into twenty-year-olds by the manufactured spirituality of youth ministry and “Christian camp” culture, walked with students through their anger and frustration and bitterness, and watched them find new life when they discover the historic practices of the faith.”

© Effective Ministry / Magnify 2017