Global Leadership Network UK & Ireland

GLN UK & Ireland

The Highs and Lows of Leading an Arts & Worship Ministry Part 3

The Arts Roundtable:
Five ministry leaders get together to discuss the highs and lows of leading an arts ministry

Brian Petak, Fellowship Bible Church, Brentwood, Tennessee
Butch Whitmire, Granger Community Church, Granger, Indiana
Manuel Luz, Oak Hills Church, Folsom, California
Amy Anderson, Eagle Brook Church, White Bear Lake, Minnesota
Stan Durham, Fellowship of the Woodlands, The Woodlands, Texas

Leading an arts ministry can be filled with lots of joy, but lots of disappointments as well. Let’s talk about some of those.

Amy: One of my disappointments is that I feel like I’m never quite tapping into the full talent of our team. With this week-to-week schedule all the time, and trying to create something that’s very real, relevant, creative, and not predictable, I find that the pace sometimes holds back our creativity. When I get away for a conference or when we have a little bit of space in our schedule, I see how the ideas just fly. The joy is in the discovery. Every once in a while we have ideas that pop, or something gets created that just works in a powerful way. It’s “pay day” for us when we see people moved through the arts and make plans to change something in their life.

Brian: Lack of planning is the biggest enemy. That’s where I guess we’re still a work in progress. We’ve been trying different things to get at that planning animal. We found that when you hit that stride, when you’ve got oil in the gears and you’re planned out far enough in advance where your brainstorming is able to actually take root, then it’s a beautiful thing!

Butch: There’s really nothing more disappointing than a great idea too late, where you say, wow, what a creative idea! Why didn’t we know that a month ago? We’re really trying to figure out when do all those things occur? When are we going to live by our idea cut-offs?

Manuel: I guess one of the great misgivings in my life was in the early part of my ministry. I assumed that the “product” of my ministry was what was happening on stage — how good the song was, how good the drama was, and how good our multimedia was. I slowly came to realize that the true product of our ministry was the hearts of the people in the congregation. That’s really what our job is; spiritual transformation. If we work on that, then the byproduct of all that is going to be great art. We’re trying to remind ourselves “What’s the mark we’re wanting to make?” This past weekend, for example, we had a meeting with a lot of great ideas on the topic of revenge. And we remembered that we had somebody in our congregation whose son had been murdered, and the person who had murdered his son had come up for parole a couple of times. How would all this make him feel? So, we ended up going with a simple testimony versus all these really great, creative ideas, because we felt that was going to help people and move their heart in a greater way.

Stan: My greatest disappointment is when people leave the church. I’ve grown so weary of hearing, “Oh, I just want to go someplace where it’s more deep, where we really get into God’s Word.” Like we don’t do that here! That hurts and it’s frustrating. And I’ll just be honest with you, there are times when I want to call them and lash out at them and say, “My goodness, you’re expecting the pastor and the music pastor to be your everything spiritually? Are you doing a daily quiet time? Are you in a small group? Are you studying God’s Word?” That’s just a disappointment of mine that I struggle with. I guess the larger church you have, the more that’s going to happen, but that’s something that hurts and bothers me deeply.

Amy: When I first started in leadership, we had a huge vocal team, probably 44 members. Because of a change of direction our leadership requested, we had to reduce our vocal team over the course of a year or two down to a team of 18 or 19 people that could sing well together. It was the most miserable journey that I would never wish upon anybody. Most of them ended up leaving the church. And most of them ended up wounded and I’m sure I could have gone through it better. All of them had a heart for worship, but the disappointment was that we had an arts ministry where people were seemingly more passionate about their gift than about the church, and how God might move them some day. I think that’s going to continue to be a challenge over the years of leading this group.

Butch: We find that our church really values excellence. It’s way up there along with authenticity and relevance. I think the disappointments I’ve had is perhaps with an artist who brings so much excellence to the table, but the authenticity side just isn’t there. Sometimes you have to make hard choices. I think early on we had easily by far one of our best singers with some issues, and that was hard, but again we had to balance. You can’t have excellence only. That authenticity has to mirror right beside that, and so, difficult, disappointing changes happen as a result.

Brian: I think one of my disappointments, honestly, is of myself. One in particular is how I handled some conflict resolution a number of years ago. I believe healthy conflict is always a good thing, and, if handled well, can glorify God and edify the church. I disappointed myself in how I’ve handled a number of those types of situations. That’s helped me grow as a leader because those mistakes have all contributed to my becoming a better leader. The second disappointment would be that I could be doing a better job in creating team, and family, and my relationship with the team.

Stan: I appreciate your looking in the mirror. That’s something that I’ve really had to do as of recently, and the disappointment with myself is giving so much to the church and bringing leftovers back home to my wife and our eight-year-old triplets. God brought a life coach and accountability partner into my life a couple of years ago who really challenged me on that. It’s so seductive that you’re ministering to thousands, and yet, if you don’t have your house in order, Scripture says, then you don’t have any business doing what you’re doing. So, I’ve really made a turnaround on that and proven to my wife and to my kids that they’re more important than the senior pastor. I think we, as leaders, get so many kudos standing in front of people and leading, that part of us, if we’re honest, thrives for that earthly applause. I’m ashamed to say that I really messed up on that in the past.

WILLOW Magazine, Issue 2, 2006

Helpful Resources:

An Hour on Sunday 
Defining Moments – An Hour on Sunday 
Defining Moments – Harnessing the Arts for Spiritual Impact