Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Dealing With Unruly Church Employees"

As I stated in earlier blogs, being a leader is quite a daunting task especially in the church. One of the challenges that leaders often face is dealing with unruly employees. One of the definitions of unruly is " Disorderly and disruptive and not amenable to discipline or control" (Google). I would suspect that the latter part of that definition applies to most of our unruly situations (lacking discipline or control). There are 2 kinds of unruly employees. There are those who do all of their dirty work behind the scenes using the telephone, internet and group discussions. They secretly plot against you or someone else and form regimes to either overthrow you or to make your job difficult, unproductive or sometimes unbearable. Then there are those who have no fear in publicly displaying their displeasure's, thoughts, emotions about anything and everything you do with no complete thought in mind as to the effect of their public outcry. In other words they choose to hang themselves.

I know some of you are thinking "I would rather have the public outcry then the private stabbing in the back". Well keep in mind that the public outcry can cause folks to leave ministries, choir stands and pews. It does just as much damage. So how do you deal with unruly employees. If you are a Pastor, or a person who has authority to hire and fire, then you could just fire the person right? Well that only works if the person has no credibility or fan base within the congregation. I've known many Pastors who have fired employees on the spot for valid reasons and suffered consequences because they did not take into account the public sentiment for the individual they fired. Maybe you could sit the person down to talk and pray with them about the situation in the hopes that they will change right?. Well that works sometimes but most of the time it doesn't because the unruly individual does not see their own behavior as a problem. They view you, the employer, as the problem and maybe you need to change rather than them. So here are some tips that have worked for me and others when dealing with an unruly employees.

1. Keep an accurate timeline and documentation of where, when and what was said and done by the individual(s).

2. Try to avoid public confrontations with the individual unless your support system is so strong that it can withstand the possible backlash.

3. Always approach the unruly employee with kindness not letting him know how you really feel or what your possible strategy is in dealing with that person.

4. If your a Pastor, never call out that particular employee from the pulpit. Again you never know the public sentiment for a person and you do not want to gauge it from the Pulpit. If your public rebuke does not work in your favor then you have lost credibility and respect among your parishioners regardless of whether they express it to you or not.

5. Approach the individual with your evidence of their unruly behavior and ask them to stop or face the possible consequences that you have laid out. Most will not stop but they might change their method of attack so keep that in mind.

6. When the dismissal takes place never offer up the reasons why unless someone asks. You weaken your position as leader if you have to over explain your self to any and everybody. Just have the evidence ready if and when they come calling for it. NO ONE CAN ARGUE WITH THE TRUTH.

These are just a few ways to deal with unruly Church employees but there are others that I am sure some of you will mention. I welcome your thoughts, ideas and suggestions and I pray for you if you are in one of these situations.


Phillip Carter

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Leading A Music Ministry"

What Does It Involve?

Leading a Music Ministry or Music and Arts ministry can be a daunting task. It involves administration, psychology, the skill to lead and most importantly a comprehensive musical understanding of the needs of the particular congregation you are serving. Great leaders are also great followers. When you learn how to follow you learn how to lead. In leading a Music Ministry, you have to take into consideration the different parts of the ministry you are attempting to lead. You also have to have a clear understanding of the vision of the Pastor and church that you are serving. If they do not have a clear vision then you will need to assist them in creating one based on their wants and needs as a church and Music Ministry. You would be surprised how many churches do not have mission and/or vision statements concerning their Music Ministry.

Whether you are currently a Minister of Music, getting ready to be one, or aspiring to be one its important that you understand your job in a particular ministry. In general a Minister of Music is in charge of the overall operation and musical health of the church. In my opinion, you should possess the skills play, teach, direct, sing and administrate especially if you are working at an African American church. You should not be dependent on anybody in order for you to be successful in your job. NOW, even though you possess those skills having a staff is surely helpful in being successful.


 If your church has the budget for you to hire help then you should always hire the kind of staff that will aid and enhance you and the church in the worship experience. In other words, do not hire inferior musicians. You should always seek to hire people who can make a significant change in your worship experience musically and spiritually.  I always seek to hire people who can do what I can't.  

Sometimes as the Minister of Music, churches try to short change you financially by forcing you to settle for less qualified musicians but they want the best quality of music and worship. ISN'T THAT IRONIC. Its like they don't get it. They do not understand that quality comes with a price. Quality musicians are NOT hard to find they are just hard to keep. They are hard to keep because if they feel hampered by the restraints that are sometimes put on them by Ministers of Music's, Churches and Pastors then its time to leave and seek other opportunities. Restraints can be spiritual, music and/or financial. Churches are quick to honor Pastors but ignore the musical leaders in the house. A "Thank You" sometimes can go a lonnnnngggg wayyyyy.


Ministers of Music who are great build comprehensive programs for their choirs, praise teams, musicians and congregations that they serve. They not only teach music but they teach the Ministry of Music which is more than just reading and/or learning music and notes. They are sensitive to the musical and spiritual needs of the church they serve and often pick music that is relevant to those needs. You should pick music that is also relevant to the vocal ability of the choirs you teach. Always be mindful that unless your choir is vocally super natural they can't sing everything. You should carefully select music that will bring the best out of a particular choir. For some of you that may mean doing a lot of unison singing until your choir can handle some part singing. You should research musical selections and not just the Top 40 songs you hear on the radio. Most of the time you, and the people you serve, will receive the greatest blessing from songs that are less popular. You should always teach music that has some scriptural basis to it. Songs that have scriptural background to it are more effective and more likely to stick in the hearts and minds of your choirs and congregation.


It's important to coordinate a few activities throughout the year with your music ministry that are non music related. Fellow shipping out of the choir stand is very helpful in attaining unity. Sometimes the people just need to know that you as the leader are a human being and that you like to do other things. People trust who they know and like. If they can see another side of you, every now and then, it helps in the choir stand.


Leaders who do not attend training sessions and workshops are stag net and boring. You should always be in a posture of learning. Its VERY important to get out of your church as much as you can and attend workshops so that you can hear and see what others are doing. Workshops are often great sources of opportunity to get new music. The bible commands us to sing unto the Lord some new songs. It's hard to get new songs if you can't get out.


Everybody should aspire to leave something positive behind for the next person to use providing that you had a positive impact on the people you were serving.Creating a musical library of your works, whether physical and digital, is important to the next person who will have your job after  you. A great Minister of Music does not operate out of spite but out of love for the Ministry of Music and the people you serve.

Phillip Carter

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"What is Church/Gospel Music Supposed To Sound Like"

This is a great debate in a lot of churches and among Christians around the world especially in the US. This debate is not a new one. The great Thomas Dorsey,  whom we revere in all of music, was ridiculed for emulating a blues sound in church with his piano playing and singing. Edwin Hawkins was slammed for his hit song "Oh Happy Day" which was initially rejected by church audiences for sounding to secular or what about The Saint's in Praise Vol 1 which was spearheaded by the West Angeles COGIC in 1992 and was initially rejected by its own church members and mainstream black gospel radio for sounding too white.  I remember when "Stomp" by Kirk Franklin was released to radio and many Christians and Clergy went completely bananas over theology of the song. Now we have Holy Hip Hop which is being completely ignored on mainstream Gospel Radio due to the fear of rejection by mainstream church audiences. We also have Christian Rock, Neo Soul Gospel and and many other sub- genres of Gospel music that is out there right now being embraced by some and rejected by others.

We all have our ideas about what Gospel Music/Church music is supposed to sound like. All of us need to consider the fact that our ideas have been shaped by someone or something else. If you grew up in church then most of your thinking and opinion is rooted in what you heard in church as a child or what you were taught. Because many of us have our own ideas,  its important to define what church music is then to verbally assault or reject a modern day sound that you or I may or may not understand. Church music is defined as "music intended for performance as part of services of worship"(The Free Dictionary). Its a broad definition with little specifics. I would define it as "music rooted in scripture or personal experience to be performed in worship or other venues for the purpose of edifying the body of Christ".

Church music has evolved from the Gregorian Chant to Holy Hip-Hop. If society and its music were not allowed to evolve then we all would still be chanting in service with cloaks on. Its important that we do not judge the sound of the new wave of music but rather the content. I can name many songs from Negro Spirituals to some of Gospel Musics current hits that were not rooted in scripture but it had the so called "Church Sound". One example is the song 'Down By The Riverside" which has no biblical meaning but rather a cultural meaning instead. When slaves needed to converse with one another or arrange meetings they would say words and catch phrases that the slave master could not understand in order to meet up such as "I'm gonna lay down my burdens down by the riverside" which  means meet me at the river, I got something to tell you. Now that song is considered a church son by many and some of us shout over it but it has no spiritual significance. It's important to remember, appreciate and pass down our heritage as African Americans but it shouldn't be mistaken for a church song.  Just recently there were major questions over the hit song "Back To Eden" by Donald Lawrence and its biblical meaning. Does God really want us to go "Back To Eden"? That's for you to decide. I never sung it in church because I could never understand why I needed to go back. I prefer to go forward to Heaven.

We are more opinionated about the sound of something then its content. We tend to shun what we do not understand. Some of the deepest, scriptural based lyrical content I have ever heard has come from the Holy Hip-Hop generation and its music. On the other hand, I have also been blessed by the poetic scriptural lessons that have been placed in Hymns. Any song that blesses God and edifies the believer can be a "Church Song" or can be sung or spoken in church. It's fine to have your preferences about the kind of song or style you like but it's not ok to ridicule others for theirs. In many of our churches today our youth and young adults are shut out from expressing themselves in their modern day vernacular with music. Many of us who are older were treated the same way when we were young yet we do not extend the grace, that we wish we had, to our younger generation. Let's get over our narrow mindedness about what Church or Gospel music is supposed to sound like and lets embrace what, I believe, God is doing through the new sounds that are out their today. All music comes from God. It's what man does to it that makes the difference.

Phillip Carter