What Tony Dungy’s Coaching Has to Do with Disorganized Music Ministries

Photo Credit: stocksnap.io | Skitter Photo

Photo Credit: stocksnap.io | Skitter Photo

In Boundaries for Leaders, Henry Cloud recounts the story of Tony Dungy turning the Tampa Bay Buccaneers around in the mid-90s.  He writes:

When he arrived, he heard lots of explanations for the team’s dismal record. Some said it was because the stadium was old and the facilities were poor.  Others blamed it on low ticket sales, which meant the team couldn’t afford to hire the players that they needed to win. Others said that cold weather kept them from winning, as they never won games when the temperature was less than forty degrees.  And then the kicker: Some fans mentioned the so-called Doug Williams Curse.  Supposedly, some voodoo-practicing woman who loved Doug Williams, the former quarterback, had put a curse on the team when he left, and the team could not become a winner again until that curse was lifted.

As Dungy reviewed this list of obstacles, he realized something important: the entire list was outside of his or his players’ control.

He then describes how Dungy refocused the organization:

He immediately went to work analyzing the statistics of the winning teams.  He discovered that thy shared three characteristics.  They had lower turnovers (fumbles and interceptions), fewer penalties, and high-performing special teams (kickoffs, punts, punt returns).   …Dungy’s strategy for winning boiled down to focusing on these three factors, all three of them totally within his and his players’ control.  He led them to a turnaround, and then he carried that thinking on to the Indianapolis Colts, whom he led to the championship in Super Bowl XLI.

If you are facing very difficult odds in your ministry – few volunteers, small choir, not enough money – what would happen if you keyed in on a few critical actions that, if done consistently and well, could refresh and revive the morale in your people? Put another way, what two or three consistent actions should you focus on this year?


What You MUST Do Before You Plan the First Song

There I was, leading a song about God’s greatness, and all I was thinking about was, “Man, I probably look awesome up here, leading this song.”

photo credit: bigstockphoto.com | master1305

photo credit: bigstockphoto.com | master1305

You ever been there?

We’re so broken, that even when we are singing words about our great God, we can be totally consumed with ourselves.

And, unfortunately, we can lead our entire music ministries from that selfish heart.

Our last post looked at the need for a music ministry kickoff.  I hope you are planning even a very simple event, even if it’s during a regular rehearsal time, to kick off the coming months for the music ministry.

But we aren’t quite ready to dive into the nuts and bolts of kicking things into gear for the coming year.

Before we look at that, this post is going to briefly cover a few mindsets you and I need to review.

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How to Stop Summer’s Revolving Door

Do you remember as a kid? You went into a revolving door with your dad and wanted to keep going around?

photo credit: bistockphoto | @chuyu

photo credit: bistockphoto | @chuyu

What was fun as a kid isn’t so much fun as a music director.

For the last two months, I would guess that your music ministry has felt a bit like a revolving door.  One choir this week.  A different group of people the next.

Everyone welcomes the break that the summer months give to families.  But it can take its toll on a church choir or praise team.  If you’ve continued the rehearsals through the summer, much needed vacations and camps have taken your people out of town.

What can you do to rally everyone to the well-oiled machine you had going by the end of last year?  Or, if last year’s ministry left a lot to be desired, how can you be sure that this year starts off on the right foot?

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“I Can Go In” by Abigail Miller

Sunday morning, I sang “I Can Go In” by Abigail Miller in church, and, just like the last time, I couldn’t make it through without choking up.  Poor church had listen to me blubber through one of the verses.

Needless to say, it’s a great song about how we get to heaven.  I encourage you to check out the CD here or the individual mp3s here
or you can look her up on iTunes.  She has a lot of other music at abigailmiller.com.  I particularly appreciate the stories she has put to music, like “I Can Go In” or “He Did Not Cast a Stone.”

And, yes, some of the links are affiliate links.


The Space Between the Songs

There’s nothing like escaping to a beautiful mountain stream when life is busy.  I recently went fishing early in the morning with my brother.  He was fishing up stream a bit, and I was downstream just taking in the serene setting.

photo credit: stocksnap.io | Boriskin Vladislav

photo credit: stocksnap.io | Boriskin Vladislav

It was spectacular.  Mist rising off the stream. The chill of the morning. It was crazy peaceful.

Now, this didn’t happen, but imagine whatever peaceful escape you like to go to.  You’re there enjoying the stillness, then a helicopter flies by.  All the stillness is interrupted by the loud chopper!  Moment over.

Music can have the same calming impact on a person’s spirit as a mountain stream.  But, as leaders, we can interrupt it because of poor planning.  Awkward transitions chop up the service like a helicopter flying over a mountain stream.

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Why You Should Kill the Nagging Insecurities

I entered college with too many interests but no clear direction. I began as a music major, then changed majors several times. Meanwhile, I felt the call to serve in a preaching capacity.

I chose a major that would allow me to finish quickly and still get training in preaching.

My wife and I were married one month after graduation. We worked for two years to pay off school debt. During that time, I helped in the youth ministry of our church leading the singing and organizing the youth choir.

Then God allowed me the opportunity to move to Tennessee to serve in a church as music director and office manager.

All along the way I was gaining invaluable experience in church music and Bible teaching.

But there was a nagging insecurity because I had transferred out of a music major in college but ended up working in music for my career. It affected how I interacted with other musicians in the church. It impacted my confidence as I led or played.

photo credit: stocksnap.io | Joshua Earle

photo credit: stocksnap.io | Joshua Earle

I was always comparing myself to other people in the field who had a degree. I was allowing some of those early decisions to define me for years. I was telling myself that I wasn’t qualified as a musician because I didn’t have a degree, but ignoring what I had gained during my time in the program, what I had achieved and the experience I was gaining.

I was somehow less than what God wanted me to be.  Or so I thought.

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Free Piano Arrangement – “Sweet Hour of Prayer”

Download the Song >>

When I was in college, during a theory class, we were all in a piano lab.  Rows and rows of small keyboards, all connected to the teacher’s headphones.  He could push a button and listen into what we were playing. He would then discuss with us how we were applying the material.

photo credit: morguefile.com | pippalou

I don’t remember the specific assignment, but I remember playing for him a chord progression under the melody of “Sweet Hour of Prayer” that has stayed with me to this day.  I’ve played it a few times in church, repeatedly in private, but I have never developed it into a full arrangement.

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3 Realities the Perfectionist Forgets

The worst part of a roller coaster — the eternal ride up that first hill.  Can you feel the chain catch the bottom as the car rolls onto it? Then clank-clank-clank – you’re on your way up!


photocredit: morguefile.com | monosodium


Fear overtakes you.  You think to yourself, “What was I thinking?!” You feel trapped, but there’s no turning back.

If you have any fear of roller coasters, just the thought of being harnessed into that ride makes your heart beat faster and grips you with fear.  Even though the ride has been thoroughly tested, people ride it every day, and you are safely strapped in, your whole system goes into panic mode. In spite of those realities, you are gripped by your fear.

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The Soundtrack of My Generation – James Horner

Mr. James Horner,

I heard of the tragic plane crash that took your life.  I looked across the list of films you composed the score for, and I saw a spectrum of movies that bring back memories throughout my lifetime. My childhood in A Land Before Time, An American Tail, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and the Rocketeer; teen years in Braveheart – I never saw it, but its soundtrack was a favorite of mine. I’ll never forget the inspiration of the last scene of Glory. You captured the essence of John Nash’s struggle in A Beautiful Mind.

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Music Resource Links – 6/19/15

Here are a few links to some helpful resources for the music director.  Enjoy!

Choir and workshop leaders: make sure you’re on the receiving end from time to time

Chris Rowbury reminds choir directors to occasionally take part in a choir or singing day as a reminder of what it’s like to be in a choir.

Brilliant Fundraising – The $60K Chorus Auction

This unique approach to fundraising could jumpstart your music budget for next year.

Middle School Chorus Teachers: What to do with Summer?

Dale Duncan offers thoughts to music teachers about how to use the summer months to recharge and prepare for next year.

Why Have an Instrumental Ministry?

James Koerts lists benefits of having an emphasis on instrumental music in your church’s worship services.