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Digging In

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In my last blog, I mentioned the alarmingly short tenure of the normal worship leader/choir director. Most surveys suggest the average worship leader stays less than 36 months in one church. To put that in perspective: three years is just 1,095 days. That’s a whole year less than it takes to complete high school.

I’m sure you’ve heard it takes 10,000 hours to become competent at one thing.

Maybe you’ve clocked that much time developing your actual craft, but how much time have you invested leading in one place, in one ministry, in one community of worshippers?

Here’s another way to look at it: if we invested 40 hours each week for 52 weeks for three consecutive years, we would total just over 6,000 hours in that ministry. Using the 10,000-hour gauge, that’s still 4,000 hours short of “competency.” I’m not saying that we fail if we don’t clock the “magical” 10,000 hours—I’m just suggesting that we may be missing the really good stuff when we’re focused on short-run satisfaction and results.

Here are three strategies to help us reach long-run results:

1. Dig in:
What if we decided to dig in from the very beginning? What if we committed quality time to building long-term relationships we couldn’t imagine leaving? Investing in friendships that went deeper than simply getting people to do what we need them to do for us to be successful?

My worship pastor has been leading in the same place for 17 years. That’s lots of relationships. That’s 35,360 hours. That’s endurance. That’s not allowing feelings of under-appreciation to get the best of him. By staying the course, he’s been part of living out the vision of a ministry. It also means that his children get to live out lasting relationships instead of having to find new ones every few years.

2. Pace yourself:
Sprinters make poor marathoners. Long distance runners learn to set, meet and celebrate reasonable short-term goals (like making it to the next mile-marker!). 10,000 hours is five years. Instead of giving ourselves three to five months to be “successful” (whatever that is!), assume it’s going take three to five years. If we achieve some measure of effectiveness before then, count it a blessing.

We must learn that the next ministry opportunity should only happen when God releases us from the last one. We must resist the temptation to imagine ourselves being responsible for something to which God has called someone else.

3. Enjoy the process:
If we’re always focused on the end product, we’ll never be satisfied until things go just as we’ve envisioned. This may be an unrealistic expectation because things rarely turn out as planned. By making the most of every moment along the way, we’ll enjoy the ride rather than marking progress toward a goal that always moving out of reach.

Developing relationships is one of the most effective ways to enjoy the process. In the end, our accomplishments may be better written in relationships rather than on resumes. The time we take to encourage that guitarist in the band or that quiet alto on the third row in the choir may forever be etched in their minds. Start planning to get to know more people on a personal basis. A smile or a laugh will be remembered long past being accepted as the ‘new’ worship leader at another church. Don’t plan to leave. Plan to stay and make memories.

So what will it take for you and me to dig in?

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