Most of my 30 years in staff ministry have been at churches where I worked “part time” (I put that in quotes because that usually means more than part time hours.) Over the years, I’ve had to come up with a few ways to ensure things run smoothly and the work gets done – worship planned effectively, relationships established with people I lead and work with, the church calendar has exciting worship events that are attractive and meaningful, and opportunities for training and growth.
To keep things simple, I thought I’d just toss out a few bullet points of ideas to help you as your travel the same road I’ve traveled for many years.
- Keep in constant contact and communication with your Pastor. Communication is critical and one of my top priorities. He is not only my boss but my Shepherd as well. I need him and he needs me. I do my best to respond quickly to his calls, emails or texts.
- Keeping with the above – I try to take at least a couple of hours a month for prolonged planning and updating with my Pastor. This doesn’t always happen, but it is my goal.
- Know your Pastor’s themes or scriptures. Knowing this information (for upcoming services) ahead of time (or as far out as possible) is extremely helpful for helping plan out services.
- Build relationships with Chuch staff. Make sure to build a very solid relationship with your Church secretary or anyone at the Church who can help you with details when you are not there. I’ve had to call our secretary countless times when I was at work and needed help. This is my second priority when it comes to building staff relationships.
- Let people know how to find you. My phone and email are posted in our church bulletin so if anyone does need to communicate with me, they can.
- Commute time = Prayer time. I’ve disciplined myself to use the time in my car (while commuting) for prayer. I’m pretty sure God still hears me even though my eyes are open.
- Maximize your primary work days. Since Sunday and Wednesday are my primary work days, I try to maximize those times by spending extra hours at the church on those days.
- Use your lunch hour and breaks effectively. I use my lunch hour and breaks to take care of church related tasks when I’m at my full-time job.
- Have a printer and computer at home for church work. You’ll find this amazingly helpful. Some churches are willing to provide these items to use at home. Sometimes I leave work and go directly to the church with just a few minutes of prep time before the service starts. Having the capability to run copies or print off service orders from home is extremely helpful.
- Create schedules for everyone. Creating band, sound and projection schedules will help keep you organized and take out the guess-work for everyone involved.
- Create a choir, band, worship team email contact group. This little tip saves a ton of time and is great for communication during the week. I email everyone the song selections (and sometimes include links to demos) once I have it all planned out before Sunday. It’s a great way to also send devotional type material to everyone.
- Delegate. Delegate. Delegate. Delegation is critical. I’ve selected a few willing individuals to help with planning out additional scriptures for Sunday worship, stage communication (for when we let the choir down sit in the pews. Yep… we still have them), and assisting with getting music ready our choir rehearsals. Small things, but it adds up to large amounts of time.
- Take vacation time. Vacation is not only needed but even more important for those who work more than one full-time job. I communicate this information early on in the staff employment so it’s clear I will be gone a few times each year.
- Bring in a special guest “artist” or worship leader. By doing this at least once a year, it is an easy way to create an “event” for the church calendar that is exciting and meaningful.
- Host an “Old Fashioned Hymn Sing.” One to two times per year, we hold this event. It is geared more towards our Senior Adults, but everyone ends up having a great time singing songs they grew up singing. I try to make it as close to a “Gaither” video as you can get. I include our choir on the platform and use hymnals that night rather than the projection screen. Hymn sings are quite easy to put together as it’s playing straight from the hymnal. We utilize our band, but there is minimal rehearsal because most know the hymns. Stick with the standards that everyone knows and loves.
- Reach out to other local church choirs. If there is another local Church willing to do a joint presentation, an entire event can be created from it. I’ve done this several times on a Saturday night with snacks afterwards. Again, another calendar activity that has a big impact but normal preparation time.
- Use previous year’s song selections during busy times. In the Sunday’s leading up to Christmas and Easter, I use the previous year’s song selections while we are working on the new titles. This little trick helps fill in the gaps and requires little prep, and let’s face it… we are all guilty of not repeating songs enough as it is.
- Extend rehearsal time. Rather than having “bonus” rehearsals on Saturdays (which cuts into everyone’s valuable family time), I make our rehearsals an hour longer leading up to special events. I’ve found this feels a lot less “intrusive” for everyone involved.
- Utilize various technologies to help save time. As a part-time employee, saving time is even more important. I’m not a “techy,” but I’ve had to force myself to keep somewhat current… especially if it saves me time.
- Use a song previously played for the offertory song. The band can play a song from a previous service (a Sunday or two ago) for the offering. Again, minimal rehearsal, and it reinforces a song you may be teaching the congregation.
I’ve often found part-time ministry to be some of the most rewarding work I’ve done – being able to relate to those with full-time jobs outside the church, yet still having a passion to help and minister in a local congregation. The list of “tips” could go on forever, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind. I hope you find them helpful, or perhaps, support what you’re already doing.
What are a few tips you might offer?
Dale Bleam is LifeWay Worship’s Sales Supervisor & Strategist. Or as he says, “Supervisor of the best sales team I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.” With 20+ years in church music sales…he would know! In addition, his other titles include: Husband, Dad, Bivocational Worship Pastor, Songwriter, Teacher, Volunteer Firefighter, XBOX Champion and Weightlifter. And here’s a fun fact, he listens to his music LOUD. He keeps our hallways filled with joyful sounds. If LifeWay Worship was a radio station, he’d be our DJ.