Thanksgiving: The Antidote to Worry

by Tim Shaw

When it comes to church music ministry, there is plenty to worry about! Will enough singers show up on Sunday morning? Will the assembly be pleased with the music I’ve chosen? Will the organ cipher sound during my prelude? Will my choir members notice I’m not well prepared for rehearsal? Will the sound system work right? Will next year’s budget be cut—again? Often, we who are in charge worry too much, and our worry spills over to our volunteers. But, is it healthy to approach our service to the church in this way?

In Matthew 6:25-33, a reading for Thanksgiving Day, Jesus encourages his followers not to be crippled by anxiety. He says, “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear” (v. 25). He tells us to look at the birds and consider the lilies—God takes care of them, and God, who knows everything we need, will take care of us. Jesus speaks directly to the issue of worrying, asking pointedly, “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (v. 27). When we worry about things God has promised to provide, we doubt the sovereignty and goodness of God. What, then, are we to do? Jesus says, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (v. 33). That sounds good, but what can we do practically to reduce anxiety in our lives and, in particular, in our church music programs?

First, we can plan ahead. Having a good plan is one of the best strategies for church musicians to adopt. But, even the best laid plans often go awry! Second, we can hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Anticipating problems that may arise and putting preventive measures in place can reduce last-minute complications. But, as you know from experience, something always goes wrong! We should do these things, for it is prudent to do so, but what else can we do to prevent worry from infiltrating our ministry?

Let me suggest that the most effective antidote to worry is thanksgiving—when we recount God’s blessings, we remember God is faithful and find renewed trust in God’s promise of future provision. Rather than working within a climate of anxiety, we can help to foster a culture of thanksgiving in our church music programs. Try taking these action steps:

  1. Choose a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to use as a choral warm-up. Sing the same hymn for a period of time (about four weeks) and then present it as a musical offering in a worship service. Here are some suggestions (these selections are also well-suited for use during a Thanksgiving service!):
    • For the Fruit of All Creation (ELW 679)
    • Praise and Thanksgiving (ELW 689)
    • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (ELW 858)
    • Soli Deo Gloria (ELW 878)
    • Let All Things Now Living (ELW 881)
  2. Write an article for your church’s newsletter (or Sunday bulletin) in which you acknowledge the gifts and contributions of your volunteer musicians. Select a different volunteer to profile each month. Your volunteers will feel appreciated.
  3. If you like to bake, prepare a tray of baked goods to share after a weeknight rehearsal.
  4. In all written communication to your volunteers, include a scripture verse or a word of thanks acknowledging their sacrifice of time and talent.
  5. Give thanks to God for your church and ask God to bless your ministry.

How else can you cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in your ministry? Share your comments below!

Posted on Nov 20, 2015 3:57:15 PM
Filed Under: Assembly Song, Filed Under: Choral Techniques and Repertoire,

Tim Shaw

Written by Tim Shaw

Timothy Shaw was born and raised in idyllic Keene, New Hampshire. He studied theology and music (theory, history, composition, piano) in college and graduate school, and he has enjoyed a multi-faceted career as professor, composer, church musician, and author. As a clinician and scholar, he has presented workshops, academic papers, hymn festivals, music reading sessions, and master classes at numerous universities, conferences, music societies, and churches throughout the United States. As a composer, he is the recipient of the 2019 ALCM Raabe Prize for Excellence in Sacred Composition. He has written extensively for the church and is published by Augsburg Fortress, Beckenhorst, Choristers Guild, Concordia, Fred Bock, Hope, MorningStar Music, Neil A. Kjos, and Shawnee Press. He also composes on commission, and he has written for David Kim (Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster), Anne Martindale-Williams (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra principal cellist), and Abington Presbyterian Church (Abington, Pennsylvania), among others.