20 Time-Saving Tips for Church Musicians

by Tim Shaw

Get organized. There is an old saying: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Being organized will, indeed, save time and limit frustration.

Reduce! Clutter can be overwhelming, and its very presence can eat up a lot of time. Clean out your music library. Once you have chosen new music, throw away catalogs from publishers and distributors.

Reuse! Church members have their favorites—program these pieces again and again . . . and again. Once you’ve found a composer/arranger you like, look for more titles by that writer.

Recycle! Donate unwanted music to another (perhaps smaller) church.

Be prepared. Try to sustain a plan for 12 months out (general ideas only), 6 months out, 3 months out, and 1 month out (very clearly defined).

Keep records. Maintain an accurate list of all the music you use throughout the year (preludes and postludes, anthems, interludes, etc.). This will make it easier to plan next year’s selections.

Update your files. Keep current items most visible in your filing system, and keep both your actual desk and your computer desktop clean and clutter-free.

Know what you like. Prepare a tabbed notebook (or a PDF to load onto your tablet) of repertoire you like to play for weddings, funerals, and communion. (Be sure to observe applicable copyright laws!)

Use technology effectively. Don’t be a slave to technology; make it work for you. If necessary, take a computer or software training course.

Become a better web surfer. Bookmark sites you visit frequently, keep multiple tabs open when browsing, and perfect your ability to search (place titles in quotes, use the minus sign to eliminate certain words, etc.).

Plan online. Take advantage of online planning tools like Prelude Music Planner. Make use of publishers’ websites containing liturgical planning calendars, demo recordings, and repertoire suggestions.

Respect other people’s time. Begin and end rehearsals on time—always!

Have a rehearsal plan. Know your “plan of attack” before you walk into rehearsal. List the anthems you’ll rehearse, so choir members can get their music in order. Before moving to the next piece, make notes on your score so you’ll remember what to work on next time.

Think like a parent. Choose your battles. Remember that perfection is not a reasonable goal—growth and development are, though. Anticipate problems before they arise and come up with possible strategies for solving them.

Be wise. Build on past successes and learn from past mistakes.

Learn to say no. Busy people always make time for more projects, but being able to say, “I’m unable to take that on right now” is a great skill to have. Another good response is, “That’s an excellent idea. I don’t have time to do it by myself, but maybe you’d like to help!”

Delegate. Don’t take advantage of other people’s time, but remember volunteers love to help—allow them to share some of your load. If someone is good at data entry, ask her to be your librarian. If someone enjoys social events, ask him to be your party-planner. Instead of photocopying the last page of your prelude, enlist a middle-school student to be your page-turner for the day.

Don’t go it alone. Collaborate with pastors, staff, and church members who may have wonderful ideas you can use—a favorite anthem, a thematic idea for a program, or the name of a substitute musician. If a church member has a favorite piece of music, and they purchase copies for the church, use it!

Get away. Attend at least one conference a year. Church music conferences are held nationally and locally, so you may not have to travel far. You might think you’re too busy to attend a conference, but doing so promotes rejuvenation, networking, brainstorming, and refreshment. Consider National Conference for Sacred Music as well as the Augsburg Fortress Summer Music Clinics.

Redeem time. Benjamin Franklin, who was full of sage advice, once wrote, “Lost time is never found again.” When members of your praise team are running late for rehearsal, use that time to practice, to pray, or to take a nap!

What time-saving tips have you learned from your experience in music ministry? Share your comments below!

Posted on Jun 22, 2016 3:25:12 PM
Filed Under: Uncategorized,

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 a composer, professor, music engraver, private teacher, author, and church musician. As a clinician and scholar, he has presented workshops, academic papers, hymn festivals, music reading sessions, and master classes at numerous conferences, churches, universities, and music societies 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. Find compositions by Tim Shaw in the Augsburg Fortress Catalog or in Prelude Music Planner