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The Challenges of Leading a Nonprofit Association:
David Bone, FUMMWA
Jim Rindelaub, ALCM
Kelly Abraham, PAM
David L. Bone has served since 1991 as the Executive Director of The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. In this position, he manages the program and financial affairs of The Fellowship. David is also the co-author of “The United Methodist Music and Worship Planner” and “Prepare! A Weekly Worship Planbook.” David was on the worship planning teams for the 2012 and 2016 General Conferences of The UMC.
The Association of Lutheran Church Musicians: Music is a vital expression of Lutheran worship. The church’s song takes many forms and is expressed in many ways. By sharing the knowledge,
experience and passion that honor our heritage and inspire our future, ALCM nurtures and equips those who lead music in worship. ALCM offers practical education programs and diverse resources through conferences, publications and fellowship to serve musicians of all types – from paid professionals to volunteers. By connecting servant leaders to one another and by cultivating their musical gifts, ALCM supports worshipping communities in the proclamation of the gospel.
The Presbyterian Association of Musicians provides resources, conferences, publications and a vast network of members who are engaged in worship, music, and the arts worldwide. Becoming a member of PAM gives you instant access to these valuable benefits which will improve your worship planning for any size church in any location with information addressing new and old issues facing all denominations.
Choir directors, worship musicians, organists, Christian educators, artists, clergy, and lay people will find PAM to be a valuable resource for creative worship planning. PAM is not just for Presbyterians. Other denominations find our resources, conferences, and publications helpful in their service to God.
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: Greetings, everyone. Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. This is a weekly program of interviewing leaders in many different types of organizations, different size organizations, doing different kinds of work. But the common thread is here, is somebody who steps up and has a vision and gets people to the table, people who are passionate about the vision and who want to make a difference in the world.
Today, we have people representing membership organizations. We billed this as a panel of experts. Experts qualifies in my book as somebody who is out of town and who has a proven track record and has an expertise in a defined area. My guests today are friends, people who make a difference in the world, and are doing important work in today’s world that needs more unification. As usual, we ask people to introduce themselves and talk about your organization and what brings you to the table to lead this organization. Jim Rindelaub, is that how you say your name?
Jim Rindelaub: Well said. Better than I can say it. A little bit about my background. I grew up in Lutheran country in southern Minnesota. Went to St. Olaf College and Westminster College. Served in two congregations as a full-time Lutheran church musician. St. Mark’s Lutheran in Jacksonville, Florida and Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Spent 17 years in those two parishes. During that time, I actually was involved in the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians. I was on their board. I chaired conferences. Then, after 17 years in the church, I ended up at Choristers Guild, which was another church music association as their executive director.
One of the questions that you’ve asked is what skills perhaps do we have for these positions? My education was in music. I have two church music degrees. I am an okay musician. My strength is as an administrator. I can make a task list and check off the tasks. Enjoyed doing that. Enjoyed my time at Choristers Guild. That then led to me coming to the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians. That is my background.
ALCM is the network for all Lutheran music leaders. We are the place where we all can come together and share our stories and of course we have resources that we publish for our membership and benefits that we provide.
Hugh: In my first book called Moving Spirits, Building Lives, it’s about a church musician being a transformational leader. We bring singers together. We transform them into a choir. We transform the choir into an ensemble. In ministry work, we transform people’s lives. To me, it’s an important role of leadership. What you have done is transfer that skill into organizational leadership skills. A lot of church musicians haven’t realized they could do that. Where are you sitting today? Jim, where are you located?
Jim: I am in Florida. I work remotely out of a home office. Our business office is in Valparaiso, Indiana. It’s part of the Valparaiso University campus. That is another unique thing about our organization is we are Pan-Lutheran. We serve all of the various Lutheran senates, and all of the smaller ones. As you have said, it is a place for all of these musicians to come together as one, even when we have our differences as part of our church bodies.
Hugh: One God, one faith, one baptism, one choir. We have a lot of choirs singing in the Lord’s song. David Bone is in Nashville, Tennessee. I always love your gracious, warm smile. David, welcome.
David Bone: Thank you, Hugh. I’ll tell about myself. I grew up United Methodist. Singing and making music from five in the church. Had my first church job at 18 through college. I went to grad school at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. After that, I was a musician at a Presbyterian congregation for a few years. As a result of a visit to Nashville 30 years ago today, I decided in May of 1989 to move to Nashville. I would just do music in Nashville. There are only a few people thinking they are going to do that. I did that. I got a part-time job at the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship, working with one of my graduate school colleagues. That was part-time. Gave a bit of an income. Mostly did session work here in town for about 10 years in addition to that.
But in 1991, the office of the Fellowship of the United Methodist in Music and Worship Arts moved here to Nashville without an executive director. That organization is related to and collaborates with what is now called the Discipleship Ministries. I was here and needed some more employment. I applied for that position, and I have been in that since 1991, 28 years almost.
Like Jim, all my degrees are in music. I have learned whatever on the job and picking up from folks like you and other people who work on leadership and helping people to accomplish tasks. I think that the major strength that I bring to the table is I seem to be able to synthesize seemingly disparate items or things going on and figure out how they connect and how that can work for the organization. This person has this gift. How can that work in that specific task? I seem to be able to see those sorts of things. That is one of the biggest strengths I bring to the organization.
I am great at creating task lists. I can see the process. Here are the steps to do this. My training in music education gave me the ability to identify what is your final goal and what are the incremental steps to get there. I love creating that task list. The bad part is I want to walk away and let somebody else manage the task list. I created it, and I’m done. Generally, there is nobody else, so I do have to manage that list. That is what goes on here in Nashville. Our offices are in the building. Some people may be aware of The Upper Room Devotional Magazine. Discipleship Ministries are in the building where I am in Nashville. We just rent space but collaborate with the staff here.
Hugh: I met David years ago going to an introduction of church music children’s program that he was part of developing. You came down and did a workshop with one of my leaders when I was in Huntsville, Alabama. When I decided to write a book, David introduced me to people who helped me shape it. That was my first book. I told David I could teach, so he introduced me to someone who put me on the schedule to teach at the annual music conference. Lo and behold, this woman walked in the room where I was teaching who is now my wife. Indirectly, David is responsible for this delightful marriage that I have. He will take credit for that, I’m sure.
David: Every other day, I’ll take credit for that.
Jim: David is a matchmaker.
Hugh: He and I go back and have had some interesting times doing really interesting work, which you don’t want to make it boring. David is a unifier. I have known him a long time.
I want to do a plug for music organizations. I don’t know why anybody would be in the trenches working in church music who would not belong to an organization and attend events where they can get some learning, get outside your bubble and meet other people and understand what options they are. Jim, why would people join ALCM?
Jim: ALCM, Association of Lutheran Church Musicians. As you said, I think the most important thing about membership is being with your colleagues, being a part of the conversation. All of our Lutheran music leaders have important things to say. They all have important questions. Any time we are missing one of our music leaders, our conversation is not complete.
We do also have benefits. I brought here to my desk a practical publication that we publish three times a year. We have a journal that we publish three times a year. We have a membership directory that we publish three times a year. Monthly at least, we send an e-newsletter to our membership with information. We have lots of digital resources. In the members only area of our website, you receive member rates at our conferences. This one is in Portland this coming June. You receive member rates at our webinars. We have a job placement service. Those are some of the benefits.
Hugh: Wow. David, I bet you have some of those things going on. The question is why should people belong to a church music organization like this, especially yours?
Jim: Did you say David?
David: We really concentrate on our name, as in Fellowship, and the connections that people make to each other. We feel that is vitally important in the work people do. They need to be with people who get them, people who understand what they’re going through, the challenges they face in their situation. We really work to foster that connection with people. People can get training in being a better musician anywhere. We also concentrate in the fellowship somewhat uniquely with the other denominational organizations, on all the arts: visual arts, drama, music, arts which are used in worship services. We want people to be able to connect to other people who are engaged n those pursuits.
Hugh: Can people who are not Methodist or Lutheran join your organization?
David: For sure. I am sure Jim would say the same thing. The Fellowship was founded in 1955. ALCM in the ‘60s – is that right, Jim?
Jim: We were not until 1987 officially.
David: Even as late in the ‘80s, people were joiners, and they are not the way they were at that time. By helping people to connect, we are achieving our mission, which is “To transform the world through worship.” If we can help people have better worship ministries in their local congregations, we believe that is going to transform the world as they are sent out into the world through those worship services. We believe artistic pursuit within those worship services is a prime way of engaging heart, mind, and spirit of worshippers to send them out into the mission and the world.
Jim: I’ll correct myself. 1986 was the beginning of ALCM. I do think we have a few Methodists in our membership who are also members of FUMMWA. There are people who are members of multiple church music organizations.
Hugh: In other membership organizations, people have multiple memberships. Usually you get a different flavor in each one. David, you talked about the vision. You have seen things change over those 20-something years in the culture of the church. Two years ago, The Washington Post had an article that said at the current trajectory, mainline denominations have 23 Easters left. Part of that is we did worship really badly in a lot of our churches. Nobody wants to go because it’s not interesting, and it’s not relevant, and it doesn’t reach out and engage us or transform our lives. I do believe the heart of that is in the music. There is only so much a preacher can do with a sermon. When I was interviewed for Methodist Church in Huntsville, a preacher said, “Music is everything.” I said, “Wait a minute, it’s not everything.” He said, “If I get out and preach, and everything has been dreadful, I have a hard job.” That’s what he meant. Expand on what is the most important challenge for your members? How does the association help them think through those challenges?
David: Oh gosh. I think it’s probably dealing with the changing face of volunteerism. If one is an organist, there may be an organ, but the people quotient is not there. It’s an ever-changing dynamic. Engaging those volunteers, a musician or an artist, it’s hard to make that music if you don’t have those volunteers engaged. I would say my personal philosophy is the congregation is the primary choir of the church, and every musician’s primary responsibility is to that choir and the one that rehearses on Wednesday night is the chamber group and the specialized group. More effort ought to be going into engaging the congregation in the musical life of the church within the worship services. I do think as people try to have choir programs, it’s difficult with volunteers as church attendance changes, fewer people go on a weekly basis. That is one of the biggest challenges affecting folks these days.
Hugh: It’s a constantly evolving set of challenges. I do think in having been a participant in PAM events, hello Kelly, and FUMMWA events, having been a leader teaching non-musical things, there is a set of systems and skills and processes the church musician needs to know. The book you helped me formulate, I defined in there two things that were life changing paradigm shifts for me.
One is there is a huge difference between a musician that does church and a church musician. It is equipping people for that specialized ability. It is not about the music really. It is about engaging the people in the movement forward.
The other one, when I left this 12,000-member church in Atlanta, I defined my music director position as 10% of my work was music. The rest of the work, the pyramid that the iceberg is under the water made that music possible. It is like the book that was written, Things That Were Never Taught to Me About Being a Church Musician. Other things we need to be able to lead in this vast wasteland of resources and empowering people. Part of our job is influence. I want to go back and delve into equipping people to lead as part of why people want to be in a membership organization.
Kelly has joined us- I don’t know if you’re in Louisville today.
Kelly Abraham: Today, I’m in Austin. I’m at a seminary and I have been in meetings. I apologize for being late; we just wrapped one up. Jumping into another one now. My apologies.
Hugh: Let’s let you catch up. We needed some female in this interview. Talk about PAM. I was there when they formed the Presbyterian Association of Musicians way back in history. Talk about you a little bit. What do you bring to the table as a leader of this association? Why should people join PAM?
Kelly: I’m going to assume everyone else has answered that question already.
Hugh: They were very eloquent.
Kelly: Oh gosh. Yes, of course they were. I come to PAM as a conferee. I come to PAM as a faculty and as a conference director. I really came to PAM through my colleague at the Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky named Marlon Hearst. Working with him and learning about collaborative worship and the importance of intentional liturgy was how I was introduced to PAM. Then it was through the worship and music conferences we all joined together and attended and brought materials to our church. I come from a business background. I left the business world and did youth ministry for 12 years. I got to put my business hat back on and direct PAM.
Hugh: Why should people consider joining this association?
Kelly: Why would you join a music association? First of all, it’s a place for colleagues to gather, to have some community, and to share ideas. But I also think, as with all our organizations, it’s a place to empower, to enrich, to challenge our musicians. It’s easy when you’re working by yourself in a church to get comfortable with ideas or procedures or styles that you have. I think our organizations are in place not only to bring you new materials, but also to challenge you to look at worship through different eyes, to push us forward, to grapple with formed theology, and to create the space to work with other people. My meetings today were Yes, PAM is here to empower, but we are here to challenge you as well, to get you out of your shell, to stretch you a little bit. I think that is what this organization needs to be doing and is doing on some fronts with our journals, conferences, webinars, and conversations we have with our members regularly.
Hugh: I have a lot of gratitude. I went to the PAM conferences for 35 years in a row. Like David Bone, I started when I was 18. I had never been in a choir. I was a pianist, studying music as an undergraduate. I knew something about music. A dude worked there, and in those years, there was equal emphasis in the church on theology and on music. I messaged some of those great musicians in the world. I met some of the great theologians in the world. I met Galacy, who recently passed away, who was the office of worship in Louisville. I was part of an 8-year funded study on worship. That was a game-changer for me. In many of my churches, I knew everything about worship. I coordinated everything because I knew how worship should be designed and how to create energy around it. I intentionally grew myself. I was one of those people that they shouldn’t have let into music school and they shouldn’t have let out. I applied myself and learned. If I had a favorite conference, which I shouldn’t have, it might be PAM. But I have shifted my allegiance to the Methodist church because I married into that. Our new president is my bride. I have an allegiance to one, but I certainly support all of you in your work.
We are talking about challenges in leadership from where you sit. We have talked a little bit about challenges of people in the boat with you who are trying to row. What is your number one challenge where you sit? David, you have been in this the longest, so yours may have changed over the years. Do you want to start? What is the biggest challenge you face going forward in this dynamic organization?
David: Once again, it comes to volunteerism. That has changed. Engaging people in taking care of things. People experience the world online so easily. They have expectations of an association, particularly in the digital realm. I know that frequently I joke that people assume I have a building of minions here in Nashville who take care of things and generate some idea. That will be great. I put the minions on that. We have 1.5 staff persons. We are all in the case of 1-2 staff people. We run a $500,000 budget with events and everything else the associations do. Engaging our board members and engaging our members in the work of the associational volunteer level. That is a challenge. Encouraging that leadership. I would also say that encouraging younger leadership is a great challenge.
Hugh: I would say those are universal challenges with any nonprofit (I hate that word), but we have for-profit businesses and for-purpose organizations. I think that’s a universal challenge. Engaging our boards, engaging or volunteers. Another paradigm I changed in Huntsville is we eliminated volunteers in that church because we figured it was contrary to our theology. God calls us. We have members and ministry. We were intentional about giving them leadership positions, so that took a lot of management. We got a lot more done because we reversed the paradigm. You were called to do this work. For us, it was changing the paradigm. Then charging people with specific work. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight.
Jim or Kelly- Kelly, you and I talked about board engagement. That is universal. How are you seeing that as a challenge to your work?
Kelly: Any time you are in for-purpose work, you are working with people who have another full-time job. They are somewhere else everyday. What I will say is I don’t see a lack of passion for PAM within the membership. They are incredibly passionate and want to be helpful. My challenge is how to engage that and how to best find ways to engage some of these younger people who are coming in and saying I want to be helpful, and thinking outside of the box of ways to engage people in an organization. A lot of these positions are faculty or board positions. What else are we doing to make sure we have all the voices who have something to say? How do I make sure I am hearing all of those voices?
The other thing I am running into, and I’m not sure if you guys run into this as well, is the silos with the domination as a whole. We have these 501(c)3 offshoots from the denomination. Everyone is working really hard to make sure that their purposes are doing what they need to do. They are pausing for a moment because you have a short staff. We don’t have the time or space to pause for a minute and think of, How could we do this better if we engaged this or that group?
I’ll use PAM as an example. For our Worship in Music conferences, we have youth and children’s components. When you assign those parts of the leadership every year, you see some blank stares on their planning faces because that’s not who they are. They are musicians. How are we engaging APSE, our Presbyterian church educators, to help PAM ensure that our youth and children’s component of our conferences are excellent, like our Worship in Music parts? What I am working on now is trying to engage these organizations in creating more synergy so we are working together instead of separately for lots of reasons. I think it’s better and healthier, and it creates excellence on all levels. But also, denominations are shrinking. Instead of hiding in our own corners and doing what we need to do because we are so busy right now, stopping and figuring out how to do this together better.
Hugh: That is key. Jim, do you want to jump in on this conversation?
Jim: One thing I think is a challenge for membership associations is that 30 years ago, we all depended on our association for our information, if we had questions, we went to our association. Now, the next generation goes to Google for the answer to all of their questions, including their church music questions. It’s a challenge transitioning to that new world order. Technology. It also sometimes means that we need systems to keep that up, to create another expense. They have monthly maintenance fees. That is a new challenge.
Something in ALCM that has been a challenge is the increase in contemporary music. ALCM was a liturgical organization. Sometimes contemporary music is not as liturgical. It’s been a struggle sometimes to know how to best support our contemporary music colleagues when we come from a liturgical angle. Those are a few challenges for us.
Hugh: David, you mentioned the vision of FUMMWA. I want to talk about a defining moment when I did a cabinet retreat for bishops in Nashville, Tennessee. He said, “My cabinet doesn’t do the vision. I have the vision. I don’t remember reading in the Bible that God gave a vision to a committee.” One of the duties and delights of a leader is to say, “Here is my vision for taking the organization forward.” It may not be the stated vision of the organization, but it’s your vision of how we are going to function, how we are going to be in 3-5 years.
Let’s start with you, David. What is your vision for building this out over the next 3-5 years? What do you see on the horizon?
David: I think Kelly has a great answer for that.
Hugh: Are you a politician?
David: Let’s see. Kelly and Jim have been doing it for a few years. I have been doing it for a lot of years. Keeping that vision going can be a real challenge. Let me think on that a little bit. I bet Kelly- I always am impressed when I talk with Kelly about putting things together.
Hugh: She is also Presbyterian. Our co-host has not been able to get on. He can’t get on today because he has a power outage in Denver. Kelly, I remember some formative moments, especially when Eric Radley was there. He said, “No wonder you Scots are the ones who pray for forgiveness, our debts.” There is something specific about Scottish Presbyterians. You come at this with some youth ministry. If you can do youth ministry, you can do anything. I learned everything I need to know about leadership teaching middle school for three years. You come at this with a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds. You and I have talked about some of the ways you want to move this organization. You want to share nay of those?
Kelly: That was January we talked, right? Good grief. So much has happened since then. I find it exciting with PAM that we have got some goals that were put in place, and they have some objectives the board is working on. What I am finding exciting right now is getting this opportunity to talk to members and hearing all the different ideas. They are all great ideas, but you cannot do them all. It’s like dinner theatre. Together, maybe not so great. The board is gonna talk and sit down and do some strategic planning and visioning and 5 and 10-year plans. You get a ton of great ideas and energy coming to the table to work together to sift out what we want to be. Does that work with the mission of PAM? I find the next nine months to be exciting to learn about where we’re gonna go. You have to do that. You have to have board support. When you have a staff of 1-2, you won’t get it done by yourself.
Hugh: I want to piggyback on that. You notice I refrained when David said he had a staff of 1.5, I didn’t ask him which one he was.
Kelly, you already bought my book. I was impressed. You hit on a really important thing we teach at SynerVision Leadership Foundation. Having the board engaged in developing the strategy is a new architecture of engagement. I live to eliminate board meetings. I learned that rehearsals were an attitude adjustment. People leave feeling better than when they came in. Meetings ought to be like rehearsals. What are the deliverables? Skip the agenda. That’s old thinking. What are we trying to accomplish? How are we going to get there? We drive toward results. No conductor uses an agenda for rehearsals. We look at the results we want.
I just finished a year and a half at the Lynchburg Symphony. There has been a huge difference n engagement in the board because we have set a strategy. All the committee chairs are functioning underneath the yearly goals for that. There are accountabilities along the way. They liked my work so much that I am the incoming president of the board for the Lynchburg Symphony. I stood up when I should have shut up. Now I have to produce what I am teaching. I will be in a similar boat to you come June 1.
Talk about that a little more. I have agreed to help resource you with some tools. Tools are like notes on a keyboard. You play them differently. What is the pathway? How do you hope that will transform engagement in that process? You’re doing the strategy with the board, and part of your strategy is to get them engaged in the nuts and bolts so they know where they can be engaged and step up.
Kelly: If I vision it myself and tell them how to do it, I don’t think there’s buy-in. I think if the board does it together, then they are the ones who are coming up with the idea. Anything that we do, when we plan it and execute it, we understand it more deeply and are more emotionally attached to it. I think they’re excited. They know there is some great stuff we can be doing and should be doing. To have everybody in the room, the hardest part is finding and taking that time to set it aside and do it. They are the voices. You have a board of nine. They are the voices who will go out and share this information with the members one on one. We can talk about it on the website; we can talk about it in a webinar. But it’s when you are in these events sharing it with your fellow membership, that’s where the buy-in happens. It’s word of mouth.
Hugh: There is a reverse value. They can learn from participating here and take it back to their churches, community choirs, school. They can do better what they are doing. David was right. Call on you first. You have the goods. Jim, we’re giving David time to think about this. What is your vision for the organization you lead?
Jim: Some things that we’re doing in the future, we are doing more with webinars. We are in process of putting together a class. One of them will be on Christian hymnody, and the other will be on Lutheran liturgy in music. These would be 10-session classes. We are setting those up for next fall and next spring. That is a digital vision for us.
Last year, we started something brand new, which was doing one-day Saturday-only workshops around the country. We had previously done three or four-day conferences either nationally or regionally. Last summer, we did 36 of these one-day events. We almost had the triple number people at a one-day event than we would have at a national conference. We were happy with that and intend to communicate those one-day events.
We are looking at restructuring our regions. We are currently set up in four regions of the country. We are intending to change those to six differently drawn regions. We actually have over 16,000 Lutheran churches in the country. Our membership is 1,650, so we have about 10% of those Lutheran churches who are members. We are looking for ways to better communicate with all those 16,000 Lutheran churches. We are sending more things to all the churches rather than only to our membership, hoping to better connect with all the churches. Those are a few things we are looking at.
Hugh: David, you’ve had time to mull. I went across the street here to one of our local Methodist churches. Leigh Ann works for the district, so we visit different churches every Sunday. We complimented the preacher on how the flow of worship was done and how the pastor and music worked well together. He said, “She talked me into going to a conference. I learned a whole lot of stuff. I now go every year and we take people.” I used to take a whole group of 20-30 people on a retreat and did a whole year’s planning. Talk about supporting the members and the organization as a whole. Is that part of it: engaging pastors in this learning?
David: There are so many areas of growth. I have always said that increasing our number of teams from churches that attend an event. If one person from a church attends an event, or two or more people attend an event, especially if one is the pastor, that can help make a profound effect on that worship life of that congregation.
As I look 3-5 years in the future, and think about it more, and learn from Kelly, there is a synthesis within our denomination, which is going through some troubled waters at the moment. We have to be sure we are doing our best to remain steadfast in a time of difficulty for the denomination and chart those waters. We don’t know where all that’s going. That is a piece that is hard to see the future.
But we do know there are two areas of growth we need to address. One is engaging more with young people and fostering mentoring relationships. The other is creating our racial, ethnic diversity, both in our membership and at our events to make our events look more like the Kingdom of God than what they have looked like in the past. In addition to the goals of getting pastors to events and training our folks to be better worship leaders and musicians, those are some big areas of work. Our denominational staff in worship, there are three new staff people who will be working right down the hall from me. When that team is in place, the next few years will be a time of relearning each other and collaboration, not duplicating our efforts and working with the other entities to the good of all.
Hugh: I noticed when we were together recently in Charleston at a Lutheran event, but all of you were there, and there were constituents from multiple denominations. We have only used the word “collaboration.” Talk about collaborative opportunities and why those are important.
David: I will say it was at a Lutheran church, but it wasn’t a Lutheran event. Not to steal Jim’s thunder.
Jim: A lot of Lutheran publishers there, but no, not a Lutheran event.
Hugh: Oh okay. Obviously, you guys were working together. There were opportunities for collaboration in any kind of organization that we don’t think about.
David: That really started with three music publishers, on the supply end of work. They wanted to put together an event. They invited these three associations to participate. That was an idea that came from the supplier end. They are providing resources for musicians. It was a great collaboration for us all to promote that event. We all had members there. It worked out well.
Hugh: Anybody else want to talk about collaborative opportunities and why they are important?
Jim: I think we all work well together. In particular, FUMMWA and ALCM are looking at doing our one-day workshops together. Down the road, we have talked about doing a national conference together. I am always impressed by the excitement of doing things together, which is pleasing.
Hugh: Kelly, you want to weigh in?
Kelly: Yes. I think I said it earlier. We have to collaborate. With our shrinking denominations and with the cumulative knowledge across organizations, there is so much value in collaboration, things we can learn. One-day events. Listening to you talk about 36 one-day events. To be able to collaborate together. What can we do that we are not taking time and resources to produce these things individually, but we could do together? NCSM was a good example of that. We were all in the same room. Everyone learned quite a bit. We were able to take home some great materials across denominational lines. I learned so much from Jim and David. David has been at this a long time. It’s fun to hear that. You have quite a bit of institutional history. You have the trial and error to say, “This will work, or you may not want to try that.” There is value in not reinventing the wheel.
David: Sometimes it does need to be reinvented. I have known for 15 years that there are many times I do need to get out of the way and let things develop. If the board has ideas. There is a fine line there in leading the board when you have a long history to staying out of the way when needed.
Hugh: The wisdom is to know when. We need the parallel volunteer work to make sure it gets done. There is a mentoring aspect, which is the antithesis to micro-managing.
Talk about leadership and self-care. You are in a position that I have seen many people burn out in. It’s important, my leadership principles, the strategy and foundation is first, relationships is second, having good systems that these good people with a good mission can work in, and balance. Balance is not all about managing the priorities, but it’s about caring for physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional self. Two aspects of this. How do you care for yourself emotionally and physically? How do you grow your abilities on a continuing basis? Anyone can start this. One or both.
David: I’ll jump in if I can. After a period of discernment, last year, I decided there were a lot of things I wanted to begin to engage in for my musicianship and projects that I both have going on. A couple of annual books I update. I worked out with my board to get my work done in four days a week instead of five. I work four longer days and have Fridays for that self-care to be engaged in other projects that feed me more than writing checks and taking care of event registrations and asking a question about why they can’t open a page on the website. Trying to find those things that give me more life than some of the day-to-day aspects here. I don’t have relationships that work on a Friday. That’s what gives me life here are the relationships. That’s been one thing that’s been good. It’s been challenging though. We all know we don’t work 40-hour-a-week jobs. When you are trying to do the work in 40 hours and knowing what’s not getting done, that’s been a real challenge. But I feel good about the self-care Fridays.
Hugh: Who else?
Jim: A couple things I do. I always force myself to take all of my vacation days. That’s something that helps me maintain health. There is an awful lot of people who let those vacation days go by. I force myself to do them every year.
I do have a part-time church music director position in a Lutheran church that is a joy. It’s a complete change of scenery for me to do that. I have rehearsals one evening a week. I have one Sunday morning service. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it’s an enjoyable way for me to stay connected in making music and not only be an administrator. Typically, I do find a professional development conference to go to. Just this past January, there is an organization called the Association of Lutheran Development Executives. I went to their continuing education conference. That is another way to energize.
Hugh: Great. Kelly?
Kelly: Let’s see. For me, your question was self-care, but what are some things that we find with leadership? I am very comfortable saying what I know, and I am very comfortable saying what I don’t know. I am comfortable admitting in this space I am not a musician. I am comfortable saying I care deeply for liturgy and value music immensely. It’s incredibly important to me to make sure we preserve that in our churches. I rely on my board. I find comfort in that. For me, that’s a comforting thing. I can let go of things I know I simply do not have expertise in. The board relies on me to have expertise.
I love the strategic planning and dreaming piece of it. I love collaborating. I find energy in that. And coming up with new ideas. Which is why I am in Austin today. The constant question of how can we do this better. What can we do to serve the church better, our musicians better?
You’re right. Where do you find space in that to take care of yourself? I am married to an exercise physiologist/scientist. Exercise is important in our house. That is something I have to do regularly. When I don’t, I do find I get in a funk. That is one way I take care of myself.
Jim, you touched on this with taking vacation. Going off the grid. You’re not checking emails or answering phone calls. Working in a church for 12 years and being responsible for youth and their parents, that was a tough thing to do. Boundaries. I am working hard on that. Being okay with saying I’m taking the day.
Hugh: Yes. It’s hard saying no to something you’re passionate about, isn’t it?
Kelly: Yeah. It can tire you out.
Hugh: According to research I look at, nationally, the burnout rate of nonprofit executive directors is at 45%. The ones we know about. 75% are looking at the exit door because there is too much work and too many expectations from the board. David talked about getting the board to validate that he needed Fridays off for self-care, self-development, a break. We sleep at night so we have another go at it tomorrow. We’re not good to our organization if we are burned out or stressed out. That is a good model to share with your members, I would guess.
If I were a pastor, and you were face-to-face with me, and we were talking about your events, and they say, “I’m not a pastor. I don’t need to come to that. My musician should come,” how would you respond to that so it would be an open invitation for them?
David: I would say you are right. Thank you. Let’s talk about ice cream. Don’t try to teach a pig to sing. I don’t mean that. There has to be that spark. If you don’t see that spark there, show me, if that’s all you’re getting, I can encourage. I can offer you a free registration. I can do everything I can to try to get you there. Hopefully that spark will be there. Frankly, I think that most musicians, if they can’t have a pastor go with them to an event, they’d like a pastor who can plan further out than Thursday. That is the #1 thing with folks. The #1 challenge between pastors and musicians. We know the website Discipleship Ministries has some great planning resources. They hit their peak Saturday night at 11:00 EST.
Hugh: Oh my word. They know because they measure. Jim and Kelly, we are in our last five minutes here. What would you say to a pastor? Is there any use in having that dialogue?
David: Don’t be as cynical as David.
Jim: Where is the ice cream?
Kelly: I’ll go cup half full, David. What do I say to a pastor? There is an incredible value with collaborative worship. Like you’re saying, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. What I love about these conferences is we are able to model what we believe churches should be doing. We are modeling collaborative worship. We have worship every day at conferences. We have worship reflections following the worship service, where the entire worship planning team, musician, liturgist, pastor are at the table working with a group of 45. The 45 will say, “Gee, I wish my pastor was here.” Invite them.
Another thing I often think about is meet them where they are. You can give them a conference registration. What are some other things? Maybe the conference we’re doing is never going to appeal to that pastor. Maybe we ought to be doing something completely different. The titles change. Stop trying to put a round peg in a square hole. Maybe we need to be going about it differently. We need to be offering something completely different that appeals to pastors. But we need to listen and figure out what that is.
Hugh: Listening. That’s a musical thing. Jim, do you want to take a shot at it?
Jim: We keep inviting pastors. We do like to have pastors at the conferences. We will offer workshops specifically related to pastoral ministry. We might do a homiletics series of workshops that is appealing to pastors. But in general, it will be the pastors who have a special interest in music who will tend to come to our conferences. We would love to have as many as possible.
Hugh: The real truth is pastors will learn how to do worship planning because very few seminaries teach them that. The old sales tactic that worked for me when people would come up after worship and complain about a hymn is feel, felt, found. I know how you feel. I felt that way. Here’s what I found out. There was value. It gets them in a meaningful conversation.
I’m going to give you each a shot at one tip you’d like to give a leader leading a nonprofit or membership organization there.
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Jim: As far as a tip, you mentioned there is a lot of burnout. Take a deep breath and keep going. Don’t give up. Delegate as much as you can. Try to find volunteers to move as much off of your plate as you can.
Kelly: I would suggest that Jim is right on. Listen. Take a lot of time to listen. In all the conversations. Every conversation you have is important. The ideas come to me in listening to people’s comments and letting them simmer. We don’t need to take action right away. A lot of time as executive directors, you get a phone call and you’re being called to act right away. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. There is value in listening and letting these ideas simmer a bit.
Hugh: Great. David?
David: Any time you spend in relationship building is good time. Sending a birthday card, when you find out one of your older members has taken a fall, any of that that you do, a lot of days it feels like I have other tasks I need to do, but I really am committed to that relationship building. Keeping those relationships is a great part of nonprofit work and what keeps me going.
Hugh: Amen. A lot of good sound bites and wisdom today. Thank you Kelly, Jim, and David. Especially check out their events coming up. Having been to many of these, I recommend that you go and listen. Kelly, that is a great theme. Thank you all for sharing your wisdom. Thank you all for being here today.