12 Social Skills Required for Every Christian Music Leader

12 Social Skills Required for Every Christian Music Leader
Joe McKeever

Ministry leader, how are your social skills?

A retired seminary professor, now ministering in a different church every weekend, posted an interesting little note on Facebook.

That day, he had been wondering whether the host pastor had appreciated his sermon. So far, the preacher had not said a word. But as they walked toward the parking lot, the pastor said, “Before you go, would you like a cup of coffee?” Thinking the pastor wanted to visit a bit, the professor said, “Sure, that would be fine.”

The pastor said, “You, will notice a McDonald’s on your right as you leave town. They serve a great cup of coffee.”

Not exactly what the visitor had in mind. Some of us who have had similar conversations found it amusing.

Dr. Adrian Rogers once said to me, “Do you ever get up to Memphis?” I said I did from time to time. He said, “Well, don’t ever worry about a place to eat or a place to stay. We have some of the best restaurants and hotels you will ever find anywhere.”

I laughed and said, “Thanks a lot!”

As a fellow retiree (and thus a guest preacher in some 30 or more churches a year), I have had similar experiences as my professor friend. One of the most common things that happens after I preach in a church is nothing.

Not a note of thanks or acknowledgement. In fact, if they send the honorarium later, in most cases the envelope has the check and nothing else. It feels as though this was a business arrangement and I’m being paid for services rendered in the same way we might mail off payment to the pest control company without a word.

I’m pretty much OK by that, incidentally. I’m a big boy. Being completely human and thus fallible, I would not be surprised if I have dropped the ball in this regard myself and let some guest servant of the Lord depart without a note of thanks.

If so and if one of those so mistreated reads this please forgive me. I’m still trying to improve.

My wife, listening as I rehearsed these incidents with her before turning on the computer, said, “You were exactly that way before we lived in Jackson. That great church taught you some social skills.”(She refers to our three years on staff of the great First Baptist Church of Jackson, Miss. In some respects, it was the equivalent of a three-year seminary education.)

We all have to learn somewhere.

Here is my list of 12 basic social skills every servant of the Lord will need as he/she leads God’s people.

1. Say thank you. There is no more basic social skill than simple gratitude, appreciating what others have done for you. We do well to say thank you to the waitress, to the child who holds the elevator door and to our spouse for his/her kindness.

2. Say, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. A principal had enraged his faculty and student body by some bone-headed policy. Now everyone was mad at him, and school morale was in the basement. A counselor suggested he get on the intercom and admit that the policy was wrong, say how sorry he was, ask everyone to please forgive him and say he would try to do better.

A few days later, the principal told the counselor, Everyone reacted so well, they’re now coming up and hugging me. It worked so well, I’m now looking for some other stupid decision to make so I can apologize again!

3. Politely ask people to do things and not order them to do it. “Would you please type this letter for me?” “I know we have you meeting yourself coming and going with all the work you do here, but if you could lead that session it would take a great burden off me.” “Could you possibly pick up the speaker at the airport? I�d love for you to know him and him to know you.”

4. Appreciate what others do, even if it was only their duty. I once wrote a note of appreciation concerning our church janitor and published it in the Sunday bulletin, emphasizing how much we all love walking into a clean sanctuary to worship God. A couple of years later, I noticed he had taped that column to the inside of the door to the broom closet. What I did in five minutes sustained him for years.

5. Remember names. The sweetest sound on earth? A baby’s laughter, a bird’s song, your favorite concert artist, your sweetheart cooing in your ear? Nope. The sound of one’s own name being called ranks far and above all the others.

Pastors who stand at the exit and greet departing worshippers should work at calling names. And one thing more: Accept that you will get one wrong from time to time. This is happening so quickly, you’re on autopilot, and no one is perfect. When you get a name wrong, just say, “Sorry!” (I’ve actually forgotten the name of someone as close as a family member. We are human, and our memory is not infallible.)

6. Admit when you have forgotten a name, and ask for it. No one remembers everyone’s names. Last Sunday morning, a family that had moved away a few years ago was back for a visit. As we greeted and chatted (and yes, I brought out the sketch book and knocked out quick likenesses of their two handsome sons), I admitted I could not remember the names of their sons. Joshua and Noah did not mind telling me.

Few things are more awkward than faking it, pretending to know a name when you have lost it. I suggest familiarizing yourself with a few stock phrases, such as, “I have gone completely blank; remind me of your name” or “I hate when this happens, but I cannot remember your name. Sorry.” Smile, do not make a big deal of it, and they won’t either.

7. Write notes of appreciation when a simple verbal thank you is insufficient. Sometimes what the individual did was far beyond just a simple act of kindness. They went out of their way to come to your aid or were extremely generous. In such cases, email and tweeting and Facebook notes are all out. Sit down and handwrite a personal, well-thought-out letter of appreciation.

8. Refrain from defending yourself or alibi-ing when you have offended another. “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1) was never truer than in the ministry. Granted, there may be those rare times when an explanation for our behavior is in order. But in most cases, to explain will come across as trying to excuse misbehavior.

9. Squelch the urge to interrupt. Let the speaker talk. Coming from a large family there were six children in my family, all of us born in a nine-year span he who did not interrupt was never heard. The skill developed there and honed in a boarding house during college may serve one well on talk shows, but it has no place in kingdom work. We must work at respecting others and listening to them before speaking.

10. Control the urge to top a great story with one of your own. Enjoy the person’s story, and let them be the center of attention.

Being a natural storyteller, I’m in heaven when another raconteur joins me for a cup of afternoon coffee. He tells a story, then I share one of mine. The sequence is totally unplanned, but his story makes me think of one, just as mine prompts one in him. (I’ve done this with Country Hall of Fame artist Jerry Clower, author Tony Campolo and pastor Perry Sanders, three of the best.)

In pastoral situations, however, ministers do well to turn off that feature of our personality and let the speaker have the floor uninterruptedly.

11. Don’t talk too much, too long or too loud. I’m not sure why preachers do this. Thankfully, not all do, but far too many do. I’m the biggest culprit I know in this regard.

The best remedy is twofold: a) ask the Father to help and b) ask our spouse to let us know.

12. And finally, we do well to work on our smile and a warm greeting. The thing is, we feel we are smiling on the outside even if we’re not. In one church where we telecast our morning services, I stood in the foyer before a camera and gave a live welcome to the television audience. Later, watching the video, I was struck with how stern I looked, not at all pleasant. And yet I had been certain I was smiling!

I discovered that I must make a conscious effort to smile broadly in order for the cameras to register that I am actually doing so. (A note here: As a sketch artist who draws thousands of people a year, I hear people talking about not wanting to give me a “fake smile.” That’s a strange term. In actual fact, there is no such thing. When we make ourselves smile, we are still smiling. It’s a genuine smile. The only thing is it was not provoked by something cute or funny or friendly. But it’s just as genuine as a kind deed you do out of the blue that was not in return for a kindness done to you.)

One of my all-time favorite deacons, Atwell Andrews, would look up as you entered his shoe store. His face would break into a glorious smile, and he would call out your name. As he moved in your direction with his hand outstretched, ready to welcome you, he would say warmly, “Tell me if you are all right!” This brother is long in heaven, but the sweet sound of that greeting lingers.

“Be kind to one another.” Kindness will cover a multitude of sins.

No one appointed either of us you or me to announce how well the singer performed the national anthem prior to the game. We should squelch the temptation to find fault with political talks, public concerts, community events and school games. We do well to train ourselves to relax and enjoy it, and leave the authoritarian’s hat in the hall closet.

Somewhere I read that when Billy and Ruth Graham were being shown the property on the mountaintop outside Montreat, N.C., which they bought and which became their home for the next half-century, the realtor was startled to come upon an old moonshiner’s jug, half-buried in the leaves. He wondered what Mrs. Graham would say about that. She smiled and said, “Well, I guess someone felt they needed this to get through these harsh winters.”

Grace is always in order. Kindness is never out of date or uncalled for.

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

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The above article, “12 Social Skills Required for Every Christian Music Leader” is written by Joe McKeeer. The article was excerpted from joemckeever.com.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.