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Janae Shepherd is my former Church’s Music Director at my Church when I lived in Missouri.She now works at another Church still in Missouri. She nicely agreed to share a little bit of insight on her job as a Music Director Associate through some questions.I’m sure you’ll enjoy her beautiful heart for God as much as I do!
Did you study Music or anything Worship Leading in College?
Yes, I studied church music at a Christian college. This degree has helped me a
lot as I learned specific things related to church music ministry. The program
was very similar to what general music, performance and music education
students were studying, as far as core classes. I had additional classes on
music leading, church music literature, church music history. I also had an
internship with a local minister of music that was most helpful to me. I still
maintain contact with this person and several of my professors and they’ve been
a big help to me with questions I have about situations that arise in my
A lot of my colleagues have music degrees—maybe music performance or music
education. I would say in churches about 1000 members or less, they would
simply require that their music minister have a music degree. In a lot of
larger churches (more than 1000 members), the worship pastor or minister of
music will have an undergrad degree in music and a seminary degree of some
sort. I have a friend at a large church in the KC area and he has a master’s in
music, which is very unusual in the church world. (Like I said, most will have
a seminary degree). His master’s degree focused more on music training, as
opposed to theological training, which is what you get at a seminary.
In some scenarios, the worship leader may not have a music degree at all. I
imagine that would be in even smaller churches where the music minister and
pianist may be the only ones with any music skill. In a lot of contemporary
churches, who may just have a worship band, a degree may not be required, but
the worship leader or music minister will have some training in their
background—informal perhaps. But I think a lot of it depends on your situation
and the needs of your job. Churches with different needs look for individuals
with a specific skill-set and education needed for their scenario.
What is your job like as Music Director Associate at a Church?
If there is something the congregation will be singing that would be a good
“Instrumental Call to Worship” I’ll arrange it to make it an instrumental
piece. I have a computer program called “Finale” that I use to write music.
It’s just a computer version of staffEach scenario is different and even my job is kind of a “hybrid” position that
has been structured to fit my skills. My main responsibility is leading the
orchestra. I direct our weekly rehearsals, plan for these and recruit players.
So, each week I find out what my worship pastor has planned. I arrange for a
volunteer to come and pull the music and put together books for my players.
They all play different instruments, so they all have different parts. My
worship pastor plans months ahead what the choir will sing each week, so every
week in rehearsal we will rehearse the congregational music for the coming
week, along with several upcoming choir pieces. About every 4-6 weeks the
orchestra plays a special—either an instrumental “Call to Worship” or
“Offertory”. Every week we’ll have a couple of these pieces in our rehearsal
order so we can continually have something ready. paper and pencil. This is actually one of
my favorite things to do—changing a vocal piece to an instrumental piece.
That’s sort of my creative outlet!
Another part of my job is coordinating our age-graded choir program for kids.
This means I supply our preschool and kids choir leaders with materials they
need to lead their classes, and publicize the program within the church. I’ll
also seek out opportunities for my volunteers to get more training. They are
all volunteers so I think it’s important to help them learn more and become
better teachers. In 2012/13 we had three choirs—4 & 5 year olds, grades 1-2
and grades 3-5 (I taught the oldest group). This coming year (2013/14) we will
have four. We are adding a 3-year-old choir and I will be teaching it. Being
involved in the children’s and preschool choir program allows me to get to know
the kids in my church, which I love, because I have always loved kids!
What do you like the most about your job?
Good question—what I like most is the interaction with my people. I get so encouraged
by their dedication. Our total involvement in worship ministry is close to 150
people, but only 2 people out of all those are paid (me and my boss). Their
commitment to weekly rehearsals, at-home practice and being here on Sunday
morning is amazing!
I get to work with the best people. They dedicate themselves so much to this
ministry because they love Jesus! Working with my orchestra members is also
very uplifting for me. They are just great people to work with and I feel like
some of them are my family. We genuinely care for each other’s needs!
Another cool thing about this is being involved in people’s lives. We have some
orchestra members who started playing when they started high school (about age
14-15). It’s cool to see them grow up, develop as musicians and eventually go
onto college. It’s hard to see them go, but it’s a good feeling to know I was a
part of their growth. I’ve been at my church nearly 5 years, so I’m getting to
the point where kids I worked with in children’s choir are in high school. It’s
been cool to see how God has worked in their lives through all that life
Also, getting to know the kids. A huge passion of mine is investing in them and
helping them grow in Christ. Plus, they are so funny! My boss even allows me to
invest in students and kids in non-musical ways. Last summer I got to go to
summer camp with our 3-6th graders and just hang loose with them. For me it was
such a great time to be with them and watch them grow closer to God. I get to
go this year again. I’m so excited!
I have some great coworkers. Obviously, a big part of my time at work is spent
in the office. My coworkers make is a lot more fun. We have about 15 people on
staff, working in the office and we just like being with each other. Each week
at staff meeting we laugh and have a good time (oh, and we actually do work).
About once a month, we’ll eat lunch together, whether for a birthday or other
In your opinion, what is the best way people can pray for those involved
in music in the Church or in the Christian music industry?
Pray that we stay strong. Just like people in the real world, we work
hard and can get so busy we don’t have time to spend with God. It can be a
trap. Working in a church, one may get fooled into thinking their spiritual
life is ok, even if they’re slipping. Doing ministry for God is NOT the same as
spending time WITH God, in personal worship, bible study and prayer. You hear
sometimes about a pastor or Christian leader who has committed a big sin. That
stuff doesn’t just happen. It’s a gradual thing.
Pray that we stay connected with other believers. Church leaders don’t
always feel free to share their struggles with other believers in their own
church because we’re supposed to be strong. It can be lonely. We need to be
transparent and share our needs with others so they can strengthen us.
One thing I caution people about is having compassion on your church
leaders (This is not really a way to pray for them, and I don’t even know if
“compassion” is the right word). Those of us in music ministry are, I think,
born with this need to be people-pleasers. It’s hard when people complain that
we don’t sing the songs you like or it’s too loud. Right or wrong, we want to
make people happy and we want people to be pleased with our music. Sometimes
people are hurtful when they don’t consider that there are lots of different
people with different musical needs. A big part of our job is to educate people
about worship and train them what it means to be a worshipper. We want to teach
you that it’s about your heart. You may not “connect” with every song, but
maybe there’s something you could learn from it. We sing a lot of different
songs in different styles because all those different things help the ENTIRE
church worship—not just one segment. We can learn to accept and embrace
different styles, instrumentation, words, expressions in worship.
Thank you so much Janae for
taking the time to answer these questions for us!
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