“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” James Clear
This humbling and empowering quote is from a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. From my experience, life is easier when systems are in place. For example, keeping an apartment, house, or workspace organized is much easier when everything has a place. Lack of clarity where things go can often lead to disorganization.
Over the years, I’ve learned the lessons of the importance of systems the hard way. At a previous church I served, there was a system for passing in music, but not for putting music back in the appropriate storage boxes. The Adult Choir sang an anthem in worship every Sunday from September to June. As you can imagine, music built up in piles on various surfaces in the Choir Room. Every few months, a group of volunteers from the Adult Choir would sort the music and file it. After a few times of this happening, a few choir members and I met to figure out the best way of collecting music and filing it away so that it became more manageable and took less work from volunteers. With input and constructive dialogue, we figured out procedures that worked. We decided that it would be best if a few people helped so that filing away music didn’t rely on one or two people. We also had two different bins: one to turn in that Sunday’s anthem, and another bin for music from previous Sundays.
Now that I’m at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Iowa City, Iowa, I’m putting my past experience to good use. I’ve scheduled a meeting with two choir members to clarify a routine for distributing/collecting music and updating the online database. Thankfully, I’ve inherited a well-organized library, so we’re simply tweaking past practices.
Despite successes with setting up effective processes of music library maintenance, I find setting up systems challenging. In addition, I find it difficult to shift my focus away from the day to day grind. There are so many emails to respond to and projects to work on. I think what helps me to setup a system is knowing in the long run, it will save me time and effort so I can focus on other more important tasks. It’s also a joy to get input and have choir members have a voice in the workings of choir. While I might wish that I could wave a magic wand and have others set up structures for me, I’m often the one that needs to be the catalyst for change.
If only preventing issues and mishaps were as simple as just creating the right system! Unfortunately, that is not always the case. However, if the same mishap happens, perhaps I could take a step back and see if the right routine could prevent the mishap. In addition, I don’t want to solely focus on distributing/collecting/filing music in this post. I mention it as an example for a number of other processes that all music programs have. Ultimately, I’d like the music ministry at my church to run as smoothly as possible. With a total of four music staff members and vocal choirs, handbell choirs, and instrumental ensembles, having clear routines help me focus on other areas, such as my goals for the year, worship planning, and preparing for rehearsals. With having choir members help, it’s a reminder that a choir ministry can truly be a team where we’re all working towards the same goals.
I thought I would share an anthem, Let Everything by Dr. André Thomas, that I came across at the Montreat Music and Worship conference last summer. I’m having a fun time rehearsing it with the Adult Choir at my church. Enjoy!
Are there new systems you’ve put into place this fall? Comment below!