Company: First United Methodist Church Boerne
Title: Director of Worship and Music
Function: Direct music ensembles and plan details of worship services every weekend
BM-Music, vocal performance, Texas State University
What is your weekly schedule like?
Mondays and Tuesdays are centered around finalizing details for the coming Sunday’s worship, making sure the details of each service are sorted out, and meeting with the clergy teams to go through those details. Tuesday afternoon, I direct the children’s choir. Wednesdays are spent preparing for the handbell choir and chancel choir rehearsals. Thursdays are for looking further ahead. This means not just next Sunday but what the upcoming sermon series includes or overarching plans for the next few months. Friday and Saturday are my days off, and then Sunday morning is the day we execute all of the plans.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Working with people.
What were the steps you took to get your job?
A colleague approached me with the position, asked if I’d be interested, and the location and timing was right. I interviewed with the pastor and pastor-parish relations committee, which is in charge of hiring and firing. Then, they offered the position.
What is your best piece of advice for girls interested in this field?
Find someone who does what you think you want to do, shadow them, and ask how you can help. Learn about what those people do to determine if it’s a good fit for you.
What inspired you to pursue this career?
This career path really must be a calling. You can be an excellent musician and do other things, but to do church work, you should feel like what you’re doing is making a difference in the lives of people. It’s like any nonprofit work; you need to feel like you’re making a difference, or you’ll end up doing something less taxing.
Karen is the director of worship and music at a United Methodist Church in Texas. In this role, she oversees the organization of weekly worship services, making sure they all go as smoothly as possible. She ensures that people involved in the service have all the information that they need as well as the music-related aspects such as what hymns are relevant for that week and which ensembles will take part in the service. According to Karen, it’s not uncommon for people to wonder what she really does. This doesn’t bother her because, “the idea is that we’ve removed all the barriers to them being able to worship. We’ve streamlined the sitting or standing and removed the typos and anything else that could remove them from the worship experience. By removing those barriers, people wonder what we do because they’ve never had to think about what needs to be done.”
In addition to her logistical responsibilities, she also directs the children’s choir and adult ensembles. Karen says this aspect of her job is incredibly rich and rewarding and is one of the best parts of her career. At her previous job, she directed the children’s and youth choirs for over ten years and got to watch the kids grow from 2nd-graders to high school students and into adulthood.
Shifting from one career aspiration to another
As an aspiring musical theater or opera singer, Karen never felt that she knew what building that career should look like. She learned the skills necessary to sing and learn music while she was in college but didn’t feel like she was taught what the life of a performer looked like. After graduating, she slowly started to realize that the lifestyle and temperament that is necessary for a successful professional music performance career wasn’t what she wanted for her life and found herself directing the children’s choirs for a church in her hometown. Before this, she had never directed a choir and never considered directing youth ensembles as a possible job, but she knew she was capable of it.
As time went on and her skill set grew, her job evolved to take on more opportunities. She got to direct more sophisticated ensembles and be involved in some of the decision making all the while becoming more comfortable making decisions and developing a desire to see her own visions for worship come to fruition. It was at that point that her current job became available, and she made the decision to go for it.
Karen’s advice for anyone considering a career in a church is to find a mentor. She said, “most people who work in church music are either really serious musicians that love a particular type of music and want a place to practice that music, or they really love ministry and bringing people closer to God and use music to do that.” Try to find someone who matches the type of person you are and ask them if you can help with the details that they might not want to do like picking candle wax from the pews after Christmas services (something Karen had to do!). By doing this, you can see if it really is the kind of life you want.