Friday, February 17, 2017

How's it working for you?

When I arrived at my current church appointment as pastor, I "inherited" a wonderful staff.  Our Operations Director was a certified management and pastoral coach, not to mention a certified spiritual director.  In the process of coaching and listening to people, she is fond of asking, "And how's that working for you?"  In other words, is the result of what you are doing what you want?

The honest answer, for many . . . is NO.

I approach my 60th birthday in a few months, and I find myself asking questions in various ways, and in various situations:

-Is the way I lead a church working?

-Is how I preach working?

-Is the vision/mission/purpose I've cast working?

-Is my current personal devotional practices and prayer life working for me?

The answers to these questions has led me to understand that my prefered way to
 pastor a church is to click on the "cruise control." Nice and steady, with no bumps along the way.  That's not what ministry or being the church is about.

So I've made some changes.  I have completly changed how I preach (not an easy thing to do at 59 years of age.)  I have embraced a new way of doing devotions that is centered in contemplative prayer and meditation (something else that is not an easy thing to begin to do at 59).  I've earnestly begun to broaden my understanding, and importance, of personal spiritual formation.

It's been a challenge . . . but the process is starting to bear a little fruit along the way.  Younger people seem to respond to my preaching.  I'm being more honest.  I've also quit assuming that the people listening to me on Sunday mornings have any kind of basic understanding of the Bible and Christian faith.  My daily devotions have challenged me to my soul.  I'm not using safe devotional resources anymore. The idea that I am personally responsible for my personal spiritual formation was a foreign idea to me.  Not any more. I feel like a rank amateur.  I feel like I'm starting over.  And, I'm wondering why no one taught me any of this in years past.

I've also been asking question in regards to the church I pastor . . .

-How's the way we do worship been working for us?

-How's the way we are organized working for us?

-How's the way we see and accept others working for us?

-How is our understanding of what a church is all about working for us?

The honest, and at times difficult answers to these questions has led me to believe that the way many of us "do" church is no longer working.

Consider . . .

-Our stance that we are the one's who have to be right, and everybody else has to be wrong, has aliented the Gen X and Millennial generations.

-Our focus on "being" the church ("proper/acceptable" ideology, structure, and polity) instead of helping people experience the church as the body of loving, compassionate and caring Christ.

-Our neglect in failing to reach out to "love our neighbor" by hiding in our fancy church buildings that many congregations can no longer afford, and where we spend more time entertaining the people than we do training up disciples of Jesus Christ.

-Our refusal to  truly get to know, let alone acknowledge the existence of the "least of these" out of fears and assumptions that we will be tainted as a result.

-Our refusal to listen to the Gen X and Millennial generations, who were brought up completely different that we were, and as a result have become "Dones" who refuse to participate in organized churches.  They don't see the church as the body of Christ, they see the church as an institution that hurts people.

-Our being seen by so many as "mad" at everyone, instead of truly loving and caring of all people.  Too many "Christians" believe that being Christian gives them permission to look down their noses at other people, instead of getting dirty trying to help them.

We are at a true crossroads!

The way we do church is no longer working.

It's past time for us to realize that church is ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS and not about correct or accepted ideology.

Its time for us to confess that we were wrong, and that we will make amends.

It's time for people who claim to be Christian, but refuse to follow Jesus, to change the path they are walking on, or get out of the way.

How do we do this?  

Perhaps we need to learn again, or for the first time, how to fall in love with Jesus.  The Gen X'ers and Millennals are not abandoning Jesus at all.  They are embracing Jesus.  What they are abandoning is the church, because the church has not taught them about the Jesus that they read about in the New Testament.  They are falling in love with Jesus.

Are we truly in love with Jesus, so much so that we will follow him wherever he leads the church?  It's time for a good hard, honest, open look in the mirror.

Perhaps . . . learning how to fall in love with Jesus, and being open to confessing that we have been wrong . . . is the place to start.   It's where I am right now as an almost 60 year old pastor with over 25 years of experience.

It's painful . . . but the process is leading to a new future.  To get there, I've got to get a new map, and learn how to honestly and truthfully read it.

And in the process . . .

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A change in course that came out of a regret . . .

A past regret:  Choosing sides for the WRONG reason.

Earlier in my life, my personal self-esteem wasn't in a good place.  My personality style was one that needed lot's of affirmation.  The more I thought people liked or needed me . . . the greater my own sense of self-worth.  I craved acceptance so I could feel good about myself.  So, I started looking for a groupt that would accept me.

Perhaps that's why I was drawn to team sports and work activities.  If I could succeed at carrying my load, then affirmation would surely follow.

What ended up happening was this . . . I wasn't willing, or was too afraid, to stand up on my own two feet, or have an original thought that I was prepared to defend.  I wasn't willing, nor did I want, to deal with possible rejection.

One day I decided I couldn't live like this anymore. So, I became a police officer in a large Texas community. I quickly grew up, real quick.  Despite my attempts at self-sabotage in the process (out of fear of failure), I surprised myself and finished a 4-month police academy.  I even graduated 3rd in my class.  I was elected as one of the class leaders.  It was a time to "put-up and shut-up."  I then worked as a police officer for almost 7 years.  It was my boot camp.  I guess I needed a boot camp.

My "call" to return to the ministry was there the entire time.  I'm not sure it was God's  call as much as it was my hearing my maternal grandfather's voice in my head . . . he hoped someone in the family would follow his footsteps into ministry.   We thought, talked and prayed about it for several years.  My wife gave her support. I called the District Superintendent.  I began the District ministry candidate certification process . . . and suddenly I had a two-point charge way out in the country.

I grew up at the beach near South Padre Island in the Rio Grande Valley.  I was a surfer kid.  I didnt know a heifer from a yearling from a cow or a bull or a steer.

Suddenly . . . I felt like I was on a deserted island.  I felt alone, ill-prepared for the task, and frozen in place.  Even though my theological training was just starting, I was expected to know what to do.  I was expected to know how to deal with ranchers and cowboys and country folk. I was expected to know how to "straighten out a church."  I think I was sent to that church because I had been a cop.

In the ministry . . . we call feelings of lonliness and isolation "normal."   I didn't know that then, but I know it now.

I didn't know many of the pastors in our District. They were tight-knit, and I was the new guy from the city who had been a cop.  "Let him prove himself," they said.

The old feelings of self-doubt started to creep back into my life.  I was scared, and that feeling can help you feel lonely.  I began to yearn for contact with other people.  I began to want acceptance.  Some say that feeling this way is a sign of immaturity.  I don't believe that to be the case.   My personality style craves companionship.  I'm an extrovert.  But being an extrovert is not a good thing to be when you are the only pastor on staff.  Actually,  I was the only paid staff at my first church.  So, off I went looking for a group who would like me, accept me, and help me.

In my search for acceptance, I was approached by pastors that supported the Good News Movement.  I liked them just fine, but I didn't believe like they did.  I didn't feel their issues were anything close to the passions I had.  But I chose to be part of that group.  Why?  It felt good to belong, good to have people to talk to, good to have people who would email you.  It was good to be able to call another pastor and ask, "How would you deal with this situation?" Looking back on it now, I didn't think through the process very well.  Over time, I came to regret that.  When I became "one of them," I got labelled.  That's a risk when you associate with any group.

I would claim and defend before anyone that I am "orthodox" in my faith. People who know me and have worked with me understand that I am not conservative in my personal practice of religion or politics.  But I became labelled as a religious conservative.  Now to be fair, part of that was due to my later serving as a senior-associate pastor of a large church in central Texas, whose pastor was a known conservative leader in the Annual Conference.  I was good at helping run a church, and really good at pastoral care.  That pastor and I didn't agree on much theologically, but we could do ministry together.

I still remember the comments back then. "Oh you work with (insert name here). We don't need someone with your theological views to help us."  I can understand that, but I had never shared my theological views with them in the first place. They never asked.  They assumed.

Several times I contacted people with an offer to help with projects or ministries only to be told, "We understood that you were conservative. We thought you probably wouldn't want to help or serve."  

Several years later, thanks to life experience, maturity, and identifying good counselors where ever I was, I became much more secure in myself, in my personal identity as a child of God.  I began a plan on howto step away from what I had been labeled.  I started being who I was.  The process was hard, but it was deliberate and focused.  My message was this,  "I believe in God's love for the WHOLE world.  I do not believe in using the Bible to to label, criticize or subject people into sub-standard or sub-human classifications."  To tell you the truth, people were surprised.  "Why the change?  What happened? What caused you to change your view of things?"

Nothing changed. I honestly never changed my mind.  I just finally made a decision to openly live what I have believed all along.  I grew up.  I matured.  I became OK with being me.  Acdeptance by others was something I no longer needed.  I alone am responsible for my happiness.

I guess I haven't choosen sides in almost 20 years.  I will not choose one group over another.  My vote is for "everybody."  I know it is not often possible, but I first look for the win-win in every situation.  I look for the what I call the "Jesus Way."  

That all being said, I've been approached by groups these past years who have asked for my support for their theological causes.  "We have to defeat this threat against Christianity!  We have to defeat this attack on the church" is what they often say, in one form or another, hoping that doing so will get them my vote or support.  If the process includes attacking people without the benefit of constructive discourse between all parties involved . . . count me OUT!

The truth is . . . "causes" are often nothing more than a desire/need that everyone has to believe and think the same.  Their personal / group happiness actually depends on the actions of someone else.  My God is a lot, lot, lot bigger than that.

My feelings about this are clear . . . people who can't be happy unless other people act a certain way . . . are nothing more than cowards at heart.  That;s my humble opinion.  I would maintain that people who do this have very narrowly read the Bible looking for support of their feelings.  I would also suggest that they do not own their feelings at all, but have accepted the opinions of others as a way of gaining acceptance.

Been there.  Done that.

I think that is called . . . manipulation.  Not sure Jesus used that as a leadership technique.

My decision . . . I will not choose sides if it means I have to say someone else is wrong, or affirm that someone else is right in order to be accepted by someone.  I will not choose sides if it means that people are demeaned as human beings and as children of God as a result so that someone else can "feel" better.  Their happiness IS NOT my responsibility.

Nope, I won't do it.  I won't choose sides.  My effort instead will be focused on purposefully choosing to see everyone as a fellow child of God.  Everyone.   For God so loved the world.

I have lived with a tinge of regret about choosing sides in the past, and about why I did so.  Over time I have revisted those decisions, and I have learned from them as a result.  I've come to understand that I have grown as a person of faith and as a pastor.  Yes, I've changed, but in ways that have brought spiritual health.  I think I'm on the road now that does the most good for everyone.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Prayer Is Practicing Heaven Now . . .

If I have faced one constant challenge in my ministry, and in my own pesonal spiritual formation, it relates to prayer.

Somewhere back in my childhood and teen years, I came to understand that prayer was mostly about getting what I wanted, or a way to please God, in effect, keeping God off my back. 

For the past 10 years, I've been trying to slowly understand prayer as something much more than that, something far more rich and valuable than to be treated as a tool to use to manipulate God into doing what I wanted.

If some of this clicks with you . . . then I recommend Fr. Richard Rohr's daily devotion today (2/7/17).  I had to read it several times.  I was struck deeply when he writes . . . "Prayer is much more practicing heaven now."  

The Center for Action and Contemplation website is www.cac.org.  You can also click on this link to get to the daily devotional page.   If read this after today, just search for his devotional on 2/7/17.

And . . . 

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, February 6, 2017

Everyday Office EDC . . .


One thing I have learned about effective and efficient ministry (give that phrase some thought, Ok?) is that I am more mobile now than ever before. I have an nice office at church and a small study at my house.  I actually spend a lot of time reading and writing in restaurants, especialy Sonic Drive-Ins, where I go every morning to get my two ice teas . . . needed ingredients for starting my day correctly.  Hey, you probably have your prefered personal choice of caffiene delievery vehicle.  Mine is ice tea since I can't stand coffee, and I stopped drinking all soft drinks last year.

Recently, I added a pen and pencil roll to my shoulder bag as part of my pastoral EDC.   It will be in my bag, or rolled out on my desk at work or home.  This has been an effort in down-sizing, but these are the few things I use on a regular daily basis:

-Post-It Note file tabs
-6" Empire Stainless Steel Ruler (I Bullet Journal . . . always need a ruler.)
-4 Staedtler #2 HB pencils (soon to be replaced with Blackwing 602 Firm pencils in the coming week if I can justify the trip into downtown Fort Worth. 
-2 Pentel 0.7 Mechanical Pencils (0.7 lead will not easily tear Bible paper.)
-3 Sharpie Smear Guard Highlighters.
-3 Zebra F-701 Ball Point Pens (I keep on in my shirt pocket).
-1 Bic 4-color Ball Point Pen (for use when reading books)
-1 Blue Waterman Pen (with a G-2 .38 super fine ink gel cartridge).
-1 Black Sharpie
-1 Black inkd Stainless Steel Sharpie
-1 Antique 24" folding wood ruler (don't really use it . . . but it's so neat!)

Yes . . . I have DOWNSIZED!  I recently donated a box of pens and pencils to the church supply room.  Why do I have so much stuff in boxes in drawers or on shelves or in closets?  I may be an office supply addict. I'm trying to come clean. 

By the way . . . I am learning that if I spend most of the day in my office at the church, I usually visit or talk with fewer people.  If I go work at a table in a local restaurant, especially in between meal rush times, I will always end up seeing and talking to more people . . . especially if I Facebook my location.

My pesonal opinion . . . churches should hold more meetings in public places.  It is a good thing to let people see how we work, do business and make decisions. 

And . . .

God's graces still amazes me . . . ><>

It's about time . . . new blog content and format.

Today finally begins my new attempt in changing the format of my blog, in part moving away from it being mostly music based, to becoming something that helps me share the difficulty in being a Baby-Boomer pastor serving in a Post-Modern world.   It's a balancing act.

I will turn 60 this coming May, and there are only about 3 of my pastoral licensing classmates left.  Several have died.  Many have moved on to other professional endeavors.  I'm still doing what I've come to love doing, serving a local United Methodist congregration as their pastor; loving them, caring for them, teaching them, and in turn being loved, cared for and taught by them.  I've been blessed along the way . . . and the way has often taken its toll on my health and my belief in the institutional church.

Some things about me that I should probably include here are:

-I do not now, nor have ever believed that religion of any sorts should be focused on maintaining, supporting, or believing any one theological ideology over another.

-I choose to believe that religion has everything to do with our helping people learn how to come into their own personal relationship with God\Christ/Spirit.

-I choose to believe in the power of God's love, and love in general.  After all, I'm and old folk-singer.

-I choose to believe that life is ALL ABOUT relationships with those around you!   That goes without saying that I choose to believe that being a good neighbor to everyone is very important. 

-I choose to live a life free of anger.  I I choose to believe that people don't want to listen to the follower/disciple of an angry god or savior.  I sure don't.

-I choose to believe that there is ALWAYS . . . ALWAYS . . . ALWAYS Hope!

-My choice of Christian and life beliefs are based on what Fr. Richard Rohr calls the "theological tripod" . . . Scripture, Tradition and Experience/Reason (Experience is the heavier of the two by far.) 

And . . .

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>



Friday, January 27, 2017

New format coming in the near future . . .

ANNOUNCEMENT . . .

New name, new format and new content on this blog will be coming later in 2017.  There are still some things to work on, and some things to learn that are not yet part of my computer / blogging / writing skill set.

Please take every chance to continue to make music when ever and where ever your can!

Rick ><>


Friday, November 25, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

This weekend I am finalizing plans for some upcoming changes to the blog, including a new name and a new focus that I think readers will enjoy.  I've been toying with the idea for quite a while.  The new focus will be interviews with everyday normal guitar / uke / bass / banjo players about their favorite instruments. 

There is still a lot of prep work to do, including a new blog format and possibly a new web site.  So hang on for a little while longer.

Articles about singing to/with senior adults will still be a regular feature because that is my first musical love and passion.  My new goal will be to post one informative article a week on a regular basis. 

God's grace, and new adventures, still amaze me . . . ><>

Friday, November 4, 2016

A "Good Book" recommendation . . .

I would like to recommend a book for those who are thinking about singing to senior adults, especially if something keeps causing you to abandon your plan using either of these excuses:

-"I just don't have the time," or
-"I'll do it when I'm less busy at work."

I wrote these two specific excuses as examples because I have used them numerous times in my life.  I knew at age 17 that I wanted a career singing to kids in camps, libraries and schools, and to senior adults wherever they gathered or lived.  I didn't start doing either on a regular basis until my late 40's. I may have been 48.  I'll be 60 my next birthday.  That's a lot of years not doing what I wanted to do.

The title of the book is "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity."  The author is Julia Cameron.

I'm working slowly (on purpose) through this book, and I am finding it to be very helpful as I endeavor to work through a bit of "creativity block" in my life at the present time.  I've put off doing a couple of things musically over the years for the reasons I listed above.  This book is helping me to slowly reform my thoughts.  I am journaling again most everyday thanks to the suggestions Julia Cameron offers in the book. That was worth the price of purchase for me alone.

I think I got the book for around $11 from Amazon.com.  I believe it costs $17 at Barnes & Noble.  If you are a creative at heart, then this book might be of benefit to  you.

God's grace, and good books, still amaze me . . . ><>

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Elderly Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Music From His Era





I found this video to be simply fascinating.  I've had a couple of similar experiences over the years when I have performed music for senior adults in nursing home / long term care facilities.  They will be unresponsive, until I sing a song from "back in their day."  It's pretty amazing to watch them when they seem to "come alive." 

Many years ago, I sang at a memory care center in Georgetown, Texas.  Back then, I always finished my program with the old gospel hymn, "The Great Physician."  An elderly woman was slumped into a wheelchair at the back of the room next to the nurses station.  Her eyes were glazed.  She was physically alive, and perhaps that was about it. When I began to sing, "The Great Physician," she sat up in her wheelchair and sang every word with me in a voice as clear as the ringing of a bell.

Sweetest note in seraph song . . .
Sweetest name on mortal tongue . . .
Sweetest carol ever sung . . .
Jesus blessed Jesus. 

Many of the staff, who were present at that moment, began to cry.  I did as well. At the time I didn't know what was going on.  Before I left the facility, one of the therapists explained what they believe had happened, and that it is a blessed moment when one of the older men or women can temporarily leave the prison that their minds and bodies become due to old age and health related issues.

If you can sing . . . go out and sing.  It may be a very special blessing.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Texas Plains - Kristyn Harris





Kristyn Harris recently performed for the Crowley House of Hope Annual Volunteer Dinner which we were honored to host at the church where I serve as Pastor.  This is the 2nd time Kristyn has performed here . . . and we really appreciate her talent very much!  There are 50 or more videos of her on Facebook!

Enjoy!  This will lift your spirits!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tommy Emmanuel with Sungha Jung ~ Day Tripper / Lady Madonna



This is a great video of Tommy Emmanuel and Sungha Jung.   I bet Tommy will pass on the torch to Sungha one day.  Both incredible guitar players.

Now, get this, all you are going to here is two guitarists, but it sound like they have a backing band.  Incredible.

Please enjoy!  Don't forget to make your own music today!  Sing to bless your soul and the soul of someone else!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, October 14, 2016

Singing to Senior Adults: #5 - Do's and Don'ts when singing to older adults

Part 1 - Getting your foot in the door to sing to senior adults
Part 2 - Treat the first ttime to sing to senior adults as an audition.
Part 3 - The basic equipment you need to bring with you.
Part 4 - Giving senior adults the chance to experience emotion through music.
Part 5 - The "Do's and Don'ts" when singing to senior adults.

Over the course of singing to older adults for 20+ years . . . I've learned the following:

Do's . . .

1) Be on time.  I try to be early when I can . . . hopefully arriving 10 minutes early to set up and greet people.  If I am running late, due to traffic or dealing with something at the church, I will call and advise that I will be a little late.  they almost always understand.

2) Be prepared.  If I forget my iPad, no big deal.  I have enough songs memorized that I can sing with out it.  If you don't have the right songs memorized, that could be a problem.  So be prepared.  Make sure you iPad or tablet computer is fully charged, or that the songs you need are in your notebook.  Over the course of time, you will memorize songs.  It's not hard.

3) Engage the audience.  It's all about the performance.  The nature of the performance is often the therapeutic element.  You are providing the audience a chance to have a bit of a respite from life, to forget about their pain or loneliness for a few moments.

4) Verbally invite them to sing with you!   You will be surprised how many of them will sing with you, especially old Elvis songs or Gospel songs.


Don'ts . . .

1) Don't "flake" out.  If you have to cancel or can't make it, call and let your contact know ASAP.  Program and Life Enrichment Directors at nursing homes know that people sometimes have to cancel for various appropriate reasons.

2) Don't use a sound system, unless your voice needs it, or only if the Director asks you to use one.   My voice naturally carries well.  Most Dining or Activity Rooms are no problem for me.  I usually play a jumbo style guitar that projects well, even when strummed softly.  If you use a sound system, speak and sing with a normal voice.  If I sing with a mic, I will usually sing a bit softer than normal.

3) Don't react or allow your feelings to be hurt.  In a nursing home setting, their will be intercom announcements while you sing.  Audience members will talk to each other.  People will often be coming and going.  Rehab staff will come and take people to rehab.  A doctor will arrive and need to see a patient.   Just keep singing.  You are not there for you . . . you are there for the people you sing to.  It all usually works out.  If you have ever sung in a bar, or during a meal for a large group, you understand.

What Do's and Don'ts are on your list?  Let me know!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, October 7, 2016

Singing to Senior Adults: #4 - Giving older adults the chance to experience emotion through music

Part 1 - Getting your foot in the door to sing to senior adults
Part 2 - Treat the first ttime to sing to senior adults as an audition.
Part 3 - The basic equipment you need to bring with you.
Part 4 - Giving senior adults the chance to experience emotion through music.
Part 5 - The "Do's and Don'ts" when singing to senior adults.

Singing for Senior Adults opens a wide variety of musical choices.

But sooner or later, you are going to sing a song that someone in the audience identifies with on a deeply emotional basis.  Please . . . consider letting them have that moment.

For some seniors, it may be a very happy memory of a day gone by, and the tears you see are reflective and contemplative tears of joy.

For others, it may be an unhappy memory.  But a memory they are none-the-less willing to feel the pain of again as a way of grieving.

I like to sing the old Pete Seeger song, "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine."  The last verse is about preparing for death . . . and the last line before the chorus is, "O Lord, I'd do it again" in reference to how they felt about the life that had been lived.  Life is meant to be reflected upon, especially by those seniors who still have the mental and emotional abiltiy to do so.  Also remember, that most songs, are about life.

Some love songs will affect some in the audience.

Some ballads will as well.

Some gospel songs will also affect the people you are entertaining.

That being said, I don't force songs on my audience.  After a while you get to know them, and you know what they like.  Some audiences want to sing with you.  Some audiences want you to sing to them.  Each older adult in the audience has a need.  You can't meet all their needs. Choose your song set wisely.

I've found that when I notice someone having a quiet emotional moment with a song . . . they will come tell me about it.  Most of the comments were, "that was my loved one's favorite song" or "that was a song we danced to" or "that's a song my momma used to sing."  If you have the time, listen to their story.  Be sure to thank them for sharing with you.

Also remember, some of the songs may very well affect you.  Every time I sing "My Cup Runneth Over With Love" . . . I usually shed a tear or two thinking about my wife and our 40+ year relationship together.

Choose your songs carefully . . . the "Branson" method of choosing your song set is still a good one.  If youve been to any of the musical variety shows at any music theater in Branson, you know that you will hear . . .

-Gospel
-Old time rock-n-roll
-Classic Country
-and Patriotic songs

The same kind of song set will usually work when singing to seniors.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, September 30, 2016

Singing to Senior Adults: #3 - What to bring with you . . .

Part 1 - Getting your foot in the door to sing to senior adults
Part 2 - Treat the first ttime to sing to senior adults as an audition.
Part 3 - The basic equipment you need to bring with you.
Part 4 - Giving senior adults the chance to experience emotion through music.
Part 5 - The "Do's and Don'ts" when singing to senior adults.

What do you bring with you when you sing for seniors?   My personal list is not that long.

First . . . bring YOU!  Sounds simple, and kind of silly as well.  But if you don't show up, there isn't any music!  If you are a solo performer, then be sure to make every effort to arrive a few minutes early.  Setting up to sing for senior adults seldom takes me more than 5 minutes, even with tuning.  Be on time and be prepared.  Be dressed appropriately for the venue and for the event.

Second . . . bring your instrument!  There are several times in my singing history when I have shown up in a rush to get to the venue, and I brought the wrong guitar . . . which is always the one that has a broken string, or needs a fret job, etc.  The time to check your instrument is BEFORE you arrive at the venue.  Here is another argument for having one guitar.

Third . . . you need music!   OK, there are several options here.  If you have all your music memorized (and bless you if your mind favors this approach) then you are good to go. I have memorized quite a few songs: however, I do not sing every day.  Sometimes I need to have the song in front of me. If nothing else, it gives me the the confidence to quickly glance for the word or guitar chord that I might be forgetting.

When I first started singing, I simply sang from a songbook with the pages marked with Post-It notes.  As my song list expanded over time, and my eyes got worse over the years, I began printing out songs on two 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper, and brought all the copies with me in a nice 3-ring notebook. The nice thing about printing songs on two sheets that face each other, you can adjust the print size for old eyes.

If you use a songbook or a notebook, then be sure to bring a music stand!  There are no guarantees that any venue where you sing to senior adults will have a music stand.

I made the switch to an iPad about 4 years ago.   Wow!   Now I have EVERY song I know, and some I don't know, at my fingertips. No more heavy 3-ring notebooks!   I use the My Lyric Book app.  In My Lyric Book, you can organize multiple sets of songs, or create a songlist specific to your situation.   I also use an AirTurn BT-105 bluetooth floor pedal, which helps advance the words to the song on the iPad screen.  It can also advance my iPad screen to the next song on the set list!  Great right?  It is . . .  IF you keep the batteries charged on both the iPad and the AirTurn pedal!

If you use an iPad, or another model of tablet computer, then you will need a music stand or a tablet holder attached to a mic stand.  There are countless numbers of tablet holders available.  Lot's of music stores have them, and you can find one to fit your tablet computer on the internet in no time at all.

Fourth . . . bring the appropriate accessories!  My list is based on my personal preferences.   Your list may be different.  I bring a small back pack in which I carry my iPad and AirTurn pedal.  I have a spare guitar strap, a capo, a couple extra sets of strings, and a winding/string cutting tool.  I bring an electronic tuner, unless my guitar has one installed.  I bring a couple extra  9-volt or AA batteries for the guitar, and  batteries for the tuners.  I bring extra charging cabels for the iPad and for the AirTurn pedal.  I keep a 12' extention cord in my car to use in case I forgot to charge the iPad or foot pedal.

I always have extra guitar picks with me in a small pick holder attached to my key chain. You want to keep guitar picks handy in your pocket, or in your guitar case.

You will notice that I haven't mentioned anything about amplifiers.  At all venues, I usually play one of my Martin's, or one of my Guild jumbos.  My guitars are all loud guitars.  I don't need to strum or pick at them hard to get a good sound.  And . . . my experience is that senior adults, with hearing aides, don't care for amplified music.   I have a voice that projects well, and the venues I play are usually hard walled dining rooms or activity rooms, with hard floors.  If you want an amp or portable PA, check out the Lucas Nano PA system.

So . . . all I carry into a venue is, in one hand, my guitar (in the case).  In the other hand I have my folding mic stand with my iPad holder attached.  Over my shoulder I have my small back pack with my iPad, AirTurn pedal and accessories over my should.  Easy in, easy set-up, easy pack-up, and easy out to my car.

I hope this article gets you thinking about simplifying your set up, especailly if you primarily play the guitar.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Singing to Senior Adults: #2 - Treat the first time to sing as an audition.


Part 1 - Getting your foot in the door to sing to senior adults
Part 2 - Treat the first ttime to sing to senior adults as an audition.
Part 3 - The basic equipment you need to bring with you.
Part 4 - Giving senior adults the chance to experience emotion through music.
Part 5 - The "Do's and Don'ts" when singing to senior adults.

OK . . . you've made a contact, gone and introduced yourself, and you've been placed on the calendar of upcoming events!   Congratulations.

Now what do you do?  Well before you go any further, please understand that singing to senior adults is NOT ABOUT YOU!   It's ALL ABOUT WHO YOU ARE SINGING TO!!!!!

Sorry for the caps, but I wanted to make a point (and no, I wasn't yelling).

I have certain songs that I love to sing.  I have an iPad (more on that later in the series) with the words and guitar chords to over 400 songs I've sung to senior adults over many years. That's all well and good. However, the songs you sing to senior adults need to be the songs that they want to hear and like to hear, or songs that are somewhat similar.

At some locations, all they wanted me to play was gospel music.   At another location, they wanted Elvis songs (yeah, mostly older women . . . I can sing Elvis songs, but I don't look a thing like him).  The people at another location wanted to hear mostly folk music.  Some wanted show tunes.

When senior adults in a nursing home or rehab unit come to hear you sing, they are looking for an escape.  They aren't living in their homes.  They are usually dealing with health issues related directly to their age.  Some will have short-term memory issues.  Many will just plain be lonely.   Learn what kind of songs they want to hear, and include as many as you can over the span of several visits.  In doing so, you provide them a therapeutic time of escape from some of the things they are dealing with.  Giving them a time of musical respite is a wonderful gift.  The issues about life they are facing will be waiting for them.  Perhaps our music helps them see their problems in a different light.

It goes without saying that irst impressions are very important, not to mention the quality of your singing and how well you play your instrument.   So, here is what I have learned to do when singing for the first time, and it works for me very well.

1) I approach the first time I sing for any group as an audition, especially for senior adults.   I will come prepared with several songs in various catagories . . . early rock, old country, gospel, folk, love ballads, show tunes, and even a few fun children's songs.  These will be songs that I can "nail" in just about any situation.

2) I do not take requests the first time I sing.  Rather, I sing to let them know that I can provide a wide selection of music. This is a program that I will be well prepared for, and it will show in the quality of the performance.  My goal is that everyone will have a chance to clap their hands, tap their feet, and sing out loud at least once in the program.

3) I will take mental notes of what songs resonated with those in attendance.  I look for smiles.  I always made the effrot to shake hands with as many people as I can after the program.  I believe that thanking the residents who came is always a good diea. During these conversations, I will listen carefully to their remarks and comments about what songs they liked best, or songs they wished I'd have performed.  When I'm back in my car, I will transfer my mental notes to the little traveller's notebook I have with me at all times.   Those notes then determine my lists of songs for that location that I will have ready in my iPad (again, more on that in a later post).

4) I always thank the residents for letting me sing, and ask them to let the Activity or Life Enrichment Director know if they would like me to come back again.  Now normally, the staff in charge know pretty quickly if they are going to put you on the calendar on a regular basis after just a few songs.  But I always ask the people to vote.  I also encourage them to suggest songs I can sing "if/when" they invite me to return.

5)  It may be my first time to sing, but I do make it a point to dress for the occassion.  I sang for a new local group of seniors this past Saint Patrick's Day.  Yes, I wore green.  They were all wearing green as well!

Perhaps approaching the first time to sing as an audition might not be everyone's cup of tea.  The process works for me. Tuning in to the desires and needs of the "regulars" helps improve the therapeutic quality of the program for everyone.

Treat your first time to a new group of senior adults as an audition.  You will be better prepared, and in a better position to be invited back on a regular basis.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>