Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lessons for a Decade

I decided to embrace the ministry of movement 10 years ago. At that time in 1999, I was not sure of all of the "rules and regulations" of dance ministry, but felt an intense desire to move in Him. What is amazing is that I have always been involved in the Worship Arts, and served in church as a choir director, sang on the praise team, directed the drama department, and served as dance ministry leader. Sometimes, I tried to do all these things at once! Those were the days...

As I continued in dance ministry, more doors opened up for me in the area of teaching. I am blessed to travel and teach, and sometimes do so at my own expense. It's not about the money, but the assignment. What I have learned over the past 10 years is that there are unique challenges and benefits to the multiple facets of movement ministry. Not every movement minister is a liturgical dancer. Mime ministers and contemporary movement artists abound and have another unique set of obstacles and blessings.

Not only have I been fortunate to experience several scenarios in the dance ministry, I have also been transformed from being a praise dancer-to a worship dancer-to a prophetic dancer: All to the glory of God! I pray that these tips over the past few years will bless you as much as they have helped me...

I did not exactly start out with the knowledge that I would become a movement minister. At the age of 15, I wrote a production for my church entitled, "The Ultimate Sacrifice." At the time I was assistant director of the choir and singing on the praise team. There were a few ladies and girls at our church who danced from time to time, so I incorporated a praise dance scene into the production.

Several years later, another church asked me to assist with the drama department for Resurrection Sunday. I again took the liberty to incorporate praise dance into the production, but this time I laced up my dancing shoes and gave it a try. I called for dancers, and seven young ladies stepped up to the challenge. We rehearsed in my apartment (yes!) and during the evening service, we joyfully danced to Tri-City Singers "When Sunday Comes." From that moment, I knew that I wanted to praise dance on a regular basis.

I asked the same girls if they wanted to continue praise dancing. Of the seven, only two of us decided to continue. As I was standing in the hallway of my apartment, the word "Envision" dropped into my spirit. I immediately called my remaining partner, and thus my official journey of dance ministry began.

My partner and I not only shared a passion, we shared a similar appearance. The novelty of our ministry was that we looked so much alike that no one could focus on just one of us. The challenge was that we were not looked at as individuals outside of the ministry.

Duets can also be a husband and wife team, relatives, or great friends. Dancing as a duet often requires closeness and fellowship beyond dance rehearsals. Duets should watch out for divisive people who come to separate the ministry. On the other hand, when the season for a particular type of ministry has ended, we must recognize it and move forward according to the will of God.

Tips for Duets:
-Pray together and study the Bible
-Make sure that you are in agreement with your partner
-Strive to not let one "outshine" the other. You must both be anointed!
-Ensure that song selections work for fewer numbers of people
-Avoid competing with each other

Amos 3:3
Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

After the duet ministry came to a close, I obeyed the Lord's leading and began to dance solo. At first, I was not sure that I could do it after having been a duet for 4 years. The lessons that I learned were valuable.

The most challenging aspect of the solo is to develop a story or message with only one person. Divine creativity is needed indeed! As a group/duo, I was able to "see" the choreography on someone else to know what worked or not. As a soloist, my comfort zone was gone and I had to completely rely on the Lord for confirmation.

When dancing alone, it is important to have a good support system. For females, venturing out alone may take some extra "forward-thinking" in order to stay focused and safe! Often, I would take a trusted, praying friend along with me when I went out to minister. If a friend was not available, I would usually make sure that I knew someone at the location that could assist me when needed.

One of the pitfalls of soloists is maintaining a dedicated rehearsal time. It is easy to put things off until later... tomorrow... a few days from now... and then "Oh, no! I have to dance tomorrow!" Staying faithful pays off in the end. Although no one may know you are "winging it," the experienced dancer or discerning person will be able to pick up on it.

Tips for Soloists:
-Don't always rely on a formula (flags, props, etc.) for a quick fix
-Make sure that someone knows where you are ministering, and take a partner if possible
-Avoid waiting until the last minute to put pieces together
-Never assume anything, ask questions until you have the answers you need

Isaiah 6:8
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

This applies to groups of 3 or more people that are not necessarily from the same church. This can be even more challenging for groups with both males and females. Getting an understanding early will help maintain unity.

It is a good idea to make sure that everyone agrees that Jesus is Lord. Another item to consider is dressing room space. When attending concerts and larger events, it may be a challenge to get dressed and remain modest when in mixed company. When journeying over distances, trying to carpool or caravan may help build unity and assist with preparation before arriving to the location. When this is not possible, establishing a prayer focus and listening to the music to be ministered may keep everyone on one accord.

Tips for Groups:
-Determine beforehand what the plan of action will be for attire
-Plan your travel route for safety and on-time group arrival
-Keep the lines of communication open
-Make sure to have a "point person" or leader for music and business matters

Acts 2:46
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart

Yes, church protocol applies here! As a church dance group, there may be more restrictions as to what is or is not permissable. Ministering before the congregation as a church dance ministry means that the members or group should come in line with the teaching of the church. We must also consider to whom we are ministering. For instance, if the congregation is mostly made up of senior citizens, it may not be a good idea to dance in jeans and t-shirts to a heavy beat-laden song.

The criteria for joining a church dance ministry may include becoming a member, attending Bible study, being a tither or giver, etc. Some churches have an open door policy, while others have auditions. Usually a dance ministry leader organizes the ministry, but sometimes a parent or musician will provide oversight.

Tips for Church Ministries:
-Align with the vision and message of your local congregation
-Obtain permission before attending outside engagements on behalf of the church
-Ask the Pastor what his or her vision is for the church dance ministry
-Encourage every member to have a personal relationship with the Lord

Acts 9:31
[The Church Prospers] Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

Similar to the group model, this type of ministry usually has several participants. A community dance ministry may often dance "outside of the four walls" for outreach events and concerts. These dancers usually belong to several different churches. The rehearsal location may be a church, dance studio, community center, or even a garage!

The communty dance ministry is not a replacement for the church dance ministry. Although some church situations may prevent dancers from participating, we must make sure that rebellious thinking is not the reason for linking with the community. There is a need to ask some questions to determine what the motives of the dancers are. This is not to say that all community dancers must participate in the church dance ministry (if they have one), but is a way to ensure that all hearts and minds are in the right place.

Tips for Community Ministries:
-Define the vision of the ministry that aligns with God's Word
-Establish general criteria for community participation
-Select a name that is appropriate to the vision and types of people represented
-Keep members informed through clear comunication, newsletters, emails, phone calls, etc.

Psalm 102:21-22
To declare the name of the LORD in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when the peoples are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.

This person may not necessarily be a dancer, but may serve as a Minister of Music or Worship Arts Director at church. At times, this can even be the Pastor. The dance ministry leader usually reports to this person and obtains approval to minister both inside and outside of the church.

It is important that the person who oversees the dancers has an understanding of the ministry. Too often, the dance ministry is neglected or has unrealistic expectations placed upon them when the overseer is unsympathetic concerning dance. Often, this person has an understanding of worship in general, but there is a need to be aware of how dance fits into the congregational model. A controlling personality may hinder the progress of those under this type of leadership, so much prayer is needed to lead without dictating.

Tips for Dance Ministry Overeers:
-Become educated in the ministry of movement through personal Bible study and books
-Select a leader that is qualified to run the dance ministry (this may not necessarily be the "best" dancer on the team)
-Assist in guiding the ministry to align with church beliefs and attire protocol
-Give the ministry space to be "imperfect" while encouraging excellence and growth

Acts 20:28
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

In the ministry of movement, I have served in all of the above positions. I praise the Lord for the privilege of dancing before Him. Sometimes this journey has included pain, loss, sadness, grief, and agony; however, the joy inexpressible, miraculous moments, liberty, deliverance, and edification it has brought to the church far exceeds the struggle. As the Lord continues to move me forward in ministry, I understand that my tenure in the ministry of movement may be seasonal. In the meantime, I will continue to dance before the Lord with all my might!

Psalm 149:3
Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp.

Looking forward to another decade in His service,
Rekesha Pittman

(All Scriptures taken from the New King James Bible Version)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Cite

It's a good practice to give credit where it is due. It is also helpful to know the Word of God concerning the pieces that we minister and being able to apply truth accurately. Neglecting to take the time to gather information can make us look ignorant, or in the most extreme sense, land us in trouble (with others or even the courts!)

The Bible
There are still too many praise dancers and movement ministers who do not have a basic understanding of the Scriptures concerning dance, and are even less studious concerning the Word of God in general. In my experience, reading the Bible on a regular basis allows the Word to come alive during rehearsals and ministry opportunities. What's on the inside comes out! It's amazing to me how a dance move can become "alive" to a group when Biblical application is clear. Choreography itself may not be spiritual, but when we make the connection through the Word, people are able to witness a mighty move of the Spirit.

We should take the time to make sure that every song we minister "rightly divides the word of truth" by comparing it with Scripture. When we study the Bible regularly, we do not have to rely on internet search engines to produce the Scripture references for us! We will instead know which words we are looking for to find the correct application of Scripture.

Not only should we be knowledgeable, we should make sure that each dancer is able to articulate meaning for themselves. Often, dance ministry leaders spend time researching and teaching, but may not empower other dance team members to know the Word personally. It is indeed awesome to witness an entire dance ministry operating in the power of the Spirit and understanding of the Word, instead of focusing on the few in ministry who "shine."

Job 22:22
Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.

Psalm 119:11
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Songs and Artists
Because many are ministered to through the songs we use, it is important to be able to share with them the name of the artist or group, title of the song, and the album that the song can be found on, if possible. Why does this matter? Giving away burned copies of the CD single only helps one person (and may hurt the proceeds of the artist). Many times I have been able to share this information and was later informed by the same people that they purchased the CD and were blessed by it. Obtaining the CD for themselves allowed the ministry to continue beyond the initial minutes of the piece!

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Kudos and Credits
The Lord is the Ultimate Movement Creator. He imparts instructions through vessels that include us. Although we do not serve for accolades, it is important to thank people and appreciate them for their service unto others.

If we use choreography from someone else, we should obtain permission first. If we have been inspired by someone else, we should say so. When we are blessed by teaching that we received from a conference or workshop, we should be mindful to correctly quote and refer to others whose insight we may use to share with others.

Songwriters must properly obtain permission when using samples or words from other artists. Writing requires that we properly cite the sources we may have used. Even photographers are credited with the images they capture in the media. Why is this important? It limits the offense that can take place between us, keeps us accountable, and hinders us from being deceptive in any way. Let's keep our hands clean!

Proverbs 3:27
Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

Romans 13:7
Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

All Scripture references from the King James Bible Version.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

No Means Yes and Yes Means No

Sometimes along our ministry journey, we have to make decisions that will determine promotion, no motion, or moving in reverse. There are many who seek to travel the world, dance on national platforms and be celebrated without making the choice to follow God wholeheartedly. The truth of the matter is, there are some things we must say "No" to in order to say "Yes" to God... and sometimes our "Yes" to God means that we have to say "No" to our own desires.

Are we willing to compromise in order to gain a platform?

Are we using others as a means to an end to make connections that we believe will get us further in ministry?

Do we seek out relationships with "powerful" dance ministers in order to get ministry invitations and special favor?

Are we joining large churches with large dance ministries in order to be seen on television or by thousands?

Have we remained friends or associates with people or joined organizations just because we want to be invited back to an event at which we once had the opportunity to minister?

It is important to let God have His perfect way! How many of us will admit that we have desired good things in our hearts that we consider "Kingdom" but never took the time to see if it was His will or assignment specifically for us? Many plan ministry conferences, concerts, and gatherings with good intentions that may not have been ordered by Him. This is not determined by perceived failure or success from the outside eye. The Holy Spirit is a Revealer and we must allow Him to show us Truth.

On the other hand, how many of us are saying "Yes" to opportunities just because they sound good? Have we gotten excited about dancing at a large church or teaching at a popular conference because of the potential exposure gained? (I confess that I have done both in the past and have been greatly disappointed). Through it all, I have learned to desire what the Lord has appointed for me. Some of those assignments are large, and some seemingly small, but it is obedience that makes the difference.

Let's take inventory of all of the current assignments and calendar items that are ahead of us. Have we said "yes" to something when we should have declined? Did we say "no" to an opportunity because we have been overwhelmed by some of the tasks we should have let go of long ago? It's time to do the will of the Father and agree with His decree. Saying "No" to sin and disobedience at all costs means saying "Yes" to God. Submitting a "Yes" to His will means saying "No" to anything that will hinder us from pressing toward the mark.

Responding correctly will save us lots of pain and heartache in ministry and life. We must not let our mouths get us into trouble. We must mean what we say and say what we mean- but we should first check with the Lord! Our "Yes" to Him is not determined by what we say with our lips, but by what we obey in response to His word concerning our lives.

(New King James Bible Version)

Matthew 5:37
But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

2 Corinthians 1:17
Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No?

2 Corinthians 1:18
But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No.

2 Corinthians 1:19
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Teacher's Edition

As I was driving in my car today, the words "Teacher's Edition" dropped into my spirit. Do you remember having had a chance to glance at the Teacher's Edition of a textbook in school? What was wonderful about the Teacher's Edition is that not only did it have the information given to the students, it contained the answers to questions asked!

What a challenge it is today to be a dance ministry leader! When someone accepts the challenge to lead, it is pertinent that we also have access to the right information and the answers needed to efficiently teach people. How many dance ministries are suffering today at the hands of ill-equipped leaders? More than we'd like to admit...

If given the opportunity to serve, leaders must not rely on someone else to provide the roadmap we need. We must each seek to know how to lead the ministry according to the Word. It is also practical to obtain experienced wisdom, but we must remember that what may work for one ministry may not exactly fit our circumstances.

In order to assemble the "Teacher's Edition" for dance ministers, we must include the following contents:

1) Charting the Course: Instructions

Provide clarity to your dance ministry team by providing clear communication (calendars, checklists, contact information). This can be done via email, through text messages, on paper, through online notification systems, or through all of the above. As it is often said, "Sharing is caring."

Is your ministry aware of requirements and upcoming dates far enough in advance to plan properly?

Are there general guidelines regarding ministry qualifications, expectations, appearance standards, conduct, garment requirements, etc?

Having a roadmap in place will minimize confusion, but not having one will guarantee roadblocks!

2) Lesson Plan: Information for the Student

Develop lesson plans to guide the ministry toward progress. For example, structured team studies will help the ministry be on one accord when studying the Biblical foundations of movement as a ministry (book readings, specialized workshops, directed group studies, research topics, etc).

Draft a plan to complete choreography before deadlines to assist us in knowing if we are using our time effectively or need to make adjustments (Are we projecting accurate completion times? Are we missing scheduled ministry engagements because we did not have time to complete the piece? Have we mastered the necessary technique needed to hasten the choreographic process?).

Forecast activities for the year and then establish regular checkpoints to see if adjustments need to be made (technique application, planned conference attendance, membership growth, etc).

3) Questions and Answers
Leaders should be more knowledgeable than the people we lead in our area of expertise. When a dance ministry leader has not studied or properly applied themselves to excellence, it will reflect on the ministry. Although the leader may not develop all of the choreography and select all of the garments, he or she should not be ignorant concerning these areas.

Pleading ignorance does not work for leaders! Each leader should make it a priority to become the "resident expert" and be able to provide accurate information to the team. (How embarrassing is it when dance ministry leaders are not able to provide Biblical references to dance beyond David? We've got to do better!)

4) Staff Development: Publisher's Notes
The Bible reminds us to know those that labor among us. Not only should we study dance ministry from a Biblical perspective, researching the progress being made by others today will help us to avoid "reinventing the wheel." Learning about other dance ministry leaders can both inspire us as well as teach us valuable lessons in what not to do.

In addition, we should take steps to get to know those we minister with, so that we may know how to pray and provide guidance unique to the people we lead. Exercising discernment will reveal to us if a situation is a behavioral problem or a spiritual one...

5) Giving Honor: Acknowledgments
It does not cost us much to be appreciative. Too many times, those who labor in ministry are encouraged to do a thankless job. Let not that be said of us. Dancers need to know that leaders are servants too! Taking the time to announce praise reports, birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones will make people feel appreciated and unified.

Beyond the movement ministry, we must show gratitide to our Pastors, supporting ministries, families, mentors, and other people who make what we do possible. In the forefront of all of this, we must not fail to give thanks to the LORD for making what we do possible!

Not only should we seek to be disciples, but we should be able to impart in a way that brings glory to God. We cannot take the mandate to teach lightly-- We MUST practice what we preach! Teaching others in the arts can be a challenge, but one that we can successfully navigate if we have the right reference guide: The BIBLE!

(New King James Bible Version)

Luke 2:46-47
Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.

Romans 2:21
You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?

Hebrews 5:12
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

James 3:1
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.