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)

1 comment:

Jocelyn Richard said...

Hello My dear sister,
Thank you so much for this post.
You are such a blessing to take the time to give to others what God has given to you.