The season of Christmas is now upon us, the time when we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord. With Advent and Christmas Eve/Day liturgies now in the rearview mirror, many ensemble musicians take a few well-deserved days off. In a short time, however, directors will shift their focus to the music selected for the remaining liturgies in this Christmas season, then Ordinary Time and even the season of Lent. Ensemble directors must always look forward, preparing for the music that lies ahead in our work of music ministry.

If directors are always looking forward, do they ever take the opportunity to evaluate their work in the previous season? Directors and musicians can learn a great deal about the effectiveness of their music ministry with an honest evaluation of their past liturgies. For now, let’s take a quick look back and consider the work during the season of Advent.

Here are a few questions that can be used when considering the effectiveness of music ministry during the season of Advent, or any other season during the liturgical year.

  1. How well did the musical choices represent the season of Advent — a time of preparation, a call to be alert/ready, etc.?
    • Did the chosen selections create the desired “feel” of Advent — prayerfulness, fewer distractions, focus on the second coming of Christ, and other themes?
    • Was the assembly able to fully participate with the music selected?
    • Did the selected music clearly support the readings for each Advent liturgy?
    • Were there songs that were not chosen that could have been a better fit? In other words, if you had a redo, would you have changed any of the music selections?
    • Did the execution of the chosen music meet or exceed your expectations? Did the execution ever wane?
    • Did all the chosen songs achieve the expectation you had for each? Were any of them less effective than what you initially imagined?
    • What song(s) worked so well that you want to carry them forward into future Advent seasons?
    • If you’re also responsible for the art and environment of your community, did worshippers know it was Advent when they walked into the church? Were the symbols bold and recognizable?

    These questions provide a great framework for evaluating the work of music ministry for any season of the liturgical year. Ensemble directors can answer the questions themselves, but they should also hunger for the answers from those within the community who are responsible for liturgy planning. Constructive dialogue and honest feedback are vital for ensemble directors who desire growth and improvement for their ministry, so be sure to include input from others in this process.

    I hope you take the time to look back and evaluate the effectiveness of the music provided for each season of the year. The results, whether positive or less-than-positive, will help form and shape your music ministry for years to come.

    Written by Steve Petrunak. Copyright © 2022, Catholic Liturgical Ensemble Formation.