A Pastor’s Perspective: When Pastors and Worship Leaders Harmonize
By Stephen Wilson
We’ve all heard about worship wars-traditional versus contemporary music. Praise and celebration versus quiet and humble meditation-but how many churches have suffered from the “wars” between pastors and worship leaders? If there’s any relationship that needs to harmonize will in a congregation, it’s the one between the two people most responsible for the primary work of the church: corporate worship of God. So we’ve asked a pastor and several experienced worship leaders for their views on “sweetening” this most crucial and strategic relationship. One of the toughest positions to fill in the church today is that of the worship leader. People will come to your church without ever knowing who’s the youth, children’s, or discipleship pastor. But every adult who walks through your doors will not only know who the worship leader is but also have an opinion on what the worship leader ought to be.
Some people want the worship leader to be contemporary and cutting edge, while others want a worship leader whose appearance is as traditional as the hymns. Some want a committed and capable choir director who’s able to assemble large casts and put together powerful programs that will pack your pews. Still others want a gifted musician who’s able to step to the keyboard at a moment’s notice and spontaneously play as the Spirit leads.
Here’s the problem. All these definitions of a worship leader are right to one degree or another. The degree of rightness can only be determined subjectively by the pastor’s vision and a particular church’s needs, style, target, demographics, and budget. The primary attribute of a worship leader often gets lost, though leading worship. First and foremost, a worship leader needs to be able to direct people, through worship, into the presence of God. Without this critical component, a worship leader is really nothing more than an entertainer or musician. Unless the people of the church are genuinely experiencing the presence of God, worship will never be more than superficial.
Not too long ago our church was presented with the challenge of hiring a new worship leader. With bulldogged determination I decided from the very beginning that I’d settle for nothing less than someone who was a bona fide worship leader. I knew my commitment to finding and hiring a truly called and capable leader of worship would cost us, but it’s been well worth it.
Although we began our search by taking ads, preparing info packets, reviewing, and holding on-site visits, the most important part of our process was prayer, asking God to bring someone to water our dry and thirsty souls. And when all was said and done, God directed our efforts through informal networks and brought someone into our lives who, in addition to her tremendous gifts and abilities, has a passion for worship.
It wasn’t her long list of accomplishments or academic credentials that confirmed she was the right person. It was more about chemistry and camaraderie. She shares my vision and passion for worship. She wants what I want, to be part of a team where the pastor and worship leader aren’t competing in their different roles, but are complementing each other with their common purpose. The most coveted attribute in any worship leader is the one that our new worship leader has the innate ability to take a congregation of tired, distracted, and often inhibited people and lead them into the presence of a living God.
Working It Out
By Tom McCain
Pastors and worship leaders are often so focused on their individual tasks that they’ve forgotten the important truth Jesus is longing to tell His story.
What deep solution do we need regarding the struggle between pastors and worship leaders? The problem isn’t their differing ideas and approaches because differences can be their greatest strength. The problem is that they’re not unified in purpose. The statistical data we’ve gathered through our nation-wide congregational survey, the Transforming Church index, indicates that one of the most significant dysfunctions of the American church is that we’ve lost our way in terms of what we call code.
Simply put, code is made up of the values, mission, vision, strategy, and overall culture of a church, Incongruence and disconnect in these areas results in lost opportunities for broader perspective and synergistic solutions.
How is it possible for those who are largely responsible for casting the vision and leading the mission to get off track? What are the signs? More important, how can we get back on track? Let me first warn you that there are no easy fixes.
Deep solutions require deep changes in you and in those you work with. Although the following assessment isn’t meant to be comprehensive, I’ve found that it helps produce the foundation for a successful journey through this transformation.
1) Can you honestly identify your personal strengths and weaknesses?
2) Are you intimidated by the strengths of others on your team?
3) Do you intimidate others with your strengths?
4) Is your team mobilized by celebrating, collaborating, and capitalizing on your differences, or are you immobilized by them?
5) Can others on your team attribute a part of their success to you?
6) Can you attribute part of your success to anyone else on your team?
7) Is your team’s community easily sensed by others?
8) How many decisions in your area are made apart from you?
9) Are your values, vision, and mission clearly stated and understood among your staff?
10) Can your staff articulate how their ministry aligns with your church’s values vision, and mission?
Suggestions for worship leaders:
* Dream big, but start small you’ll learn and teach discipline.
* Build on small successes you’ll earn respect
* Create ministry opportunities you’ll build your teams.
* Invest in leaders they’ll build your dreams.
And for pastors:
* Communicate with your creative staff you’ll gain perspective.
* Celebrate with them you’ll build trust.
* Allow them to make mistakes you’ll receive loyalty in return.
* Encourage them to dream it will spill over to your congregation.
No matter your position, I promise that if you’ll intentionally work through this simple assessment and challenge your entire team to do so as well, you’ll begin a transformation within yourself, your team, and your church. Remember your purpose. Jesus is longing to tell His story.
Tom McCain is a senior associate of TAG, a consulting firm with a passion for churches.
Excerpted from REV! may/june 2007 rev.org
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, ‘Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.’