A Worship Leader’s Perspective
By Shannon Wexelberg
After leading worship for much of my life in a variety of settings, I’ve witnessed the frustration that can occur when hearts and visions are unequally yoked. On the flip side, I’ve also watched the incredible power and benefit when leadership is on the same page.
There are countless opportunities for a potential clash between the pastor and worship leader, so it’s crucial to have kindred spirits and like-mindedness before diving into ministry together. A pastor may have a list of criteria a mile long that a potential candidate fulfills, but if your hearts and visions don’t mesh, there will be problems. Having the same vision will get you through any rough waters you might need to navigate in the future.
The most important aspect for me is to know that the pastor has a vision for worship for the church. During a phone interview I once asked a pastor, ‘What’s your vision for worship in your church, and why is it important to you?’
He responded, ‘Well, I really need a gregarious, early-30s person who’s able to entertain because we have a lot of people who want that. I want to make sure we’re doing a lot of new music, staying current, and things like that.’
I said, ‘Okay, that’s all well and good, but what do you want to see happening during a time of worship? What’s your hope and vision for your congregation in worship’the ultimate goal?’
He said, ‘Well, I think that might be a good question for the search committee.’
After I hung up the phone, I knew that this church wasn’t a place I wanted to be. None of the things the pastor was looking for were wrong, in and of themselves, but we didn’t connect in matters of the heart. If I were an entertainer or a song leader, it might have been different, but my heart’s desire is to help lead people and facilitate a time where they can meet with the Lord and pour out their praise and love. I long for people to enter into and be changed in God’s presence.
When I first spoke with my current pastor, I asked the same question. His response was, ‘I want our congregation to be regularly led into the presence of God and to be changed when they draw close. We don’t want to be entertained. We want to experience God, to be in awe of God, and to allow the wind of the Spirit to blow through this place every week.’ He said the primary criteria for the person the church hired was that he or she be a ‘gifted worship leader,’ not just a choir or band director or someone with the right credentials and degrees.
Though we connected on many other levels, his response to that one question made all the difference to me. My pastor is just as much the worship leader as I am. Pastors are the shepherds of the flock. Where they go, the sheep will follow. If a pastor doesn’t possess a vision for going deeply into worship, it makes the worship leader’s job an uphill climb. We facilitate the service together, and if our goal isn’t the same, we’ll both come up short’and so will our congregation.
Shannon Wexelberg is worship leader at Greeley Wesleyan Church, in Greeley, Colorado.
Excerpted from REV! may/june 2007 rev.org
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.’