Hire The Right Worship Pastor
Too many churches end up with someone who isn’t quite the right fit. Maybe the skills are there, but the chemistry just isn’t right. Getting this wrong can actually divide a church. No process can guarantee the right result. After all, we’re talking about imperfect people and imperfect organizations.
If you’re leading a growing church, at some point, you’ll need to hire someone.
If you’re wrestling through the question of who to hire next, here’s some practical advice.
In every organization, we had pains, things we wanted to eliminate, and opportunities we wanted to pursue. If you don’t have the resources to do both, I recommend siding with growth.
Sure, it would be nice to have some administrative help, but you might be able to eliminate the pain by outsourcing. Of course, you need someone to take some things off your plate, but it’s likely more tasks would take their place.
That’s why (in most cases) you should look to hire for growth opportunities, not management.
If someone on your team comes to you and says, “We need to hire someone;’ don’t dismiss them. Instead, ask them to write a detailed proposal. Have them write down what they would do, how much they would make, and why it’s important to the growth and health of the ministry. If you can’t clarify all the details, you’re not ready to start looking.
Before you add anyone to the team, you need a strong one-page ministry plan. You need to have a clear purpose, mission, and vision. You should have a simple and articulated strategy. You should know where you are going.
If you don’t have a strategic plan, adding people to the mix will create more confusion. You will hire people in response to a short-term need and then wonder what to do with them when that need is gone. You’ll hire too many generalists who are good people and who can help you, but fail to give them measurable outcomes that truly matter to the entire organization.
Your purpose, mission, strategy, and goals should inform who you should hire next.
There will always be more to do than staff to do it. That’s why investing in volunteers and leaders is a wise thing to do. Before you hire someone, make sure you have maxed out your volunteer leadership development plan.
There are people in your church who are not serving because they haven’t personally been asked. There are people serving in ineffective ministries that should be recruited to serve in more impactful and more important ministries. Others are serving in the wrong ministry.
And there are people in your church who would get involved if you had a solid process for recruiting, training, and pastoring volunteers. People in your church have incredible capacity, often more than we give them credit for. They could take on more volunteer roles. They are waiting for the opportunity to lead. Nine times out of ten, a high-capacity volunteer will bring more value to the table than a part-time staff member.
Before you bring someone new to the team, you need to make sure your entire organization is set up and prepared for the new person. There will be meetings, new communication loops, and additional confusion when you bring in someone new.
Before you hire someone, make sure the position is crystal clear. You need a job profile, describing the kind of person you’re looking for. This takes a lot of work. You also need a clear job description, with measurable outcomes built right in.
And before you hire someone, make sure the position is fully funded, not just for a few months with the hope they will “pay for themselves” Even a plus side hire will take the time to get up to speed and start paying for themselves.
Too many churches scrape some money together to hire a part-time person (or a really underpaid and overworked full-time person). So many times, that person isn’t set up for success. The church would have been better off waiting and funding the position at a higher level.
Once you’ve decided it’s time to hire someone, let’s go ahead and take a look at what kind of hire you need to make. The journey to finding the best worship pastor for your church starts with clarifying exactly what you’re looking for.
Are you looking for someone to lead worship on Sunday, build a team, or oversee technology? Are you looking for someone with musical ability or leadership skills? Do you need someone to lead the church or are you looking for someone to lead a service?
Your worship pastor can take on many roles. Technology master. Listening ear. Expert problem-solver. So you need to ask . . . what will your worship pastor do? Just as every church is different, so are the needs and culture of every church, thus, so every worship pastor is different.
A worship pastor in your church may look like one of these four things. Many churches, from church plants that don’t have a full-time staff position, to multi-site churches who prefer this model, choose to bring in people on a Sunday morning.
A part-time worship pastor may be great for churches that: Can’t afford a full-time employee. Have someone in mind they’d like to become a full-time employee. The part time position is often the most confusing It’s not as simple and structured as the contractor but it’s not a full-time position either. It’s easy for people to feel caught in the middle. In many cases, there are unrealistic job descriptions and an overall lack of clarity.
Clarity is important for every person and position, but if you opt for a part-time worship leader, make sure you put even more emphasis on getting on the same page by being clear with what is expected of your worship leader or pastor, answering any questions they may have, and giving them the freedom to take ownership of their role (without micro-managing).
The full-time worship leader may have some responsibilities related to the worship service but not necessarily music. For example, they may oversee technology or facilities of the Sunday morning environment. The full-time worship leader often ends up pastoring both those on and off the worship “team!’ They may plan services, but they are typically responsible for more.
A worship leader leads a service. A worship pastor leads people. We’re not saying you can’t use the title ‘worship leader’. But when you are searching for a candidate, look for someone with a pastor’s heart. Someone who isn’t a diva. Someone who cares and prays for the people in your church, and who truly lives worship past Sunday services.
If you’re a pastor and you’re still not sure what sort of worship pastor you’re looking for, or should hire, right now . . . that’s okay. Assess the needs of your church and figure out when and who you should hire. And the final bullet point on the list usually says “other duties” which is a comical way to say, “We’re not really sure about what you’re going to end up doing so we want to cover our bases!’
But when you set out to find the right worship pastor, you need something a little different. You need a job profile. A job description describes the role and tasks associated with it. It’s usually a list of tasks that need to be done. A job profile describes the kind of person that will be successful in a position. It certainly describes the role and tasks associated with it, but it also includes necessary skills, desired outcomes, and measurable results. A job profile is more about who than what. It describes the kind of person that will be successful. It gets at the values of the church and talks about the outcome of the role.
You can use a template, but we recommend you wrestle through these questions. Failure to get a good profile means too many people look right for the job, rather than actually being the right fit for the job. When you’re creating a job profile, there are some key things you’ll want to include in there, as follows:
Describe who your church is and what you’re about. Lots of people will agree with your mission, but not everyone may agree with your vision (or how to get there).
Give a summary about the position itself. Communicate your expectations for this position in advance, before you start talking to anyone. Are there broader expectations here? Should all staff be tithing? Create clarity here and leave as little room as possible for there to be any confusion.
This tends to be more common in secular jobs. The bottom line is that there are performance expectations for this role. Do you want your worship leader to increase band or production members by 20% in their first 12 months? Make sure you clarify what those indicators are.
This is the job description part. A list of what your worship pastor will be doing throughout the week.
Does your worship leader need to play with a click track? What kind of experience should they have? Do they need to know how to manage teams/use planning center? Or is there a learning curve and room for them to learn on the go?
It is crucial to be clear about the salary range, especially in the beginning stages. You don’t want to waste you and your candidate’s time. This can be an uncomfortable conversation for both parties, but it’s helpful for the church to remember that a candidate’s family is their first ministry and responsibility. The last thing you want to do is go through a dozen steps with a candidate only to find out that your salary offering does not meet their needs or expectations. This also leads to a setback in your progress of finding someone who can fill that need.
These goals, expectations, and indicators are what set aside a job profile from a job description. This way, you’re creating clarity for what you expect of your worship pastor, who you are as a church, and you leave little room for confusion.
Including this information can help you improve and expedite your candidate selection process. This way, you can worry more about if your church and your candidate are a good fit, rather than information being lost in miscommunication.
Where do they fit on the team? Never hire someone without an organizational, or org, chart. You need it, but they do too. An org chart can help you decide what kind of role you need filled and can give you and your hire a better consider who your church is, what you do, who does what, and what exactly their expectations are (alongside your job profile).
A new employee needs to understand how they fit into the leadership structure of the church. A lack of clarity will create muddy waters and a lack of effectiveness. Remember, every time you bring a new person on to your team, you create confusion. Your org chart changes with each new person.
Before you ask around or post on websites, finalize your org chart. It could look something like the chart on the next page. The worship pastor often falls somewhere under the accountability of the senior or associate pastor, but the beauty of creating your own org chart is that you get to organize it however you’d like.
How much should we pay our worship pastor? Let’s talk about money. How much should you pay your new worship pastor? When you set out to look for someone, it’s important to be as clear as you can be about the salary. Of course, it varies depending on what you are looking for and what kind of hire you decide to make. Your budget, your community, and so much more go into this.
Let’s look at the different hires again and some things to consider with each one.
THE PART-TIME WORSHIP DIRECTOR. Depending on the laws of your state, this could be either a 1099 employee or an hourly, or salaried, position. Again, really the hours put in are key here. The part-time worship leader could be working anywhere from 10-30 hours a week. This means you could be looking at paying them anywhere from $300 – $600 per week. Mike Kim suggests $500 per week for a worship director that is putting in 20+ hours a week.
THE FULL-TIME WORSHIP PASTOR. This is a salaried,W-2 position, with benefits comparable to other full time staff roles in your church. These people often end up working more than 40 hours a week. Experience and church size are two large factors that influence the full time worship pastor’s salary. A full time worship pastor’s salary can range anywhere from $23,236 to $67,318 (with the average being $41,759).
Here are some examples of real church’s worship pastor salaries. Again, we see the range from $34,000 to $56,000 annually. Less experienced, or newer, worship leaders tend to make around $30k to $40k annually, while salary increases with experience.
Now that you’ve created a job profile, org chart, and figured out which type of hire will be the best fit for your church, it’s time to think about the person.
There are about three ways you can usually find a good fit for your worship leader:
Your connections have connections. The best candidates probably already have a job. They aren’t looking so you have to recruit them.
Most churches figure this out every time with every new candidate, but that’s a bad idea. The best time to create your interview process is before you’re talking to any specific candidate.
We think candidates for every position in your church should go through the same process, complete each interview, and answer the same questions. You don’t, and shouldn’t, need to come up with new questions or a new process for each new candidate or job. This way, the process itself and your decision-making will get better each time you go through it.
We suggest five specific interviews. That seems like a lot, but most people hire too fast and fire too slow.
Not only do you want to avoid hiring someone too quickly, but a five-step interview process gives you the opportunity to have different people from different areas of the church evaluate and assess your new candidate.
Before you spend time talking to candidates, we recommend you first use a form to get basic information from them and see if you’d like to continue. You don’t want to talk to everyone interested in the job, so use some questions to pre-screen candidates. Here are a few questions we recommend:
What compelled you to apply for the position?
What sticks out to you about our church and this opportunity?
What are you currently learning?
What are you good at?
Where do you currently work and what do you do?
What do you love about your job? What do you not love about it?
What are you looking for in your next job?
The pre-screening questions are intentionally simple, but you can certainly ask deeper questions as well. You could ask questions like:
Tell me about the last conflict you had. What was the outcome and where does that relationship stand today?
Has there ever been a time where you had a really difficult volunteer or someone under you that wasn’t submitting to your leadership? How did you handle that situation?
Do you have a volunteer or team member that you’re really proud of when it comes to their growth? What happened and how did you disciple them?
Have you ever had to let a team member go? What did that process look like?
These questions will provide you the opportunity to get to know more than just professional information about your potential hire, but to see what kind of person they are, what their personality is like, and you’ll get to know them on a deeper level. You’ll find that people’s answers can be revealing into both what type of person they are and what they would be like in their role.
Once you find someone you want to move forward with, continue to the first interview.
The purpose of this interview is to determine if you want to seriously consider the person for this role.
Your main goal during this interview: Ask the same questions to each candidate. Stay on track and push for specific examples. It’s okay to do this over a call, but aim to do this interview in person. Here are some questions you’ll want to ask during this interview:
What are your ministry goals?
What are you really good at professionally? (Look for 8-12 positive traits at a time where they were decisive.)
What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally?
Who were your last five bosses and how would they each rate your performance on a 1-10 scale?
Really delve into these questions. If someone says, “I just want to help people:’ to answer the career goals question, continue to push. That’s not a good enough answer. If they give shallow or expected answers, keep digging. You’re looking for specifics.
Once you feel that you are seriously considering your candidate as a future hire, you’re ready to move on to the second interview.
People are not their past, but past behavior is most often the best predictor of future performance. If you want to know how someone may perform in a role (i.e. as a worship pastor), look at how they’ve performed in their last role.
Your main goal during this interview:
For each of your candidate’s prior jobs, ask these questions:
What were you hired to do?
What accomplishments are you most proud of? Exceptional people tend to talk about outcomes connected to expectations. Mediocre people talk about events, people, or job aspects not related to results.
What were some low points during that job?
Who were the people you worked with? Further questions here may be: What was it like to work with your boss? What will they say is your biggest strength or weakness? How would you rate the team you inherited? What changes did you make? Did you hire or fire anyone? How would you rate the team when you left?
Why did you leave that job?
Make sure to go through this series of questions for every chapter or story of their life. Walk through career history chronologically. This could take up to 2 to 3 hours.
You’re not just trying to determine what you think your potential hire will do, but what they have done in similar environments with similar objectives. Here’s a short guide of how you’ll want this interview to go.
Let your candidate know “the purpose of this interview is to talk about
(a specific outcome or competency).
For your worship pastor position, it might be “building a team of volunteer musicians:’
What are your biggest accomplishments in this area during your career?
What are your insights into your biggest mistakes and lessons learned in this area?
You’ll really want to reiterate those expectations here of what you expect from your worship pastor and gauge the strengths and weaknesses of your potential hire.
Once you have a strong candidate in mind, it’s time to talk to their previous boss and/or co-workers.
Your main goal during this interview:
INTERVIEW YOUR CANDIDATE’S REFERENCES
Do not skip this step.
You’re not looking for references to give generic feedback or have someone simply check a box. We include this as one of the interviews, because we think you should actually interview the person giving the reference.
Here are specific questions you may want to ask during this interview:
In what context did you work with this person?
What were the candidate’s biggest strengths?
What were the candidate’s biggest areas for improvement back then?
How would you rate his or her overall performance in that job on a 1-10 scale? What about his/her performance causes you to give them that rating?
The candidate mentioned that he/she struggled with . Can you tell me more about that?
This interview is important because anyone can talk themselves up. You want an un-biased outlook on how your potential hire has done in former roles. You don’t have to imagine what they would be like – you can talk to people who actually worked with them. This is another great opportunity to gauge exactly what your potential worship pastor is like and how they would perform.
Other team members and spouses should be involved in this step and it should happen in a casual setting.
Remember that every person you hire adds to your team culture. Your culture will heavily influence them, but this certainly goes both ways. There are few ways that will disrupt a healthy leadership culture like having the wrong person at the table.
You don’t have to be best friends with everyone that works at your church, but it shouldn’t be awkward to hang out with them. Take them to dinner, or dessert. Go to a baseball game. Hang out at a cookout. Find something you have in common and do it outside of the office together and/or get other people involved.
Another great tool you can use here is the “spouse test.”
This is a great way to go about really getting to know your candidate. To go through with this, you’ll want to request the presence of your potential hire’s spouse during an interview. This could be in person or via video chat. Do this in the early stages of the interview process and pay attention to how the candidate’s spouse is reacting to your candidate’s answers.
His/her body language will clue you in to the candidate’s response. Is she smiling and nodding her head as she listens to her husband speak? Or does he have a blank stare on his face like the candidate is giving you an answer they think you want to hear? This test can go a long way.
While these interviews and questions should stay the same every time you go through this process, you can involve different people in different phases. If you’re bringing a candidate in from out of town, you should feel free to do interview 2 and 3 on the same day. Just try to involve people and change up the environment.
You’ve done all the hard work of creating a job profile, clarifying the roles and responsibilities and making sure your new worship pastor is a great fit for the team.
Now it’s time to make the official offer, get them set up for success, and truly integrate your new leader into the culture of your church.
When it comes to bringing on a new employee, hiring is just half the battle. Their first 90 days on the job are critical to everyone’s success and happiness. That’s why having an onboarding process is so important. You might have guessed by now that you want to create an onboarding process to use every time you bring someone on to the team.
This is also the time to reiterate expectations to your new hire, not to micro-manage your new worship pastor, but so they are not thrown into the deep end. Make sure to create clarity so your worship pastor knows what they’re supposed to be doing.
Pastors are busy. One minute you’re writing a sermon, the next minute you’re meeting with someone in need, and the next you’re leading a meeting. With all the urgent things on your plate, it’s no wonder there’s a struggle to find the time to do some of the important things.
Like developing your staff. Most pastors know leadership development is important, but few of us actually find the time to actually do it. Most pastors realize more leaders need to step up and lead at a higher level.
Once you’ve hired and integrated your new worship pastor, the job continues. In a way, this part of the process is never complete and it applies to everyone on your team, not just your newest staff member.
The healthiest church cultures value continued growth and training. Since people drift to complexity, it’s up to the leader to continually cast clarity. Since all of us fall back into comfortable patterns, we need opportunities to grow and be challenged in our thinking.
The above article, “Hire The Right Worship Pastor” was excerpted from www.churchfuel.com.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
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.”