Seven Questions For Your Music Leader

Seven Questions For Your Music Leader
By Doug Lawrence

7 questions for your worship point person Ah, worship folks, and the pastors who love to “hate” them!

Into every church musician’s life, a few questions from the pastor must fall. Are you CMs ready to answer them? Are you pastors ready to ask them with a modicum of grace? We all have a right to keep short accounts in the work place. How’s that workin’ for ya?

1. Did you work on that six-month plan we discussed?

Generally speaking, I am usually excited to receive an assignment from my pastor. It means that he/she trusts me to fulfill the obligations of my position and to be an active leader within the organization. It’s a compliment. But there are times, when I am so involved with other duties, that I hate getting assignments from the pastor. I’m angry about getting assignments from the pastor. I’m fed up about getting assignments from the pastor. He/she attends a conference somewhere, brings back 20 “great” ideas, and expects me to implement them in the next 30 days. For me, the time crunch of creating a fresh, exciting, and “successful” worship service every week makes extra-curricular projects seem like prison time.

Maybe that’s just me you’re probably more mature and responsible then I. But I digress. How does one answer the pastor who s breathing down your neck about one of your “assignments” when you know you’re falling way short of his expectations? First, be honest, and tell him that you’re behind on a couple of things that project being one of them. Then, without begging for mercy, explain how you’re going to systematically catch up over the next couple of days.

Try not to bellyache about how busy you are because in the real world and in the church world nobody cares. If you said “yes” in the first place, then the responsibility is yours. It is passive aggressive (and not very smart) to miss deadlines because you want to prove a point about the complexity of your job. My experience with pastors has been that they are generally fair and willing to compromise. Where church musicians frequently run into trouble is when they set themselves up to be separate from the rest of the staff it’s an elitist thing I believe, and deadly.

2. Did you figure out how we’re going to get the kids in and out of the sanctuary?

One summer at a Christian musicians conference where I had been asked to speak, a young lady approached me and immediately went into a tirade about how her pastor expected way too much of her. “I’m part-time, and I’m a single mother, how does he think I’m going to be able to think of every detail in the worship service?” While trying to be very patient with her, I nevertheless firmly helped her to understand that part of every church musician’s job is to “produce” the whole of the worship service. Like a good film scorer, our responsibility is to make sure that there is a flow that moves every worship service logically and smoothly forward. Frankly, it has always been my favorite part of the job there is nothing more satisfying than seeing it all come together because you did your homework. For most of you, this is old news, but for some of you, this may be a revelation.

3. I’ve been hearing some things from people that make me a little uncomfortable about your leadership are they true?

The mark of a truly great leader (your pastor) is that they know how to handle all forms of crisis management. The above question could mean hundreds of different things. Ask your pastor to be extremely specific and try not to interrupt him/her while the issue is being laid out. If you feel you are being wrongly accused of something, the best way to play this is with a total lack of defensiveness what Friedman would calls “a non-anxious presence.” The more anxious you appear when being confronted with criticism and/or accusations, the more you are already wearing the “G” for guilty letter. This might be a good place to give a specific example.

A friend of mine was accused of being critical of the pastor’s leadership at a dinner party given by one of the elders of the church. When the pastor confronted my friend, he confessed to having used poor judgment in the wording of what he said, but said that he was actually not guilty of undermining the authority of the pastor. Without going into prolonged HR nuance here, it is important to know where you stand, how credible you are perceived to be, and how calmly and humbly you are willing to work through a process of reconciliation. Take blame where appropriate and clarify and heal where you are not responsible. If you and your pastor are unable to come to a reasonable compromise and place of mutual respect, it might be time to invite an impartial third party into the conversation. Will this fix it? Maybe. Is this the beginning of the end? It might be, but at least there will be another ear in the room to help give you perspective on what has just transpired. Gloomy stuff, this!

4. Did you get permission to use that video clip?

This is the “best practices” talk that needs to take place in every church. If you are using copyrighted materials, you are using intellectual property which belongs to someone else just as your car belongs to you. If somebody wants to use your car, you might say yes. But, then again, you might say no. It’s your right to figure out which answer is appropriate. The same is true with IP. If it’s not yours, you need permission to use it. There are dozens of valuable resources available to church musicians to help them deal with the issues of using music, words, and any other intellectual property in the church when it comes to printing or performance use. Make sure you’re an expert, or at least can answer your pastor when he asks the above question.

5. Can you keep something just between the two of us?

I have catalogued, through the years, a huge list of complaints from pastors about their musician colleagues. Number one on their “what’s up with this guy” list is, why can’t he/she keep his mouth shut! Is it good to have secrets in the church? Well, sometimes it’s absolutely necessary. For example, a personal fact about someone is revealed in a staff meeting and quickly spreads to the congregation. Your pastor has every right to expect that you will hold confidences appropriately. In my 40+ years of ministry, I don’t remember having violated this kind of trust, but I’m sure I did it dozens of times in very subtle ways. It’s not that I wasn’t trustworthy it was more like I was undisciplined or lazy in my conversations. Without meaning to, I would disclose some detail or another that essentially broke the code of confidentiality. Is this sin? Is it unforgivable? I sure hope not! Work on this one for the sake of your credibility within the Body of Christ and your relationship with your pastor.

6. Are you looking for another job?

I love this one do you want a straight answer, or should I play with your head? All of the following comebacks would probably be appropriate.

Should I be?

To tell you the truth, I enjoy working here!

Oh, I’m sure there will come a day when I’ll need to think about moving on, but that’s probably not today.

Why? What have you heard?

That’s funny, because I heard that you were looking for another job!

The long and the short of it is, you have every right to pursue career choices with a modicum of privacy. Of course it would also be appropriate for you to say to the pastor, “Yes, I am pursuing another position” or “I’ve been approached by several other churches.” Just remember, if that’s the answer you give, you are essentially “gone” in the eyes of your current boss. It is not dishonest, disrespectful, or unchristian to stall this conversation. In fact, it might be the better part of valor to avoid answering it at all costs unless, of course, you enjoy being a lame duck! Is this a moral issue or an ethical issue? Yes, of course it is, so use discretion and discernment in dealing with this particular question.

7. Could I ask for your help with a little issue I am having?

This question could also mean a lot of different things some of them really, really bad. What’s your job? Your job is to be loyal to your pastor up to, but not beyond the issue of, inappropriate behavior. I would suggest that you use Matthew 18 as a model for how to resolve this conflict. Just remember, that any cover up in which you are involved sets you up to be guilty of collusion and/or conspiracy. This helps no one, and it certainly isn’t your job. Pray for your pastor. Stay with your pastor through tough times. But, by all means, don’t try to be your pastor’s savior. Fortunately we all have one of those and as it turns out, He’s enough.



Doug Lawrence is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant who helps churches create intentional and engaging worship experiences utilizing his more than 35 years of “deep trench” worship leadership in prominent mainline churches.

The article Seven Questions for Your Music Leader written by Doug Lawrence was excerpted from web site, January 2009.

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.