Every Monday at 5:00 p.m., I meet with my worship pastor. We review the previous Sunday. We discuss the upcoming Sunday. We laugh together. We hold each other accountable. Sometimes I sing the worship set back to him because I have the voice of a senile cat and it annoys him.
Even if you don’t have a full-time worship pastor, you likely have someone leading the worship experience. Lead pastors should meet with this person regularly for several reasons.
Music and preaching are complementary, not separate. Some lead pastors have the perspective of “You do your thing, and I’ll do mine” with worship pastors. The music is completely detached from the sermon. While their motives are likely not disingenuous or lazy, crafting sermons and worship sets separately creates an awkwardness in worship flow. Music should never be isolated from the message. They are not distinct parts but part of a whole. The theology of the text should match the theology of the songs. The tone of the sermon should match the tone of the songs.
Separating the sermon and music separates the church. This problem can be overt or subtle. We’re all familiar with the worship wars over music style. But worship wars can also occur between those who want more music and those who want more preaching. Churches should not have a “music” camp and a “preaching” camp. When worship pastors and lead pastors work together every week on a worship experience, these types of divisions will naturally ease.
Churches can sense the healthiness of staff relationships. A worship pastor and lead pastor share the stage every week. In most churches, they are the two most prominent staff people. Meeting weekly forces the issue. You have to interact. If you’re going to be around someone that much, then you might as well figure out how to get along. Distance creates division. If you never interact, then the default relationship setting will be one of suspicion or apathy. The people in your church are more perceptive than you realize. They can tell when a worship pastor and lead pastor do not get along, even if both remain professional about their relationship. A standing weekly meeting between worship pastors and lead pastors helps create a bond—one the church needs. Healthy churches have healthy staff relationships.
A regular rhythm in worship fosters discipleship. If you don’t get worship right, then it’s hard to get anything else right. When music and preaching are planned separately, the service will often feel disjointed. A fluid worship experience helps create an atmosphere where discipleship is encouraged. The sermon is part of the whole of worship. The music is part of the whole of worship. Discipleship does not occur within silos in the church, with each staff person running independent programs. The worship experience is no exception.
Pastors need to know what drives each other. The worship pastor needs to know the lead pastor’s heart. The lead pastor needs to understand what makes the worship pastor tick. Worship pastors need to know how to enhance the vision of the church, while lead pastors need to know how to resource the worship ministry. The only way to facilitate this level of understanding is to meet often.
I believe it is the lead pastor’s responsibility to take the initiative with this meeting. And one meeting a week will not solve all problems between worship pastors and lead pastors, but it’s a start. Get together and see where God takes you and your church.
Posted on May 19, 2021
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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Is the preaching pastor not also a “Worship Leader”? He should be. It’s a trend I wish someone would address which labels the Music Worship Leader as the “Worship Leader” when he or she is generally only responsible for the music portion of the worship experience. I have been a Minister of Music (also a bit of a misnomer) for many years, and yes, I continue to lead the church I serve in worship through music, as well as other ways, so I am A worship leader, but not THE worship leader. I hope that preaching pastors are stepping up to their role as worship leaders as well.
I need your honest opinion about my situation. We started a church over 10 years ago. Before we started, the pastor from the main church assigned my worship leader to our new church plant. We pay him a minimum salary to our worship leader just to help with his expenses. He is a great brother, he is faithful and honest, he has grown in the Lord in the last years. His wife is also a Sunday School teacher in the church. I love him as a brother. The problem we have with him is that he is not a leader. He does a great job singing and playing but most people in the church don’t like him. When it comes to talk to people personally he is not the man. The way he answers to volunteers is not the right way to talk to them. He can’t hide what he is feeling, you can see his frustration, his concerns, his feelings and even when he is upset right on his face. We have had at least two families leave the church claiming issues with him. To make him to sing new and fresh songs is a continues battle. We decided to ask a couple from the church to lead the music while he plays and sings behind them but he still pretend to minister and its not helping. He is still the ”worship leader” and he chooses the songs we sing, etc. What do you recommend me to do? I love him and his family and he is like a brother to me but I think the church is being affected greatly because of him and I have talked to him several times and he can’t change, he doesn’t have the gift of leadership. I don’t have another musician right now to take his place and we have never had anybody so faithful. He doesn’t miss a service and he is punctual. I will appreciate your comments about this situation. May God bless you.
I am in a situation where my worship leader is a volunteer. He is not paid staff and we never meet. He teaches computer programming online and stays very busy. He does an excellent job for the most part. My problem is that at times he can be arrogant and he knows it. Having been a former minister and he is older than me, he pulls that rabbit out of his hat when it is convenient. I am now hearing rumblings from some people that he is after my job. I know that is not the case but I have to wonder how many people are actually thinking this. Plus, he has no problem criticizing my deacon board. When a decision was made by the deacons about something in worship without his input, he was angry. He brings it up in conversations when it suits him. My greatest gripe is that he is a “Monday quarterback.” He always seems to have an opposite view of how an issue should have been addressed. His way is always the correct way. I welcome any insights as to how to address some of these issues.
Somehow, you two have to get on the same page. What is being manifested as arrogance is toxic to your congregation. I’m doing a study in James tonight, so the biblical mantra found in several places, “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble,” is fresh in my mind. Truthfully, I’ve struggled with it and God has been faithful to discipline me for it as well. Arrogance is repulsive to God.
It is a great temptation for the worship pastor to be in competition with the senior pastor. After all, you share the same platform. It can become easy to compete for the congregation’s affections. If the worship pastor is effective in his music ministry, he can quickly gain the affections of the people. Both preacher and worship pastor need an emotional bond with the people. That’s good, but not in competition with you.
Since he has previously been in ministry, you can appeal to what he knows – especially if he served in the lead pastor or solo pastor position. I would be graciously confrontational. The stakes are that high. But first, in your confrontation, affirm him, his gifts, experience, and contribution to you and the ministry. Then pivot with a big BUT, (if you know what I mean). The arrogance, the open criticism of leadership, and the second guessing HAS to stop. Appeal to him as a brother and fellow minister. Acknowledge your dependence upon him (that takes a risk and humility) and paint a glowing picture of what a true partnership in ministry might look like. Ask him what he needs to be the most effective in worship ministry and you, in turn, tell him what you need from him. It is, very much, a “come to Jesus” meeting.
Make it gracious, but also make it firm. This will take courage and you may need to line up leadership stakeholders if he doesn’t respond well. Look around for potential replacements if he doesn’t respond. God really can’t bless such arrogance in ministry. And, I suspect, he knows that as well. Appeal to his better side. Perhaps he’ll be embarrassed that you called him on it and repent.
God be with you as you navigate those tricky waters…
The practical answer, at least to the latter part of your post and his disruptive nature – the part of a functional worship experience is the cooperation of all the elements. If he chooses to not cooperate, practically he might need to look elsewhere for employment as a worship leader. Worship does not happen simply beginning at “10:00” on Sunday, the worship experience comes through the relationship formed and nourished in the team. The difficulty of making a hard stand is his trump card – being a volunteer (unpaid). If he leaves you would need to find another volunteer or pony up funds.
As to the “never meeting” portion. The necessity of a physical meeting isn’t cut in stone. In my case, I have grown to trust my worship leader and in a liturgical church there is “recommended” music which matches the theme of the scripture assigned on a Sunday. After ~10 years it normally takes little more than a tweak once in a while if the music starts to drift.
Thanks Les. In the liturgical church, the parishioners would be saying something if the hymn of the day weren’t sung since most of us know what song should be sung. No one is going to comment on which plainchant tone is used for the Psalm as long as the S-204 Gloria is sung. (For those not Episcopalian, that is the old Scottish chant to which the Gloria in Elizabethan English is sung.)
The Lead Pastor would do well to occasionally remind the Worship Leader that inherent in the title “Worship Leader” is “leading worhship.” Since much of contemporary worship music has irregular meter and melody, and since all the congregation has to go on is words on the screen verse-by-verse they literally have no idea moment-by-moment what’s next. Even if “You are good, good, woah oh” is repeated 16 times they can be thrown off by the worship leader going up or down on words in the 14th rep when she or he went down and up the previous 13 times. If the congregation appears, lost or unresponsive this may be the reason why.
Spot on observation. My observation is in most Churches about 85% of the congregants can’t keep up with words on a screen. One might accurately observe that since they can’t read music, a book or sheet music won’t help. I made it a point to interview a lot of people with that thought. Almost all said that it was true they couldn’t read music they could anticipate how/when the music changed by simply observing the notes migrating up and down the scale.
This is an important post, Sam. And yes, I meet with myself every week. (LOL. I fill both roles in my small church.) But I was a full-time worship pastor for most of my ministry career. Unfortunately, I never really had a close working relationship as you describe it with a senior pastor. I had one who actually felt he was in competition with me! It was very unhealthy!
All of your points are right on target. And there is the possibility of going even deeper with alignment in worship philosophy/theology and practice. The unfortunate state of things in ministerial preparation is that it is quite possible that the worship pastor is much more deeply formed in worship philosophy and theology than the senior pastor. But the senior pastor holds the keys to unlock and release that treasure. Many, if not most, evangelical seminaries only require one course in worship in the MDiv curriculum. (I teach the one online course in the curriculum for a seminary right now and, unfortunately, the dean made me reduce the rigor from what I had originally planned.) On the other hand, a well-trained and conscientious worship pastor will be reading several books on worship. Indeed, he/she may even have an advanced degree in worship studies. Those degree programs have exploded across the educational landscape in the last twenty years. The point is, there is a great potential for mutual learning and growth that would benefit the congregation if the worship pastor and senior pastor would meet together weekly and, if possible, forge a positive relationship with each other. But, as you say, the ball is in the senior pastor’s court.
I’m glad you brought attention to this important issue!
Thanks Bob! Appreciate you reading and commenting!