Each week, worship leaders will be in front of believers gathering all over the United States with the goal of serving their congregations in inspiring and powerful ministry of music. In order to serve well as a leader of worship and music, work has to be done to gain a better understanding of the culture of the church, vision of the pastor, and strategies to leverage the talents of the worship team in place. Multitasking as a communicator, manager, musical director, and pastor require both a solid structure as well as freedom to execute the worship leader role—or in reality, there are many roles or hats to be worn.
The following are 10 ways you as the manager or leader of the worship pastor can free them up to be successful. You can have both competence in delivery as well as have spiritually impacting experiences for your congregation.
10 Ways to Set Your Worship Pastor Free
1. Clarify roles. Yes, I wrote the word “roles” in plural. There are actually six roles that the worship pastor has to fulfill, whether directly or indirectly. He or she is an upfront worship leader, a musical director, tech director, project manager, service producer, and a shepherd of people. Understanding these and aiding your worship pastor in how these are managed will free up much frustration. It will also allow all involved to see the actual work being done and by whom. Do you have a language to talk about what these hats are? There should be no doubt as to what roles a worship pastor must fulfill.
2. Define the win. What is truly being measured on a worship weekend? Why does the church even meet on the weekend? Having conversations to coach your worship pastor in the theology, values, and related deliverables means you are both on the same page. Many worship leaders feel confused when, for instance, a pastor claims the service is to gather and send out believers, but the pastor only complains about how unchurched people are not connecting. What is the win? Is this clear to both your worship pastor as well as the critics? Define the win and write it on the wall! If you are afraid to articulate your real metrics in public, then there are deeper issues that will keep your worship pastor shackled.
3. Empower strengths. Superstars are great for basketball teams, but you need to know how to leverage the strengths of the star to let them shine. In a staff team, the strength of a creative worship leader will not look the same as yours. In fact, is shouldn’t. Is your worship pastor a songwriter extraordinaire who is left working spread sheets and shamed for not being good at it? Well rounded people might be right for some roles, but not the worship pastor. Allow someone to assist in the weak areas instead of trying to force an artist to love math. Expecting a worship leader to be very effective outside of their abilities is foolish.
4. Build a sandbox. The biggest myth about artists or creatives is that they want complete freedom. A sandbox has a limit, an edge to contain an area for experimentation. Google as a policy allows what they call 10% time. They want their employees to innovate individually and together. Building a sandbox will free up the activity of creativity. Most creative leaders are either given a postage-stamp-sized area on one hand or on the other fuzzy boundaries. What makes them win is giving deadlines, budgets, and clear goals. Are you building a house or sewing a tent? Are you wanting something painted? Is it watercolor or acrylic on canvass or wood? Even miracles happen in time and space. Jesus rose again on a particular day and time in a particular place. Give your worship leader freedom by making room for them to fail, experiment, and innovate.
5. Share your dream. When is the last time you opened your creative leader to the dream you have in ministry and life? There is nothing more powerful to charge and energize creatives than sharing the possible future. Creatives create. When the dream is cast, the artist is there to help you as their leader by painting it in vivid colors. Helping tell your story is what a creative might do best, whether it’s in songwriting, or creative elements planned and implemented in worship services. Withholding the vision is a recipe for depression to your worship pastor. With the inability to capture the vision, all interaction is reduced to iterative improvements rather than the goal. You need a team to make a vision a reality. How do you see your worship pastor helping accomplish your God-given dream?
6. Celebrate the good. Offer the old “attaboy” to your worship pastor when you see the good. Criticism is very rough for creatives as they see their work related to them personally. A simple acknowledgement of your pleasure invites more the criticism they need to get better at what they do. Correction is indeed needed, but this must also include affirmation when things are going fine. Withholding praise will soon drain your worship leader and decrease performance. No one, especially your worship leader, wants that. If you are not the warm and fuzzy type, get over it. Compliments, when they are deserved, are critiques, too. If you desire to free your worship pastor to perform at his or her best, you must learn how to celebrate as well as correct.
7. Plan spontaneity. We surely need a sandbox to contain our plans. But, we also then need to allow the trial and error that spontaneity might offer in the moment. When you have an order of worship with every minute mapped out, are there places that are allowed to “breathe” in your schedule? I would not recommend simply saying to the worship leader, “Forget the map and take us anywhere.” What I am talking about is actually leaving moments in the service where you both have agreed to leave open to the Holy Spirit. Maybe, it’s a 3-4 minute time to ask people to pray on their own or a repetition of a song that the church is hungry to continue as their prayer that morning. Letting your worship pastor own prescribed moments of breathing might allow both boundaries and freedom and grow the ability to listen to the Spirit in the moment as well as in planning. If you have several services, it might be inspiring to see how God chooses to speak differently to each.
8. Embrace uniqueness. It is likely that your worship pastor knows about guitar pedals and coffee or at least some items that are not in your wheelhouse. This might make you uncomfortable. But, all of us are people and the best thing we can do is to appreciate how unique we might be from each other. In that process, we actually can find the common ground needed to bond to each other as fellow church platform officiants. Artists are moody. Teach them to laugh at it, not feel ashamed for being unlike you are. Do not expect your artistic worship pastor to think like you do. While words surely are important to all who lead in ministry, the empathetic savvy and emotional intelligence of artistic types makes them good at what they do—inviting people into the story and the experience of worship. Learn to embrace the tension in having a leader who partners with you yet is doing so with an entirely different—almost foreign—way of approaching ministry.
9. Enjoy each other. Laughing together is required. If we take ourselves too seriously, we make things too much about us and not the people we serve or the God we worship. So, laugh with each other and, dare I say, at each other. How do you do this? Well, it might actually take some effort in time and resources and a bit of trial and error. The error part might make for good stories. Try mini golf or see a movie with your team for fun and conversation. Morale is one issue. The other issue is that if we cannot enjoy our fellow leaders, how will our congregation enjoy each other? Joy is a factor in releasing people. We are meant to express joy as it is a fruit of the Spirt working in us. But, if we don’t plan for it and anticipate it then we might miss it all together. Ministry is too hard to fail with joy.
10. Pray together. Now, this might seem obvious. However, it is one thing to lead a prayer meeting as the leader or pastor. It is another to invite times of shared prayer with your worship leader. If together you hear from God, then together your people will, too. On this point, I say its leading your worship pastor in worship. Leading worship is not only the music, but the prayers and the Word as well. Music should not be the only way a church expresses worship and prayer—even if it is indeed a main approach. Do you invite your worship pastor to worship with you, or just for you?
What other ways do you think we can free up our worship pastors?