What does the pastoral musician look like in worship leadership? How is it different than simply leading the music of worship? In essence, how is the role of pastoral musician practiced? As we can see, it involves more than the music, though strong musicianship is presumed. In practice, pastoral musicians are persons who:
1. Have a solid understanding of biblical worship and its meaning.
2. Are able to theologically reflect upon worship in light of present culture.
3. Are captivated with pursuing God’s view of worship.
4. Have an awareness of the historical significance of two millennia of Christian worship.
5. Embrace the dialogical nature of worship as revelation/response.
6. Reject the predominance of anthropomorphic worship in favor of Christo-centric worship.
7. Understand that worship is to primarily be relevant to God (while connecting to the people).
8. Recognize that biblical worship is both vertical and horizontal in nature.
9. Understand biblical worship to be primarily corporate in nature.
10. Embrace, encourage, and love the persons in the community God has given them to oversee.
11. Reject passive worship done for the community and strive for participative worship done by the community.
12. Understand that worship always forms us, explicitly and implicitly.
13. View the core content of worship to be the story of God—what the triune God is doing from creation to re-creation.
14. Celebrate the Christian Year so as to proclaim the story of God in Christ.
15. See worship as a bigger entity than exclusively music.
16. Understand the inter-relationship between music and all of the other acts of worship in the whole service.
17. View music as a servant of the text.
18. Select and employ music not for its own sake, but to serve a greater purpose—the purpose of enabling conversation with the triune God.
19. Embrace a wide breadth of congregational song—drawing from psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
20. Prayerfully arrive at a canon of song appropriate to their community by applying standards of theological, musical, and lyrical integrity.
21. Understand that excellence is a journey, not an end.
22. Seek to help their God-given community discover its “worship voice” (their meaningful way of communicating with God that is expressive of their culture).
23. Strengthen and balance the worship style that is normative for their community.
24. Help worshipers view their worship as connected to the worship of sisters and brothers all over the world.
25. Help worshipers view their worship as eternal worship—worship that has been and will always be ongoing—on earth as it is in heaven.
26. Connect public worship and pursuing justice for others here and now.
27. Connect public worship with private worship.
This list of “best practices” (though incomplete) helps us flesh out the comprehensive nature of what it means to function as a pastoral musician. Notice that it involves not only doing, but also being. Becoming a pastoral musician is about who you are more than what you do.
Rev. Dr. Constance M. Cherry is a regular contributor to Worship Leader and much-loved speaker and workshop leader at NWLC. An associate professor of worship and Christian ministries at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana, she is also a permanent part-time professor for the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. Cherry is known for her definitive exploration of worship in The Worship Architect, and her latest book Special Service Worship releases this month. She has served local churches as a minister of music/worship and as a United Methodist pastor.