This article was originally published in Worship Leader magazine (May/June 2016). For more great articles like this one, subscribe today.
Twenty-five, thirty years ago worship leaders were known as “Ministers of Music.” Their skills were usually focused on singing—including solos, ensembles, and quartets—and conducting choirs and orchestras. The skills required then were generally limited to those specific things. Fast forward to 2016. What has changed? First of all, the role is typically described as worship leader or worship pastor. The title minister of music is one you probably won’t hear in the hallway this week. Obviously, the music and instrumentation have morphed. And technology has transformed everything else. But the biggest change is that worship leaders today are required to be generalists as opposed to specialists. Let me explain.
Rise of the Generalist
Marketing leader Michael Baer says it this way:
So it’s time to sing the praises of the generalist—the person who provides context, who facilitates and drives creativity, who raises everyone’s game, and is focused on the right outcomes. A generalist understands context, not just content. All the specialist content in the world is meaningless without putting it in the proper context—and that context tends to be provided by generalists. A great generalist’s breadth of knowledge helps link new breakthroughs and technologies to existing ideas.
This concept of a generalist lines up with the term “polymath.” (That’s not a math teacher named Poly.) A polymath is a person with a wide range of knowledge or learning or one who knows a lot about a lot of subjects. You can think of a polymath as a classic Renaissance Man. Imagine Leonardo da Vinci, for example, who was not only an amazing artist but also an engineer, inventor, mathematician, and much more. When a person’s knowledge covers many different areas, he or she is a polymath. The Greek word for it is polymaths: “having learned much.”
So worship ministry has moved from requiring two or three specific special skills to calling for people with a broad understanding of multiple skills. Yes, there will be some skills that will require a high level of mastery, but you must be the “Big Picture” person. Thus enters the generalist. Another possible name for this new role is worship producer, worship architect, or experience pastor.
So what are the 5 most important skills of this kind of worship leader?
Developing the theme through an entire process of creativity to involve music, visual arts, content development, videography, biblical insights, lighting, and so on. The skills to be developed here could be compared to those of a movie producer. The generalist connects all the dots. The goal is to connect curiosity, creativity, and inspiration to all necessary art forms, working closely with the senior or teaching pastor, toward the specific goal of the service experience.
- People Developer
Developing people can be the most time-consuming aspect of ministry. This actually falls into the category of “volunteers” and staff. But moving a person from the initial introduction to the person being a key team member, possibly team leader, takes great skill.
Your team must feel welcomed, intrigued, challenged, resourced, appreciated, inspired, part of the team, clear in their role, loved, led, congratulated, valued, equipped, and most importantly, needed. Possibly, the four most valuable words in ministry are, “Will you help me?” Those four simple words bring life, meaning, purpose, and a sense of belonging to someone. So learn to ask. Learn to invite. Learn to seek. Learn to reach out.
- Spiritual Shepherd
You all know the biblical concept of a shepherd. A shepherd pays attention to the sheep. The sheep will need to be fed, protected, and cared for. Ministry is a competition for time. Worship pastors spend time reading their Bible, praying, being with people in times of difficulty, confronting ungodly attitudes, and the list continues. But often, shepherding takes the back seat on the priority list for worship pastors. But let’s be reminded that we are to be shepherds who care for their flocks.
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)
In our current culture, there seem to be coaches for almost every situation. Athletes, singers, surgeons, actors, speakers—they all need coaches. A great coach keeps people from plateauing. And a coach sees things that the student does not see. A coach is a fresh set of eyes. “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Prov 20:5).
A coach helps people reach their goals and potential. A coach helps them understand who they are and where they want to go. A coach asks great questions but more importantly listens. A coach leads people to think creatively in new ways. A coach inspires people to love their work, their ministry, which helps them see and feel things from unique perspectives while moving them to a much deeper understanding of their contribution. A coach empowers, guides, and is fully engaged.
The visionary is a person with original ideas about what the future could look like. And as a worship leader, a visionary brings vision to his or her ministry that is within the context of the overall “vision” of the church or of the pastor. This skill involves being a pioneer, watching for patterns in culture and in the church at large. But the greatest challenge of a visionary is to identify the vision, keep it simple, and know how to communicate it with great clarity.
So consider moving toward becoming a generalist who is a developer of others, lives to shepherd the flock, sees yourself as a coach, and brings vision to your ministry.
Stan is co-founder of Slingshot Group—partnering with the local church to build remarkable teams. He has coached and mentored hundreds of today’s young leaders. Stan leads Slingshot’s Coaching Division. For more about Stan and Slingshot, visit slingshotgroup.org.