- Building Healthy Parternships between Lead Pastors and Worship Leaders
By Billy Phipps (Lead Pastor) and Stefanie Kelly (Worship Leader)
RCA Church (Ridgecrest Calvary Assembly of God)
To the Pastors from Billy:
One of the most important components to a pastor’s ministry is usually the one that is most ignored. There is no substitute. There is no avoiding it. And there is no faking it. You either have it or you don’t. What is the one thing? Health.
Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Advantage says, “The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.” In large churches with large staffs, oftentimes the lead pastor tries to delegate organizational health to someone else. In smaller churches with smaller staffs, the lead pastor is likely too busy to be healthy. Health is something that can’t be delegated—or achieved too quickly. Regardless of the size, style, or mission of the church, without health, the church is volatile, unstable.
Recently, my wife Annie and I have stepped into a new role as lead pastors at RCA Church in Ridgecrest California. It was at the same time that Stefanie Kelly moved to the same city. We crossed paths, exchanged stories, and found that God has placed us together to renew our health and passion for God and his Church. It is beautiful the way God has ordained our collective footsteps.
Stefanie, Annie, and I work hard to create and maintain health. Whether we are working on the Sunday Service, our marriages, or personal growth, we strive to be healthy. Here are a few things we do with consistency that may also help to bring health to your church and your relationships between your worship leader(s) and lead pastor(s).
1. Be Prepared
I think that the Holy Spirit gets most of the blame when it comes to a lead pastor being unprepared. We tend to “Wait on the Spirit,” when we should be calling on him: weeks, even months in advance. God knows the end from the beginning (Isa 46:10). Many of the frustrations directed from worship leaders toward their pastors are due to a lack of pastoral preparation, which leaves the worship leader unprepared and not knowing what to expect. We have found that the more prepared Annie and I are, the more prepared Stefanie is. Further, the more prepared we all are, the more time and room we have for collaboration, creativity, and consistency.
2. Communicate Clearly
When communicating with your worship leader, clarity is key. Try setting up specific meetings to discuss important topics. Have programming meetings or service meetings to discuss clearly what is planned for the weeks ahead. Talk about previous weeks, what was good, what needs to change? Have one-on-one meetings with your worship leader. Use the “Start, Stop, Continue” method. What do you feel the worship leader needs to start, what do they need to stop, and what do they need to continue? Be open, honest and ask for feedback. When we communicate clearly, it removes insecurities and second-guessing.
3. Build the Relationship
Make your relationship a priority and get to know each other outside of meetings and services (If you are a male and your co-worker a female, be sure and do this in the company of their spouse or other team members). Find ways to make the relationship important. Annie and I have made it a priority to get together with Stefanie and her husband Dave for dinner just as friends. We all appreciate getting to know each other in a different context.
4. Reward those you lead and lead with
John Maxwell says, “What gets rewarded, gets repeated.” Find ways to appreciate those you work with. Don’t just throw them any old gift card (although those work); find out where they like to eat, where they like to go. If you are unsure how they like to be appreciated, ask them, “What would make you feel appreciated?” You may be surprised just how underappreciated your worship leader feels.
If you’re a lead pastor, I know you’ll agree, there is very little time to spend on things that don’t work. Listen, health works. As a matter of fact, nothing beats it. Take the time to do the one thing that will make the largest impact. Get healthy, stay healthy.
Billy Phipps, RCA Church, Lead Pastor
To the Worship Leaders, from Stefanie:
I am thankful that God is a Master Planner. How else could this city girl be content in a small military town, with only one Starbucks, closer to Death Valley than a shopping mall? How was it that just a day after my husband received orders, our lead pastors, Billy and Annie Phipps (whom we had never met, also “city folk”), would be called here too? A year later, this feisty-for-the-kingdom, fiery little church called RCA in the middle of nowhere has enriched our lives more than we could imagine, and the friendship we enjoy makes the Phipps feel like spiritual soul mates we’ve known for years.
It is by faith that any of us can bloom wherever God plants us. And it is through faith that our ministry relationships thrive despite problems any church filled with imperfect humans is bound to experience. As our faith is renewed, we have seen mountains move. (And by the way, an enormous mountain range surrounds Ridgecrest—both literally and figuratively.) As a result, three faith statements encourage me to become a worship pastor that shares the burden with my Lead Pastors.
1. I am called and equipped to do what God requires.
2. I must know my lead pastors well enough to support their vision.
3. I serve God now and for eternity.
I am called and equipped to do what God requires.
No man takes this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God.
– Hebrews 5:4
We’ve all heard the song, “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.” The key words are “and you know it.” If we are genuinely called into ministry we know it.
The first time my husband drove me to Ridgecrest was in the daytime and I cried…tears of sorrow! (The joke is that one must see the town at night first to keep hope alive.) Still I trusted God had a place for me because I knew my calling well. Worship leaders must be assured of our calling to God’s people, our communities, and our lead pastors. This assurance creates the confidence to lead from strength rather than insecurity (which, in our ever-changing culture, is often the case). With this call, we are guaranteed Christ’s power that has already provided the necessary history, skills, and experiences to multiply our resources and abilities supernaturally.
I must know my lead pastors well enough to support their vision.
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you, as one who must give an account…
– Hebrews 13:17
Since both the lead pastor and worship leader publish the Good news (Isa 52:7), we must know each other well enough to be sincerely supportive through this joint mission. Because of much time invested together, I am convinced that Billy and Annie are committed to the Stefanie “away from the microphone” so minor challenges don’t become deal-breakers. I have seen firsthand that Annie cares about my marriage enough to give me good recipes so my husband doesn’t starve. I have surfaced out of my “cave” long enough to see that Billy is prepared, communicates with God intimately, and doesn’t make my work stressful due to lack of direction. Big sigh of relief—and big win for Christ’s team.
At RCA Church, the vision for our worship services is unification of every age and stage. To aim for such a variety of worshipers is considerably more work, yet far more rewarding. Because we have made it a priority to know each other and be known, I feel respected and trusted by the Phipps so that I can wholeheartedly submit to their vision.
By faith, I serve God now and for eternity.
…producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.
– 2 Corinthians 4:17
Newsflash: sometimes my lead pastor and I disagree! And though healthy tension, like in music, makes the harmony sweet, still I must remember my eternal value and the timeless purposes of my Creator. Sometimes I remind our musicians that no matter the breadth of our earthly influence, our gifts will one day be magnified in heaven. Perhaps an original song that was dismissed by your lead pastor (gasp) is already being sung by the angelic choir. Maybe the young violinist who is slightly sharp now is already perfectly tuned in the eternal orchestra. Dwelling on these thoughts create hope, and since our God will be worshiped forever, why not hope for the now and the not yet? The fruit of this hope is a ministry with longevity that is alive by faith not only in things that are seen.
In closing, I want to leave us with this thought: Someday the worldwide body of Christ will serve together in eternity. We will be “known as we are known” (1 Cor 13:12). My desire to finish this life well—for God’s glory—stirs in me a hunger for reconciliation in the meantime. Let us be in right standing with the people that we will spend eternity with, and as a result, we will all be encouraged and our communities blessed.
-Stefanie Kelly, RCA Worship Pastor