Joe withdrew from the pastor’s office as he had many times in the last three months, frustrated that his ideas for how to work together to plan the worship service once again met with resistance. He struggled to understand why he and his pastor didn’t see eye to eye on this, and wondered quietly to himself if this was the right place of ministry after all.
Do you ever feel like Joe? Maybe your circumstances are different, but every worship leader goes through times of frustration and uncertainty about how to best serve the lead pastor.
In fact, of the Seven Major Challenges that I teach at Worshipleaderinsights.com, the Pastor Challenge usually ranks as the number one point of stress for most worship leaders.
Now, before you conclude that this article is about how difficult it is to work with your pastor, let me assure you that the pastor challenge is not what you think. The Pastor Challenge is about you and me as worship leaders, and what we can do to give our pastors exactly what they need to succeed.
Let me explain.
In over a decade of ministry at The Journey Church, and personally coaching hundreds of worship leaders, I’ve found that there is a fascinating paradox when it comes to the pastor/worship leader relationship.
On one hand, the pastor/worship leader relationship is usually the most visible relationship—and loaded with positive potential—inside the church. Think about it. You both lead publicly from the platform. It’s also the relationship that has the most to do with the week-to-week “public direction” of the church (the worship service). This relationship is vitally important.
But on the other hand, it is the one relationship inside the church that tends to harbor the most tension. It’s not that you don’t like each other. But because of the stress of week-to-week ministry, or the lack of clarity in worship planning (“when is he going to tell me what he’s teaching so I can select music”), frustration easily builds in this relationship.
Paul writes, “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose” (Phil 2:2).
That’s hard to do when frustration sets in. As a worship leader, your first thought may be, “How can I change my pastor, so I have what I need to do my job well?”
But the truth is you can’t change your pastor. The only person that you have the ability to change is you. So, rather than focusing on how to change your pastor, consider on how you can give your pastor exactly what he needs to succeed.
Here are three ways to do it:
- Support the vision.
God has given the vision of your church to the pastor. Your role as a worship leader (or supporting leader) is to carry the banner for that vision before every person you lead. You may not always agree with your pastor, but always support him or her.
- Excel in your area.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your pastor is the peace of mind that you are leading your area well. When you do the hard work of planning services, watching over the spiritual lives of those on your team, and ensuring the ongoing health and growth of the worship ministry, you not only honor God, but you build confidence and trust with your pastor.
Pat MacMillan, Christian author of The Performance Factor*, writes, “The biggest problem with communication is the assumption that it has taken place.” Nowhere is that more true than between pastors and worship leaders.
Pastors and worship leaders are oftentimes simply “not on the same page.”
Go above and beyond in your communication. Initiate the conversation. Meet, email, call, and ask questions for clarity. Do whatever is necessary to ensure you are communicating with your pastor, telling him what he needs to know, and receiving his ideas and feedback along the way.
Truth be told, every worship leader faces the pastor challenge. And like Joe, it’s easy for us to become frustrated (or even resentful) with our pastors. But the worship leaders who are overcoming this important challenge are the ones who are taking responsibility to excel in their role and help their pastor succeed in the process.
Jason Hatley is the Pastor of Worship Arts at The Journey Church (New York City and South Florida), the co-author of Engage: A Guide to Creating Life-Transforming Worship Services and Revolve: A New Way to See Worship. For a Free Report on how to overcome all Seven of the Worship Leader Challenges, visit worshipleaderinsights.com.
Pat MacMillan, The Performance Factor: Unlocking the Secrets of Teamwork (Nashville: Broadman& Holman, 2001), p. 159.