What does it take to find that perfect career as a worship pastor? A job search is kind of like dating on-line where you present your profile qualities. In order to find your match, you need to know what you are looking for—that part is easy—and what churches are looking for—that part is a little harder. About a year ago; my church advertised in Worship Leader Magazine for a worship pastor. Here are five profile qualities that our board, with an average church attendance of 150, was looking for while interviewing a potential worship pastor candidate.
Spirituality. This was our first priority in a candidate. Many musicians with technical competence would do well as music teachers and they would be good worship leaders. However, they would not serve well as worship pastors because of their lack of spiritual depth. Before we started looking for a full-time worship pastor, we had two summer worship interns from a Christian college that demonstrated a spiritual maturity that they could pass on to others. They were 24/7 worshippers, not just when they were on stage. They loved God first and they loved people second. They didn’t manipulate emotions by repeating songs until people fell into a trance. They were very personable who liked to be around people.
Dual Passions. The second quality that we were looking for was someone with two passions. Most churches in the U.S. are small to mid-size and cannot afford a full-time worship pastor. You can make yourself much more marketable if you develop a second passion in addition to worship. We were looking for a worship pastor who could also minister to teens. Some churches are looking for administrators, C.E. directors, small group pastors, etc. I talked to other lead pastors at conferences about my quest and they laughed at me saying, “If you find a person like that, you have found gold. They just aren’t out there.” One senior pastor whispered to me as if it was an FBI secret, “I found just the person you are looking for…but I hired him myself.”
Teachability. Our third priority in a candidate was a humble spirit, or teachability. We have seen churches hindered in many ways because they hired a head-strong worship pastor who was determined to do ministry “his way” without being submissive to the leadership. Some have been subversive enough to attempt to take over the church. We passed over many candidates who told us what they would do for us so that we could be just like their previous church. If you want to win mega-points with a church board, ask them about their church. Listen. Then, tell them how your spiritual gifts, talents and experience can meet their needs.
Initiative. A fourth quality that candidates need to show is initiative. If a church is looking to hire a worship pastor, most likely it is because they want to grow to the next level. They will be looking for someone who can organize their current worship teams, train up new musicians and pastor them toward spiritual maturity. The church may be looking to add service times which will require you to recruit and audition more musicians. Don’t expect that everything will be done for you. Even in a well-established church, a worship pastor has to constantly be equipping those under his or her care. In some churches, you might want to offer free or subsidized music lessons to develop a greater depth for your bench.
Versatility. A fifth quality involves “being all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:21). Most of the new worship songs are geared toward ministering to millennials. That is fine but do not forget that the church is a multi-generational family. We need to minister to everyone in the congregation in their own heart language, not just to one generational group. That is not an easy task! Some worship leaders only have one style. If you grew up singing hymns, expand your horizons and learn some new music. If you grew up with contemporary music, think retro and learn some hymns. One suggestion would be to become familiar with the top 25 hymns and the top 25 contemporary songs. Your future church might even have another category of songs written in the last 20 years. We do. If you play an instrument, you might consider adding to your repertoire by learning to play another one. Variety is the spice of life!
Closing Suggestions. What does it take to find that perfect career as a worship pastor? Well, to be honest, there are no perfect jobs! However, taking care to work these profile qualities into your job search should help you find a good fit for your calling, giftedness and skills. Happy church dating! May you find the right church for you where you can best be used by the LORD for His glory!
Read Story Behind the Song: “Because He Lives” by Gloria Gaither.
Alexander Zell is the Lead Pastor of Peoples Church, Geneva, OH and has been a C&MA pastor for over 25 years. He earned a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies and teaches for Crown College. He plays drums and bass guitar. He is married to Julie and they have three daughters.