Five Practical Ways to Be a Better Worship Pastor: Jacob Clark

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Friends, I sincerely hope each of you had a very wonder-filled Easter. Sorry for not posting last week, although I’m sure you understand. Easter is one of those ‘on’ times for the Church, and I must say I’m actually glad Easter Sunday (with all its rehearsals, late nights, busyness, and planning) has passed—but I am eternally grateful that the message of Easter Sunday lasts! Amen and amen!

This week, I am thrilled to present a special guest post from my friend Jacob Clark, a talented musician with a heart that simply longs for Jesus. Thank you, Jake, for contributing—and thank you for such rich content (that also makes me laugh!)

I pray this is a blessing to each of you! And with that, here are Jake’s “Five Practical Ways to Be a Better Worship Pastor.”

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#1—Stop Being a Diva

I know it’s hard, but you have to tone it down a bit. Is that Beyoncé-style run you just did going to help people worship better or will it channel their attention to you? When you play guitar, do your slashing windmills get in the way of your background vocalists, knocking them over on a regular basis? Do you have to drink your herbal tea and bring it on stage with you during worship because otherwise, you just can’t?

You need to stop. It’s not cute. Not at church. Adele can get away with that, maybe Mariah Carey in the movie Glitter, but not you. I mean, definitely be yourself. But yourself doesn’t have to be so dang sassy, especially when you’re tryna get people to worship the Lord.

#2—Find Ways to Include Other Staff Members

Part of being a healthy worship leader is having a good understanding of what a worship service is actually for. It’s not to show off your musical abilities, even though your abilities are sure to bless your congregation. And it’s definitely not happening so that you can seem cooler (see #1). The worship service as a whole (sermon included) is there to facilitate a meeting of believers to engage in healthy, God-centered community together. That being said, it’s a great idea to remember that the other staff members are just as much a part of the worship experience as you are, so they should be included in the service. Granted, oftentimes children’s pastors and youth leaders are doing their own programs during the Sunday morning service. But work with your pastor to find out if there’s a way to include your colleagues into the service somehow. Could they lead the congregation in prayer at some point in the service? Or could they even serve alongside you with their own musical abilities? If you act like you’re the lone ranger, carrying the brunt of Sunday Morning duties all by yourself, you’re probably really mistaken. Just take a step back and realize that you’re a (small) part of a large, intricate event that needs all the help it can get.

I’m currently just serving on a worship team at a church that I think has a really good grasp on this concept. Our pastor, worship leader, and all the individuals on staff take part at some point, either by praying, preaching, leading worship, or serving in some other way. You can tell that for them, church is about God and people connecting with Him, not being the important one that runs the show. That’s the way things should be, I think.

#3—Engage with Your Congregation

Along those same lines, it’s really important to maintain a communicative, personal relationship with your congregation. The reason worship leaders sometimes close themselves off from the people in the church and stick to their little worship bubble is because if they open up to people, people will feel comfortable telling them their numerous, extravagant ideas about everything that needs to change. There’s always that risk that Joe Schmoe is going to go into his seven-step plan on how to improve the church’s media issues, worship malfunctions, you name it. Because be sure that if those people aren’t telling you, the Worship Leader, about their opinions, they’re probably telling someone else. But the moment you start bending an ear to the congregation, they’ll heap grace upon the work they see you doing. If you’re approachable and they’re not afraid to talk to you, you’ve suddenly become a human to them. It’s simple, really: when we are friendly towards others, they will be friendly back. So don’t forget to be a friend to your church. It goes a long way.

#4—Pick Good Songs!

This is controversial because “good,” in terms of musical taste, is completely subjective. But here are some tips to picking decent worship selections:

  • Be theologically sound in your song choices. This is the most important thing! Content over style is always the main rule of thumb.
  • Choose a good balance between wordy and catchy. No one wants to sing a treatise every Sunday, but sometimes wordy songs are okay if they’re catchy. Just find that sweet spot for your congregation.
  • Since everyone has different tastes, implement a variety into your repertoire. If it’s all Hillsong all the time, that’s not variety. The same goes for hymns.

#5—Be Nice to Your Pastor

Your relationship with your church’s pastor can make or break everything. And really, a lot of it depends on the type of pastor you are working with. Some pastors want nothing to do with the music part of the service and they leave it all up to the worship leader. That approach can be good, but ideally, I want to work with a pastor who is involved but not too involved. Someone who cares but also trusts me to do my job.

But regardless of what type of pastor you work with, just know that unless they are completely misguided, like that preacher in Footloose, he/she probably just wants you to succeed as the worship leader. So cut your pastor some slack. All they’re looking for is a smooth, effective service. The way we worship pastors can help make that happen is by serving our senior pastors. Because at the end of the day, it’s you who needs to bend over backwards for the Pastor’s vision, not the other way around.

—Jacob

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