One of my favorite things to do is disciple people, especially those who feel a call toward career ministry! And I have blogged extensively over the years about leading worship and being a worship pastor—let’s explore that a bit.
So you feel called to be in music ministry?
Awesome! Serving in ministry is one of those precious responsibilities on earth: the Father is trusting you to steward over a pocket of His people. This may not surprise you coming from me, but I believe the most effective worship pastors on the planet are those who realize it’s far less about music than it is about loving and serving people well.
The specific nuances of being a worship pastor will vary dramatically from context to context, but here are five main areas of a worship pastor’s job description that, if you earnestly apply, will fuel you to be effective in your role. It may very well apply to most ministry positions!
1. Submit to your senior leadership.
Submission can be such a scary word, but those who avoid submission are those who don’t understand the blessing that God promises for those who submit. (Read more about it in one of my previous posts.) Here, let me present this in a different way. Intentionally get to know your senior pastor’s vision, his (or her) heart. What is a “win” in his eyes? If ever he gives an instruction or makes a request, think about why he’s asking it—where is he coming from? What are his priorities? Honor your leader by predicting what he would prefer in a given situation—anything from song selection, to the way meetings are conducted, to how you interact with him. Even if you privately disagree with a decision he makes, publicly support him with enthusiasm.
(Let me interject something difficult here. Maybe there are some soon-to-be worship pastors who cringe while reading my words about submitting to authority. Oh, friends, in our Western world we are so far removed from a biblical understanding of submission that we can’t even recognize it [without the Holy Spirit’s empowering], and our flesh bucks against it because no one likes dying to self. Unfortunately, the culture of the world today is breeding know-it-alls who feel entitled to celebrity-status, who are infected with the poison of rebellion and praise it as independence, who cite abuse and misconduct as reasons why submission is supposedly outdated and irrelevant. But in the Kingdom of God, it’s quite a different story! Submission is supernatural strength—submission is faith—submission is the system God uses to bless and anoint His people! Even Jesus submitted. Yes, even when it was not in His best interest—hello, death on a cross!—Jesus still submitted to the Father’s will (Luke 22:42)!)
Before I go to the next point, let me leave you with this: the way you support and submit to your senior leadership demonstrates your support and submission to God. There, I said it! Submit, and go far.
2. Engage in your church culture.
Embrace and promote the strengths of your church. Some churches emphasize hospitality, or small groups, or faith to believe for miracles. Some churches prioritize being relevant with videos and lights. Some churches underscore unity with other local ministries. Whatever your church is all about, you be all about it. Buy into the vision. When I helped launch our church in Johnstown, I intentionally chose to live in a certain neighborhood called Moxham because that was personally important to our senior leader and our overall church mission.
Even on the practical level: if your church is having a potluck dinner, show up and bring along a casserole! If the youth group is putting on a car wash, be first in line. You will be amazed, amazed at how God will cause you to flourish as you give yourself to your local church, and not just to a Sunday morning.
3. Disciple your worship team.
Invest yourself into the lives of your worship team, band, choir, tech guys, production team, and whoever else God is trusting you with in your creative sphere. Have everyone over to your home for a pizza party, with no shop talk allowed! If your bassist’s son has a soccer game, try to attend and cheer him on. Remember birthdays, and make a big deal out of them! Laugh together—a lot! I have found that much of discipleship flows from being someone else’s Number One Fan!
Think of yourself as the pastor for your tiny congregation called the Worship Team. Be intentional about praying together: some teams are too big for this, but as much as able, have people share needs and lay hands on each other in prayer. Share a devotional thought regularly—even go through a book of the Bible together. Make a point to ask the tough questions, like, “How’s your marriage?” and “Are you in a good place with Jesus? Why do you feel that way?”
Clearly explain expectations for peace, unity, and joyfulness among your team members, and address problems—or potential problems—early on. Correct your team as needed, with a posture of fatherly (or motherly) compassion. Champion your team! Love them well!
4. Teach right theology to your church, in partnership with senior leadership.
Did you know that songs just might be a better teacher of theology than a sermon? Theologian Gordon Fee once famously remarked, “Show me a church’s songs, and I’ll show you their theology.” Songs have a way of replaying over and over again in our heads, in a way that sermons don’t. And of course, what we replay in our minds shapes and reshapes the way we think, believe, and behave!
So, Worship Pastor, what are the songs you choose communicating to your people? What do these songs teach about God? About self? About Heaven? About faith? About forgiveness?
You are shaping people’s faith with the songs you choose, and with the songs you write. Choose and write carefully, and if you’re unsure, invite input from your senior pastor.
5. Pastor your people.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times now: worship leaders lead songs, worship pastors lead people. (That’s a saying I picked up from songwriter Aaron Keyes of 10,000 Fathers.) Any good cover band can offer a nice rendition of “Shout to the Lord,” but I don’t think that’s what God is interested in… and if we get right down to it, I don’t think that’s what you’re interested in, either. Enhance what happens on the platform by loving people well off the platform.
Be intentionally available to your people before and after service, even if you’re painfully introverted like I can be. Do what you need to in your church’s green room, but get out where the action is! Remember people’s names. Offer to pray with people and inquire the week after (if applicable) about results. Pop into the kid’s ministry and dole out some high-fives to the littles. Visit people in hospitals. Make an unannounced visit to a family’s home (as is appropriate), simply to offer a hand-written note of gratitude. Offer to babysit for a busy couple. Walk with people through grief and seasons of fatigue. Recommend books and music that have personally helped you. Be kind and genuinely smile. Love well.
And there you have it! Those are 5 big areas that I feel are integral to any worship pastor position. What do you think? What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!
Also, for those reading who genuinely feel a call to serve Jesus’ Kingdom in worship ministry, I want to be the first to say how excited I am for you! I pray you experience every joy and thrill that comes with serving in ministry, and that you bear much fruit. I would be more than honored to assist you in any way I can, seriously—whether it’s how to put together a worship set, how to expand your team, how to carefully reposition someone on your team into a different department, how to turn around a sinking ship… Get in touch with me here.