I was the new pastor in a fairly large congregation. When I got there, the people were willing to see the church grow and ready to revitalize the worship service to a blended format that incorporated traditional hymns and newer songs. There was one major problem. The worship team. Not selected based on gifts or abilities, but on the principle of “whosoever will”. Anyone could be on it. Anyone. And that was a problem. So we hired a worship leader. It caused some ripples in some members of the worship team, that now felt excluded.
To those who are getting their missiles ready to send my way, hear me out. I often hear people that say: “We’ll pastor, they are doing it with good intentions and with a sincere heart and that is all that really matters”. Really? Do you apply that logic to the rest of your life? Do you use a mechanic because he has a good heart, even though he can’t tell the difference between a wrench and a screwdriver? Do you eat food by a well-intentioned chef that can’t cook? Will you let a heart surgeon that really loves the Lord operate on you even though he hasn’t gone to medical school? He’s doing it sincerely, you know!
If God, and worship is of such importance, shouldn’t the gifted in that area lead?
Here are four recommendations:
1. Let’s not dismiss them.
One of the common church sayings that really gets to me as I visit churches is when the worship leader finishes the song service and the person that comes up after them says: “And now, as we begin our program..” That statement says it all. What do you call what we just did, sir? The cavalier, dismissive attitude we give to people that lead music can be improved, to say the least.
2. Let’s support them.
I don’t know how many times I have seen worship leaders (it happens in both CCM Churches and Traditional Congregations) struggling and singing by themselves while the congregation has the look of: When is this over so we can get to the “most important part of the program.” In case you didn’t know, when you give less than 100%, guests notice. Your kids notice. God notices. Sing with gusto. Smile at the worship leader. Let them know you are connecting with what they are saying. Sing like if Jesus Himself is there. (He is!)
3. Let’s train them.
In many cases worship leaders are selected on the “whosoever will” principle. We basically just settle for a warm body that does not make babies cry. Singing is not worship. It can be part of worship, but a worship leader is so much more. They can either hinder or help the process. There is little or no training, so the same mistakes are made over and over. Like singing the same set of songs every week for AY. Like misspelled words in the Power Point. Like no words on the screen for anyone (a sign for visitors that tells them: we will sing by ourselves now, thanks) Invest in your worship leaders. Send them to a conference. (here is a great one: http://www.cye.org/mwc/ Buy them books. Get them resources.
4. Let’s pay them.
I can hear the groans now. Well, pastor, if we pay the worship leaders, where does it end? I really don’t know where it ends, but it starts with music ministers! I don’t want to make this a fast and hard rule, because different churches have different realities but what I saw in my own personal experience was the moment we hired a full time music minister it raised the level of the quality, intentionality and excellence of the music. In the OT musicians played a key role and were compensated. It’s a shame that other churches treat our own musicians better than us, but that’s a topic for another blog.
Let’s continue to strive to reach higher. Pray for your worship leaders today.
Note: since worship is always a divisive and contentious topic, please keep the conversation civil, and Christian.