Worship Pastors: Get Off the Stage (or "Your Real Job")
What do worship pastors do all week anyway?
I mean really. They pick some songs, lead a rehearsal, and lead the church on Sunday. Does that take 40hrs? Even 20hrs?
So they must do more than that, right?
Eh. Maybe. But usually not. Google "Parkinson's Law".
Somewhere along the line we decided that worship pastors should be hired. I think we were right. The role of music in the Church is arguably one of the most important and influential roles. Be honest - when you chose where you now go to church, what were the two things you based most of your decision on. If you're honest, it was (1) the preaching and (2) the music. I won't get into how terrible of a basis for choice that is right now because it is what it is. And it makes sense. Look at history. Entire cultures and movements and nations have been built around speaking and music. Think "I Have a Dream". Or the Sermon on the Mount. Think The Beatles. Or U2. Or Bach. We were right. Worship pastors should be hired. It's that important.
But no one told us (or the worship pastors for that matter) what they should be doing. We only described the final result. We want better worship music. Better sound. Better lights. Better atmosphere and experience. We want passion and art and humanity. We want honesty. So we look for someone who epitomizes those traits, we hire them, and then we put them on the stage. And guess what? It works! Our services are better. Our people are more engaged. Less grossed out and embarrassed than before. And it seems like our church is better for it.
But while this move may be a necessary step in implementing a worship pastor on a church staff, I'm afraid it's the only step we ever take. This is why: Unlike other ministries where scaling is a necessary part of growth, worship ministry does not need to scale with the growth of a church (sorry sr church leaders with business degrees). A great band with a great leader and a great sound tech and lighting tech with great equipment can make a great thing happen for 300 people or for 3000 people. It's the same amount of work. Same amount of techs and musicians. You just need bigger and better equipment to scale up. So there's no outside force that makes a worship pastor change the way he/she does things. This is almost a good thing, especially from an efficiency standpoint. But ultimately it's not healthy. And here's why:
There is a good chance that there are two, three, maybe ten extremely gifted worship leaders in your church. People God has gifted and set aside, from birth, to lead His church to places you (or your worship pastor) will never be able to take it. They're sitting in the seats each week and they're ok with things the way they are. No one's complaining. Everyone's happy. Meanwhile they're slowly dying, along with any hope your church has of reaching its fullest potential.
Don't believe they're there? Then answer this worship pastors: Do you ever go on vacation? Do they cancel music while you're gone?
Listen. Gifted, set-aside-by-God worship leaders are not a-dime-a-dozen. They should be * running * the worship ministry at your church. * They * should be training and pastoring a band. * They * should be writing and introducing new music to your church. * They * should be helping to decide where the worship ministry goes from here. If you're a paid, on-staff worship pastor (or director or whatever), your primary job is to identify, call out, and give real authority to the people God gifted and set aside to lead worship. Then help them do it. If you won't do this, you'll let them die along with their rare gift, and you'll stunt the Church's growth long-term.
Why is this so hard for us to do? Is it really that the gifted leaders aren't around? Do we really believe the only way to lead our church is from the stage? Or is it the extreme drop in attaboys we'll get after services. Or the likelyhood that many people won't recognize us as "their pastor" anymore. Or the messiness of trying to lead a group of "just volunteers" to do such an important task. Or the elder that will question why we're even getting paid when he doesn't see us on stage as much.
All valid fears. But they're just that.
If no one told you this was your job when you started, it's because they didn't know. That doesn't mean anything except you may also need to educate your fellow staff members on what a worship pastor really looks like.
Please, for the sake of the Church, get off the stage and be a worship pastor.
- To be clear, most paid worship pastors should be on stage. They have authority to say things that can push the Church forward. They're probably the most gifted worship leader at your church. So don't bounce to the opposite extreme. But once per 3/4 weeks is probably enough to retain influence and keep yourself in that part of the game. Personally, I'd love to be on stage every week. In fact, I've built things around myself so that I'm playing on other stages all throughout the year. So don't neglect yourself on account of everyone else. But what I've found is that most worship pastors aren't anywhere close to being in danger of taking themselves off the stage and releasing the Church to be the Church too much.
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