The Worship Leader and Senior Pastor

While serving at UC, I had the privelage of having a pretty good relationship with my Senior Pastor. I worked every week to compliment his vision for the church – and he knew that. A lot of my opinion on the worship leader/senior pastor relationship came from this article:

The Worship Leader and Senior Pastor Partnership
by Ross Parsley

As I travel around the country, I find that the majority of worship leaders have a nervous, tense or worse relationship with their Senior Pastor. Many are not angry or frustrated, just awkward and unable to communicate effectively with each other-they’re nervous with each other. This is unfortunate because as the two most public roles within the church, they set the direction and tone for the people who make up that local body. If they are in healthy partnership, the church can be vibrant and alive with energy and vision. But when these two roles are not in sync, the people sense it and the tension hinders the spiritual strength and development within the local church. If there is discord between the two or a lack of submission, then, things get worse. This awkwardness between the Worship Leader and the Senior Pastor can happen for a variety of reasons, but the most common ones are: neglect of relationship, poor communication, personality clashes, style preferences, and in some cases a violation of authority.

Now, my Senior Pastor loves people. He loves to talk and connect with them, which is a great strength, but the problem is sometimes he loves talking and connecting with them during the worship time in our services. He’s not trying to be rude, he just loves being with our staff and church members and he enjoys catching up with them. So, I’ll be singing on a Sunday morning and he’ll be there on the front row chatting with all his buddies. Finally, our eyes will connect and he’ll give me that look that says, “Ok, ok, sorry, I’ll pay attention now.” We always smile when that happens because we both trust each other. I know him. He knows me. He knows my weaknesses and I know his, but we’ve made a commitment that goes beyond our weaknesses that gives us strength. We know we are working together for the kingdom and our love for one another allows us to work through sensitive issues with confidence. Whenever he has a suggestion or correction that he wants to bring to me, I know what his motivation is because we have a good relationship.

Of course, I know, not every Senior Pastor will have this kind of relationship with his Worship Leader, but we have to recognize that if the relationship between the Senior Pastor and the Worship Leader is strong, the church can build on that foundation. If the relationship is poor, then the foundation crumbles and the church suffers. So, from a Worship Leaders perspective, let me give you five ideas that will help you build a quality relationship with your Senior Pastor.

1. Be intentional in your communication and relationship.
Many Worship Leaders only respond to communication from the Pastor instead of initiating it. Every Senior Pastor is different, but most don’t mind being on the receiving end of intentional communication about what’s happening in the worship ministry or in the Worship Leader’s life. This can take the form of email, memos, phone calls or visits, but building a friendship doesn’t happen automatically, it usually takes time, energy and commitment. Your Senior Pastor might not want to be your best buddy, but he does want a relationship of some kind, and as the Worship Leader, it is appropriate and necessary for you to do things that communicate your desire to partner with him. Here’s a question: how do you become another’s friend? You do things for them, you get to know their likes and dislikes, you encourage them, and you’re thoughtful and kind to them. Reach out to your Pastor. You don’t have to get sappy but communicate in a way that says, “Hey, I’m with you and I want to partner with you in this ministry.”
2. Be submitted to your Senior Pastor and his vision.
I run into a lot of worship leaders that think they know more about worship than their Senior Pastor, and in many cases they actually do. This is fine as long as it doesn’t undermine the authority of the Senior Pastor in regards to his leadership in worship. I have a saying and it is, “The Senior Pastor is the Worship Leader”, which means that he is the one responsible for the vision of worship in that local church. God gave him the authority for it, and he has called you the worship leader along side to help implement it. But as worship leaders, we can’t have our “own” vision for worship apart from the Pastor’s. We must submit to his vision and surrender to his discretion and leadership in worship. Now, what if you don’t agree with some of his ideas? I believe in spiritual authority and, if you submit to it, you open the door for God to work. If you rebel against spiritual authority, even in a subtle and non-confrontational way, you will effectively close the door to God’s work in that area. I have had many discussions with my pastor on worship and we do disagree from time to time, but I always respectfully disagree and submit to his direction, which opens the door for God to change his mind. (That was a joke!)
3. Be secure in who you are and what God has called you to do.
Because of the sensitive, emotional and creative nature of musicians, I find that many worship leaders are insecure with themselves. They struggle with their identity and with confidence in what God wants them to do. This really works against a good relationship with the Senior Pastor because it puts pressure on the Pastor to manage the emotional well being of the worship leader. Most worship leaders have more power and permission than they think they do, but when they are insecure they don’t use it. They don’t capitalize on it. They don’t go for it when they should because they’re scared of what the Senior Pastor may think or worse what he may do. This can be frustrating for the Senior Pastor who wants a partner and not a project. If you’re insecure, find out what the Word says about you. Pray and be filled with the Spirit. Say “no” to sin. Read a helpful book. Go pray and fast until you can become a confident worshipper who is ready to lead. Then you and your Pastor will be able to communicate in a more healthy and consistent way.
4. Be consistent in your work and ministry.
Senior Pastors enjoy people who are as committed to the ministry as they are. They don’t ever want to feel like they are pulling it all on their own. Musicians have a reputation for being laid back, relaxed, or dare I say, lazy. So, the Worship Leader needs to do all he or she can to eliminate this kind of thinking. Take care of business. Be organized. Be prepared and ready for your services. Go the extra mile to make sure things are right and this will give your Senior Pastor confidence in you and allow him to trust you. Pastors really don’t like being surprised by their staff, either in their services or in their offices so consistently communicate what’s coming. If you’re consistent in what you do, your credibility will increase and your relationship will grow and you will actually develop your own confidence in working along side him as a partner in
5. Understand the different roles of your Senior Pastor.
Your Senior Pastor has a lot of different hats to wear. If we look at Jesus, we see he was the Pastor to the masses. He was the boss of the twelve. He was the coach of the three and the friend of John-that is according to John. Pastor, boss, coach and friend are all descriptions of roles that your Senior Pastor has with you. It’s a terrible thing to realize that he was in “boss” mode when you thought he was in “Pastor” mode. And it’s an embarrassing thing for him to have his “friend” hat on when you thought he had his “Pastor” hat on. It’s up to us as Worship Leaders to make sure that we understand that our Pastors have different roles to play with us and with others. We should be able to interpret what hat he’s wearing on which day. Worship Leaders need to allow the Pastor to be a boss when he needs to be, without crumbling under the pressure of it. The Worship Leader should respond appropriately to the “Pastor” hat, or the “coach” hat, as well as be available if the Pastor wants to wear his “friend” hat. Understand and embrace his different roles and watch your relationship go from cloudy and confusing to clear and encouraging.

As worship leaders, we have a strategic role to play in the life and ministry of our churches, but let’s not be passive. Let’s not allow ourselves to become consumed in the music or in ourselves. Let’s get rid of insecurity and pride and let’s join with our Pastors as partners. Don’t keep a record of wrongs, and don’t judge your Pastor’s imperfections harshly. Let’s strengthen and encourage our Pastors so that God will be pleased with us and so that our relationships with them become a model of love and grace that others can follow.

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2 thoughts on “The Worship Leader and Senior Pastor

  1. Pingback: The Worship Leader/Senior Pastor Relationship « For the Journey

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