9 Ways Pastors Can Maximize Their Part-time Worship Leader’s Role

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Part-time local church worship leaders are everywhere.   Just a gut feeling, since I wasn’t able to find any actual statistical data, there are probably way more part-time worship leaders than full time, based on the number of small to medium sized churches in the US.  Unlike student ministry or children’s ministry, music is a part of most every church no matter the size or style. With the many unpaid worship leaders and the vast number of volunteers in medium to large church worship teams, there are probably more volunteer worship leaders across the nation than paid.  Come to think of it, there are more worship leaders than pastors!  [READ:  Pastor’s you are the worship leader for your congregation]

The number of part-time worship leaders must be staggering.  I have read there are about 350,000 congregations around the USA.  Many of these churches may just have one or two musicians, but many others have several.  No wonder the worship music industry is such a huge deal!

The job of worship leader creates a neat and tidy, part-time role in the church. Typically the rehearsal and worship services are the bedrock basics for a part-time person.  There might also be a meeting or two they need to attend on a regular basis.  My focus today is on the pastor’s relationship with a part-time worship leader. How does a pastor work best and most utilize a part-time worship leader?

Here are some things you can do as a pastor…

1. Build a relationship

The worship leader / pastor role may be one of the most important in the church.  There is a need to work together both off stage and on stage.  Your relationship needs to be strong.  Pastors need to have their worship leader’s phone number and get comfortable sending quick texts – a lot.  Whether the person has been around a while or you just got connected to them, take them to lunch, go to a game, or visit another church together.  Ask questions, learn about them,  and connect with them. Do anything that will help build a relationship.  This will help carry some weight as you are planning and growing the worship service and the role. Here are nine ideas for growing community in your church staff.  

2. Get a vision for growth

In church planting, the first person who needs to be full time is the pastor and the second person you need full time is the Worship Leader.  Music and worship leadership is vital to sustaining a growing church.  Sunday morning worship experiences are the bread and butter for the church – both church plants and established churches.  Pastors need to get a vision to grow the worship ministry role – with a long term goal of full time worship leader.  And a vision to continually help music become more excellent.  Share this vision and direction with your worship leaders.

3. Plan a time for meeting weekly

The nature of part-time requires both the pastor and worship leader to be diligent in setting side some time to talk through music and worship for future Sundays.  This meeting time can be creative as it needs to be.  A planning meeting during the week – even if it needs to be early morning or evening.  It can be email, phone calls, texts or a closed Facebook group of some kind.  The meeting needs to include some debriefing about what went well and what’s not working.  It also needs to include direction for future worship services. If you have the privilege of a part-time worship leader who doesn’t work in another job, you may be able to set a regular time during the week.  If the worship leader has another job, you will need to find other ways to connect.  It could be 6:30 one morning a week.  It could be late afternoon around 4:30.  It could be evening, maybe before or after a rehearsal, though both of those time are pretty crazy.  If possible, pull in another person to begin meeting with you too – grow the planning into a team approach.  During this meeting, you want to incorporate the 5D Worship Leadership Model which includes debriefing and setting direction. You can double check this coming Sunday, but really it’s better to be out ahead a few Sundays.  Here’s our current church worship planning scheme in a nutshell:  1) We meet one Sunday afternoon in November to line out the basic sermons for the coming year, 2) We meet two Wednesday mornings a month (at 6:45 am) to talk through those messages that are coming up 3) We informally talk at some point on Thursday or Friday about the Sunday service to make sure all the pieces are together.  Our church has two part-time worship leaders – one for the two services led by a worship band in the Family Life Center and the other who leads the choirs and special music for the two Sanctuary services.

4. Set expectations

“Anyone can do two things at once.  What is really impressive is to do one thing at once.”  The main goal for your part-time worship leader is help make Sunday morning worship great – musically, in flow and in equipping people to be involved.  You really can’t add on several other components to the role… it needs to be singularly focused.  Set expectations for the job – the rehearsal time, the amount of time you expect for preparing (in general) the amount of music for each service, the qualities of leadership (working with and through others, consistently communicating with the team, etc.).  There is an old saying that you need to “hire slow and fire quickly”.  If you don’t set expectations in some way, you will never know if the person is working out or not.  If the pastor doesn’t define excellence for the worship leader, then they will define it themselves and it may not line up with yours.  Pastors don’t have to be “musical” to have strong input into the leadership of the worship leader.  READ: How to get outstanding performance from your church staff

5. Trust them

After planning and setting expectations, you need to trust the worship leader.  Enjoy it.  Sit on the front row.  Worship.  Trust, for this season, God has brought you together to lead this church in corporate worship.  Jump in and be comfortable with the process – whether the person is volunteer or paid.  Stand up for the worship leader.  You are charged with the ministry and vision of this church and one step you have taken is to, in a sense, delegate the role of music and worship leadership to this person – now trust them to lead.

6. Plan ahead with regularity

If you are working with a part-time worship leading staff, you probably have to do your planning for the Sunday sermons and themes and then share the goal with the worship leader.  I think the worship leader can still have input in shaping the theme or message, but for the most part, their job is to come along side and help make it happen.  The more the pastor can put things together, the better chance the worship leader can bring some creative music to it.  Planning can’t be week by week, you must get ahead on the calendar.  My brother Jackson (who is a worship leader in Springfield, IL) has a humorous take on what the worship leader can and can’t do depending on the pastor’s work in planning. He says, “I can only churn the butter as fast as milk comes out of the udder.”  The pastor must plan.  The worship leader must help hold the pastor accountable.  Don’t get into a rut of assuming that you can’t do it.  You must do it, for the sake of the worshiping congregation. Jason Hatley wrote a book called Engage.  He maps out a great planning scheme in that book.  It may give you some ideas.

7. Give suggestions

You are the pastor and your input is welcomed. If you don’t feel like you can give your worship leader suggestions and input, then go back to step one.  If that doesn’t work, you need to look quickly at making a change.  Don’t get comfortable walking on egg shells – it’s not worth it and we don’t have time for it in kingdom ministry.  If you have a song suggestion, throw it out.  If have a great way to end a particular service, then bring it up and plan for it.  If you think a couple tweaks in the way the worship leader does something would help, suggest it.  Try new things.  Give feedback and become comfortable with it.

8. Develop them

Great bosses develop their people.  Help them grow.  Help them learn.  Send them to conferences and training that apply. Provide the right tools. Get everything you can online so everyone has access to it during the week (we use Google Docs, Planning Center Online and just recently have been experimenting with Slack for group texts).  Their time should be spent 1) preparing music and rehearsals 2) connecting with and developing new musicians and worship leaders, 3) working with or developing the rest of the worship team – sound, video, graphics, etc.  Encourage your worship leader to follow these Worship Leader Twitter Accounts.  I would also love to have your worship leader check out the resources on this blog.

9. Pray for the worship ministry

Here’s the icing.  If you want your ministry to grow, in any aspect, you must be praying for it.  Seek God on behalf of your church and staff.  Pray for receptivity as you serve together in the good and hard work of church ministry.  Trust that God is at work in your planning and preparation.  Pray for more people to serve in the process of leading worship, planning for worship and helping with all the little pieces to make it great.  Pray for Sundays – for the tech, the teams, the greeters, the people who will showing up.  Pray for power and creativity for your worship leader.

OTHER POSTS…

5 D’s of Worship Leadership – in Five Words

The seven basics of worship leading

How to create great flow in worship services

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