- Marc Brown
What are the skills and qualities that a worship pastor should have?
The most obvious answer may be musical talent. After all, you can’t lead or teach people to be excellent in something unless you yourself are excellent, right? But how is excellence in music defined? Should worship and worship leadership be defined through a lens as narrow as music?
One thing that cannot be avoided is the fact that if the quality of music in worship suffers for too long, the worship pastor may be looking for a new job. I used to be called a minister of music, but for the last 10 years have been the worship pastor. What does that mean? I will always remember a particular conversation I had as a teen with an adult from my church. The adult needed the help and attention of one of the pastoral staff from their church. They were frustrated because it was the day of the week when the staff rotation provided them with the help of the minister of music. As a minister of music (now worship pastor) for over 20 years, I’ll never forget these words: “I need a real minister—not the music guy!” It seems that those of us who are called worship pastors may be viewed by our congregations as little more than the music director. In some churches, this is conceded, with churches choosing to keep their worship leaders as the hired gun, running the music program while the ministry duties and theological knowledge is left to the real clergy. Still other churches name and treat us as clergy, but do we take up the mantel of pastoring in a way that our congregations need and recognize?
More Than Music
A few months ago, I was contacted by a church that a good friend had given my name to as a possible candidate for their open worship pastor position. After a short conversation I received an email from them with several questions. Rather than first wanting to audition my musical skills, they wanted my answers to questions that come from the “pastor” half of the title. My wife and I quickly realized that God was not calling us to this church; however, I realized that if a church had asked me these questions at an earlier time in my life, I may have struggled to provide good answers. As the era of the Rock Star Worship Leader is starting to wane, I believe that more and more churches will be asking questions like these of potential worship candidates. I also believe that many potential worship candidates are woefully unprepared to answer them because, perhaps, no one has ever asked. Oh, some of them actually require work and thought.
Here is the list of questions I was given for worship leaders:
- Please explain your theology of worship, giving biblical support. This is one question I believe I would not have been able to answer with any credibility before my most recent degree. Am I saying that you have to get a degree to answer this question? Certainly not—but it helps. This question reveals the absolute necessity for worship pastors to receive theological training in the area of worship. Look around, there are many places offering undergraduate or master's degrees that can prepare you to lead with theological integrity.
- How does worship connect with pastoral care? Give examples from your ministry experience. If the totality of your ministry has been spent in rehearsal or on stage, you will struggle to answer this question. It may seem like our musical responsibilities are so great that we actually have no time for ministry “outside” our area. As pastors, we are called to minister to people in all sorts of places and situations, many outside of the performing arts milieu. I remember hearing Rick Muchow speak fondly of how he sought out a place to minister outside of his job responsibilities and how it blessed him. If you don’t make a practice of visiting people in their homes or when they are in the hospital, you need to. If you realize you never have contact with people outside of a rehearsal or a worship context, pray for God to show you where you can join Him in His work.
- From what the Bible both describes and prescribes in terms of worship, which elements are most important in the church’s gathered worship? Please provide us with an example of an order of worship that you recently planned and led. Wow, this could be a scary thing to ponder. I know plenty of worship pastors whose service orders consist of three to five songs scribbled on a piece of scrap paper and laid on the floor by their guitar pedals. If this describes you, then, you have reason to pray for God’s wisdom and leadership. Have some important conversations and start reading books that are a bit more meaty than the gift-size things found in a Christian bookstore. Your congregation needs more from you than great sounds and a smoke machine.
- If someone asked you to describe your strengths as a minister of music/worship pastor, what would you tell them? What are your areas of limitation in which you desire to grow? This question is pretty obvious for any job interview. However, musicians are infamously unable to take criticism. Have a conversation with someone that you know will be honest, who cares for you and can be confidential. I think everyone should seek out this sort of self-evaluation, because it is usually easier to face your shortcomings with someone other than your senior pastor.
- Knowing the particular context of a church is vital for a member of the pastoral staff. Practically speaking, what would you do to get to know the context of our church? This is a question that leans on leadership. As much as theological education prepares you for many of these questions, I admit that I have learned most about leadership from serving alongside great leaders. Being a leader means knowing how to contribute in a way that makes a difference. Being a leader also means freeing people to use their gifts and letting them make mistakes. Exhibiting leadership in church does not consist of knowing how to push your agenda. Becoming a vested part of a team is one of the best ways to make meaningful contributions. How well do you really know the other ministerial staff in your church? Do you socialize with them and their families outside of church events? You should.
- Other than the Bible, list three or four books and/or authors who have been formative in your theology of worship and describe how/why they have been influential. This is another question that reveals your love of learning. If you rely solely on popular Christian texts, you will have a very difficult time finding meaningful reading material focused on worship. Many guys also tell me they are not readers. I could have been described this way for most of my life—it is no excuse. If you are not a reader, learn how to skim. There are more good books to help you think about worship and leadership than ever before. You must become familiar with what’s going on in the world beyond social media. Don’t forget that the fiction you read also contributes to your ministry.
- In what ways do you involve the congregation in gathered worship? In the worship blogs and magazines I read, congregational participation has been a topic of growing frequency. It is also becoming a larger issue for pastors as they begin to see worship participation as an indicator of discipleship. In addition to reading blogs and magazines, there are many great breakout sessions at worship conferences that will provide you with tools and ideas to help you in this area. One little bit of personal advice to you in this area is to do everything possible to help your people get their heads out of music stands, choir folders, iPads or anything else that comes between your team and the congregation.
- How have you taught a congregation the importance of family worship and personal devotional worship? I still struggle to answer this question. The answer probably requires conversations with your pastor and other ministerial staff. If family worship is a part of worship ministry that you’ve never explored, look around. Ask other worship pastors what they are doing. Ask student and children’s pastors what they are doing. One of the ways some churches foster unity is through encouraging multigenerational worship. If your church segregates adults, students and children, you may need to think of some creative opportunities to encourage the families in your church to worship together. It’s possible that your pastor will ask you if you have any ideas in this area. If he does, you should have some ready to share.
- How do stylistic considerations flow out of your theology of worship? This question is linked to questions #1 and #3. In order to answer this question, you need to have read, thought and prayed through creating a personal theology of worship. Reading books on the philosophy and theology of worship will help you. I have mentioned it already, but I am convinced it is well worth it to take the time and make the commitment to pursue a degree that focuses on the way you think about worship.
- Based on our church’s stated purpose of “_________,” please share how worship plays a role in fulfilling that purpose. For the interviewing church, this is the bottom line. Each church has their own purpose (or should) and they want to know how your worship leadership will help their people grow in unity and discipleship as they strive together to live in God’s grace and calling. Knowing biblical and theological reasons worship helps people become transformed into disciples of Christ is necessary for answering this bottom-line question.
Worship ministry is complicated and busy. It demands a lot of time and work from you and your team members. Whether or not you are preparing for interviews or content in your current place of service, you cannot use your busy schedule as an excuse for remaining shallow in your understanding of worship, ministry and leadership. Your goal as a worship pastor is much greater than rehearsing a group of musicians and performing. Go to conferences, read, visit the sick and get involved in areas of ministry outside of worship, get that degree you’ve been talking about; as modern-day Levites, we are called to help God’s people to clearly see Him, hear Him and respond to Him. So if God has called you and set you apart to be a worship pastor, then pastor.
Is your church ready to hire a Worship Leader? Post a job and strengthen your team!