By Clark Palmer
What does a worship leader do? Is a salary really necessary for someone to just lead a few songs each week? When it comes time to find a worship leader what should we look for?
These are questions that come up from time and to time.
I recently had occasion to think about them myself. Perhaps these observations and thoughts on this subject will be helpful. Perhaps we can move away from thinking, “why pay this person so much since they only work an hour a week.”
A worship leader creates.
Every Monday morning the worship leader starts with a blank page. At some point, well before Sunday, an outline of the worship service, including all the necessary parts, must appear.
I say well before Sunday because after all the songs, Scriptures, and other parts are identified there is still much to be done. Creativity is required. There aren’t any style points awarded for “most creative worship service.”
Creativity itself is not the goal.
But a fresh, meaningful, thoughtfully planned time of worship produces engagement and impact. Simply picking three or four hymns out of the list of thirty or so that are always sung and then plugging them into their normal spots on the standard, unchanging order of worship is a sure path to staleness.
The worship leader you are looking for is the one who knows many songs from many styles. From that wide background they can then select songs that support and reinforce the direction of the message that day. None of this happens without thought and effort early in the week.
A worship leader communicates.
Once the music is set, then singers have to be enlisted, technical people like the sound folks and the video graphics people have to be engaged.
Rehearsals have to be set which means instrumentalists have to be contacted. Communication through texts, Facebook, email, phone is not hard but it can take easily, twenty to thirty separate, small acts of communication for everything to be set. No one text message is difficult but by the time the schedules and thinking of eight different people are coordinated, it start to feel like work.
A worship pastor shows up.
Once all the advance work is done, it’s time to bring it all together with all the people in the same room for practice. Even the simplest of songs will only be done with confidence with a rehearsal and rehearsals require a leader.
That means that a day before or several hours before everyone else even thinks about walking into the room, the worship leader and his team are there to prepare.
A worship leader gives attention.
One of our limited resources is attention.
We can only “attend” to so many things. When you ask someone to be your worship pastor you are asking that person to give up some of that attention “bandwidth.”
Attention giving is impossible to measure. Attention happens in the car while driving and the unexpected thought emerges from the subconscious. That unexpected thought is just the missing piece for Sunday’s service.
Attention happens during the few minutes on Tuesday while waiting for your toast to finish. Attention on happens in December of this year when you discover and make a note of what might work for your people in December of next year. Attention is when a song is noticed this week that will fit wonderfully in the Lord’s Supper service two weeks from now.
A worship leader is available.
Availability is another word for commitment.
When you ask someone to be your worship leader you are asking them to commit to you the vast majority of their weekends for the next year. You say, “wait, we’re just asking for Sunday morning.” That’s not how it works.
For Joe the worship leader, to be present on Sunday morning means he doesn’t take the weekend trip to the beach or the lake or to see grandma. You’re saying to the part-time worship leader, “you work Monday through Friday and then on top of that, you give up your weekend.”
The worship leader doesn’t get to take the last minute trip to see family. There’s no quick trip across the state to see the grandchildren.
It won’t matter if little Tommy’s team has a game on Sunday. It won’t do for him or her to make a last minute call on Sunday morning to say “We’ve got unexpected company” or “we got in so late last night.” If they wake up on Sunday morning and little Sally is sick, they will just have to figure it out because the worship service is going to happen and he’s expected to be there.
And it’s not just on Sunday morning. The worship pastor doesn’t just show up for his events. He’s part of the church and when the church gathers, he’ll want to be there.
A worship leader knows something about music.
To be comfortable singing, directing and working with the instrumentalists a worship leader needs some expertise in music.
He doesn’t have to be Mozart or have a degree in music but he needs to know how to read music, the difference between a car key and the Key of C, and how to get multiple singers to start and stop together and blend their voices.
And he or she needs to know the music side of things well enough to be able to forget the music side of things and turn their mind toward worship.
A worship leader knows the Lord, loves the Lord and is called and gifted for this work.
If all the other items on this list are present and this is not, then there’s a problem.
The heart matters.
The ability to distinguish between songs that are true to the Word and those with weak theology matters.
I suspect there are more things that could be said, but perhaps this is a good start. When looking for that worship leader look for these things. When it comes to deciding if they are worthy of compensation, keep this list in mind.
Clark Palmer is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Tioga.