Moving from volunteer worship leader to paid worship pastor is a big jump and an incredible opportunity. I’m always cheering on people as they step into a new role and I’m often asked for advice as someone starts working at a church in their role as worship pastor.
Starting well will help you set a good course for many years of successful ministry and will allow you to thrive in your role. Stumbling out of the blocks won’t completely derail you but if I can help you avoid some early missteps then everyone wins!
Every church, job description, set of expectations and co-worker dynamic will be different based on location, size of church, history, tenure of the senior pastor (to only name a few factors!) but here are five words of advice I give to worship pastors who are just starting out in their new job at a church for the first time.
1. Don’t Neglect Your Soul
I’ve been in full-time worship ministry since 2005. Long enough to see too many worship pastors leave their church job, leave the church and some leave the faith altogether. Don’t neglect your soul.
Success in ministry at the expense of your relationship with Jesus is a terrible trade.
Personal worship outside of rehearsal and Sunday morning is crucial. Prioritize time in prayer away from the office. Read scripture for more than choosing songs that match your pastor’s message. Celebrate the work of Jesus in your family and your community.
Your identity as a follower of Jesus is so much more than what you do as a worship pastor and your ability as a worship pastor will flow out of your own relationship with Jesus. Don’t neglect it.
2. Your Pastor Trusts You
By inviting you to lead the flock under their care, your pastor has already expressed great trust in you. You may not be BFF’s yet with your pastor but invest in the relationship and take time to learn how you can serve them, encourage them and be part of shepherding people the way God has called you to do together.
Your pastor loses sleep over the people in your church and trust me when I say that they care very much about who is leading their church in worship. By hiring you and giving you this opportunity they have already shown you how much trust they have in you.
3. Your Pastor Is Your Boss Is Your Pastor
People who work for their church have, by nature, a very strange relationship with their boss. There are as many staffing structures as there are churches but at some point your pastor is going to be your boss is going to be your pastor. And that can be weird.
Your job security is dependent partly on your spiritual wellness but your spiritual vitality should never be dependent on your job performance. It can be very difficult to separate those two things but the sooner you can build pastor relationship with your boss, the better. He wants you to thrive both as a follower of Jesus AND as a worship pastor and if his priorities are in the right place they will be in that order.
4. Love People Before Leading Them
Once you are hired as a professional worship leader that means you are on staff at a larger than average church that can afford to pay you and also has certain expectations of what will be delivered on Sunday morning. It’s easy to fall into the trap and believe that you are there to perform for the crowd and help them check off the worship box.
Spend time every Sunday walking through the seats just talking with people and asking them how they’re doing. Get out to the lobby or the parking lot and say hi to people as they come in to the building. Get down and high five some kids as they’re walking through the halls. It’s important for people to know that you see them and care for them as people before you lead them.
5. Go To The Funeral
Someone gave me this advice almost 15 years ago and it has served me well. Go to the funeral. When you hear of a tough thing in someone’s life, show up. If someone on your team has a death in the family and you’re able, go to the funeral. They won’t think it’s weird or out of place, you won’t be overstepping your bounds and you aren’t setting a bad precedent. Just show up.
Your presence during tough times will speak volumes to the people who are serving alongside you and will help grow the pastoral shepherding heart that God has already placed inside you. Go to the funeral.
There’s 5 Words of Advice for a Worship Pastor’s First Day on the Job.
Those of you who are in full time paid worship ministry, what would you add to this list?
What advice did you receive when you started in your first worship pastor position?