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Are your Pastors getting in the way of you leading worship?

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  • Are your Pastors getting in the way of you leading worship?

    I wanted to get your thoughts on an issue that I and my co-leader are having when it comes to running the worship part of the service and running the Praise Team (or Praise Band).

    1) My co-leader and I spent time choosing songs specific to the message each week. We try to add new songs as much as possible and try to find songs that fit the congregation and the "hip" style that the pastors want for the service.

    Pretty much every week they choose their own songs ignoring our choices which are now considered "our suggestions". We feel the pastor sometimes choose old and outdated songs for the church. I would understand over-riding our decision on a song because of the lyrics not being a fit for the message or congregation but I feel they shouldn't be involved or taking over the musical side of this process.

    How do you work with you pastors when it comes to choosing songs for the message?

    2) We are in need of new musicians to join our Praise Team but the pastors are giving us obstacles when it comes to bringing in new musicians. When someone approaches us, we suggest that they join us for rehearsals for a few weeks or months so we can hear and evaluate their musicianship and so they can get use to how our rehearsal is done. (They may play an instrument but it might be their first time playing along with a band.) Once we feel comfortable we would approve them and send them to the pastors for their approval.

    I feel that the pastors want to be involved in (or take over) the entire process of approving new musicians. They want to talk to them first and approve them to us before we are able to hear them. Our fear in that is that they may not have any musical talent or better yet not enough for the "prime time" of Sunday mornings. This would make it awkward having them sit in for weeks or months with us after have approval from the pastors but not yet having an opportunity to play on Sunday morning and eventually leading to us saying no. I and my co-leader feel that this process makes us look like the bad guy. We understand what the pastors want to do but we feel that it would be best as a final approval. I will also mention that they want to evaluate them musically which is our job as musicians.

    Furthermore, the pastors do have an age requirement for joining the Praise Team; teens, 20s, and 30s. The problem is that no one in that age demographic is jumping up the the plate. They are all too busy with high school, college, school activities, and family. It is only the 40s, 50s, and 60s, which are so far good musicians or at least with potential. Two, going on three, have been turned away because of their age, still leaving us with holes to fill in our Praise Team.

    What is your procedure in bringing in new musicians? How are you as worship leaders and musicians involved and how are your pastors involved?

    When my co-leader and I are having issues with the pastors I am reminded of the scene in the movie Amadeus. "Too Many Notes?" http://youtu.be/dCud8H7z7vU

  • #2
    I very much feel for you in this situation. Personally, we're very blessed that our Pastor is a musician and plays in the worship band. And even though he plays in the band, he understands the need to allow me to lead the band given the extent of my musical background. All he really wants is for the worship band to be the best it can possibly be...and that's what any pastor should want.

    To be honest with you, I doubt I could work in the type of situation you describe. Unfortunately and all too often, Pastors are blessed with the ability to tend to the needs of the flock, but are woefully inadequate when it comes to management and leadership skills. What your Pastor sees as providing "guidance" to the band would be termed "micro-managing" in the common secular environment.

    What I would suggest in your situation would be to have a real heart-to-heart discussion with your Pastor and start with a clear understanding of his vision of what the ideal worship band would be. And then be honest with yourself about whether or not his vision lines up with what you believe you can contribute to. It very well may not. In which case you may be better off handing the reigns over to someone who "buys in" to his vision rather than stress and anguish of trying to do something your hearts not into. It may also be the case that the Pastor has unrealistic ideas when it comes to what he envisions as the ideal worship team...which, based on your description seems to be the case. And maybe you can educate and illuminate his thinking in that regard.

    I think the red flag for me in this situation is his insistence on the demographics of those on the praise team. I'm not sure he completely understands the trade-offs in that situation. The good news is a praise team of younger members can often be more lively, the bad news is a praise team of young members can often be more lively...leading to more attention to their physical performance and less attention to the music. If your Pastor plays golf you might ask him who he'd rather have as his golf partner in a tournament...someone who's been playing golf for 5 or 10 years, or someone who's been playing golf for 30 or 40 years?

    Ultimately I think the decision is in your court as to whether or not you can belive in and support the direction he has in mind for your praise team. Sometimes you just can't sync up..and you're better off not being constantly frustrated.
    The Posse Band live performance tracks can be heard by CLICKING HERE


    • #3
      Just the title of your post makes me shudder: " Are your Pastors getting in the way of you leading worship?" The pastor is the LEADER. We, as worship leaders are not. It is quite that simple. I suggest you read, "The Heart of the artist" by Rory Noland he writes specifically about this topic. Mature leaders follow. This doesn't mean to not question or make suggestions, but rather move with the "current" of the leadership. In time, the pastor will trust you, but perhaps the reason he is "micro managing" you is because he senses the resistance from you and your team? The pastor has reasons for doing what they are doing. You may not like the choices, but he is the Lead worshiper."

      Chris Draper
      Creative Director SING Music Publishing


      • #4
        This has communication breakdown all over it. I'll skip the essay and just shoot from the hip on this one.

        1. You need to develop a better working relationship with your pastors. Meet with them often, at first to understand them, and THEN to speak into the situation. There is a clear misunderstanding of who has authority over what...and it needs to be sorted, quickly. This is how people burn out or emotionally explode.

        2. The age requirement is a huge red flag. I'll take the older guys 9 times out of 10. They know better where to play and when to leave space, most of them have a classic rock history so they know...well...how to rock. Sure, there is benefit to having youth (I am the youngest on stage, most of the time...full disclosure), but a mandate like that is very worrying. See above about who has what kind of authority. Your band's image won't mean anything, especially if it is filled with inexperienced players who don't communicate well.

        Finally, on a more personal note. My personal relationship with my pastor extends way beyond the walls of our building. We are good friends, and that is a HUGE help when it comes to making decisions about music. I am currently the director of the worship arts in our church, and he knows AS A LEADER that if he doesn't empower me as well as guide me, I am a wasted resource. Same goes for you and your co-leader.

        We have a saying. If someone asks you to set out the chairs, and then comes out and "shuffles the chairs", what does that do to your confidence? What does it say about their trust in you? I won't work for/with/around/near a chair shuffler if I can avoid it.


        • #5
          Thanks. We will be having a meeting with the pastors soon.

          I posted here because I wanted to have ideas and thoughts to share before our meeting. i.e. How do other church do it?

          Again Thank You all.

          Keep them coming.


          • #6
            Amen brother!


            • #7
              I'm probably just going to echo what others have already advised above, but here goes...

              1) You need to sit down with your pastors and together write down on paper the system that needs to happen to create a Sunday morning worship service, and the rolls/responsibilities that each person plays in that system.

              2) Same thing with bringing on new musicians. What is the system, and what roll/responsibilities do each pastor and worship leader play in that system.

              3) Agree to trust each other to carry out those rolls/responsibilities within the agreed upon system, and agree to hold each other accountable, either if somebody is slacking, or somebody is attempting to interfere with another person's roll/responsibility.

              The two most likely scenarios here are, you've either got a trust issue or a communication issue. Either you all already have written down your system and everybody knows their place in that system, but your pastors are unable or unwilling to trust the worship leaders within that system, OR, they would trust you but the system and rolls/responsibilities have never been clearly communicated and agreed upon.

              If, the issues persist after everybody has clearly communicated, you've obviously got a trust issue. My guess is, your pastors are either young and inexperienced, or older and jaded. This also relates to the fact that they have set an age limit on who can play in the band (which is completely idiotic IMO). I'm guessing they're young and inexperienced, and I'd also guess you are maybe either involved in a young church plant, or in a church that is attempting to transition from old to young. It sounds to me like your pastors have bought into the poor logic that you've got to have young people serving in order to attract more young people. Young people appreciate good music, whether the people producing the music are 50 or 25 doesn't much matter to them. Prohibiting older, wiser, more seasoned musicians from serving is only going to hurt your church in the long run.

              Sounds to me like you've got a few pastors who have yet to learn the invaluable lesson of delegation. Leaders lead most effectively when they allow those who can to do. Micromanaging leaders only shoot themselves in the foot by stealing the joy, energy and passion from those they're leading by limiting their ability to use their Go-given gifts to serve the church.

              As the worship leader, I work closely with our pastor(s) to plan out our Sunday mornings. They send me their notes and specific ideas they want to include, and I fit everything together. They trust me to do this because this is what I was hired to do. On occasion they may ask me to include a specific song or ask for a specific order of certain elements, which I gladly do, but for the most part, they focus on the sermon, I focus on the music and other elements and making sure it all flows together well.

              Our system for bringing on new musicians is completely my responsibility. Once a person joins our church as a member, they've already been approved to serve by our pastors. It's my responsibility from that point on. The pastor(s) will come to me if they know confidential things about a person that might keep them from being able to serve on stage in a leadership capacity, and I trust their judgment in those specific situations, but that rarely happens.

              Similar to you, we ask those who show interest to come sit in on a rehearsal or two just to observe how we operate. We invite them to bring their instrument and be prepared to sing/play and audition for me and maybe one or two other members of the band. Their skill level and willingness to commit then determines how quickly they move from rehearsals to leading worship on Sunday with us. Some people are ready on both accounts to start serving very quickly, other people, either because they are less skilled or because they are less mature (and need to prove their commitment) are brought along more slowly. Again, I am in charge of making all of these decisions (with the help of my band).

              I hope all of that helps. Your situation is not uncommon at all, but it can be incredibly detrimental to the ministry of your church if a solution is not agreed upon and carried out. I hope you're able to do just that.

              Practical Worship

              Please Pray For My Wife


              • #8
                This is a tough one. On the one hand, your pastor is and should be the final authority for everything that happens in worship. Having said that, it sounds like there are some real communication and control issues here that need to be addressed. It's your job to support your pastor's' vision of worship, but they in turn need to empower you to do that. As hitchface said, it's going to be critical to sit down and talk through this ASAP - if there isn't communication flowing both ways, then there's not much hope for the situation to improve.

                The age requirement really doesn't sit well with me. There have been some good discussions on this board about this issue as of late. I've never been in a situation where I had the luxury of turning away a willing volunteer, but it makes no sense to me to exclude gifted folks because they are or aren't a certain age, especially if you have immediate needs on your team (as it sounds like you do). Talent is talent.

                As far as the music selection issues, etc., I have been in a similar situation. I was hired by a church that said they wanted to completely rebrand and relaunch their contemporary worship experience. As we got into it, that turned out not to be the case. Most of the other leadership really preferred a more "old school" approach, and it got pretty contentious at times. If I was out of town on a Sunday, the band would chuck my set list and pick new tunes without my knowledge. Eventually, I was asked to give up all control over song selection and basically just play the songs that the pastor and a couple of our singers would choose. I politely declined and submitted my resignation that same day.

                I don't say any of this to bash that church - they were and are nice folks who are making a good faith effort. The issue at play in my scenario was that I wasn't really a good fit for that church, even though they wanted me to be. This is why the communication is so important - you need to have established dynamics and roles within them, and then figure out how/if you can fit into that envisioned role. They eventually found someone who was comfortable with the role they really saw their worship leader filling, and I moved on to my current church which has been a great situation all around for the last 6+ years.

                As far as the dynamics at our church, they are a lot like what Nate is describing above. Ultimately, our pastor has the final say on song choices and other worship elements, but he and I have always worked very closely and have built a great level of trust. I have almost complete freedom when it comes to music selection. I do run my set list by him every week, but could probably count on two hands the number of times he's asked me to change a song or requested a specific tune for a service. In those scenarios, I always follow his direction - it happens so rarely that I am always happy to honor his requests. Actually, he requests specific tunes all the time, but they're usually already in my plan that he hasn't seen :-)

                Our pastor doesn't take any role in volunteer auditions/scheduling. Frankly, he has better things to spend his time on, and that's why I'm there.
                Eric Frisch


                • #9
                  that I and my co-leader

                  they choose their own songs

                  I feel that the pastors want to be involved in (or take over)
                  So how many hands are in the cookie jar here?? You are 'co leader' and have pastors (plural) that are trying to call the shots too??

                  That's not a biblical leadership model- basically because there's no accountability. Let's look at Paul. Paul assigned leaders like Titus and Timothy to pastor churches, to be accountable for them. He didn't assign co-pastors or ambiguous 'teams' to lead. From Moses to David to Joshua to Paul to Peter, the buck stopped with them. That's half the reason you are having the communication issues- it's a spirit of confusion run amok. Everyone wants to call the shots and be 'in charge', but some*one* needs to actually 'taking charge' and make the decisions.

                  Look at the story in Acts where the Hellenist widows weren't getting their portion in Acts 6- this is a popular passage that people use to show that churches are supposed to have elders or 'leadership teams'. Yes, there is an element of a committee decision, but look at verses 3- 6- the elders chose 7 men (not 7 teams, 7 committees, or 7 boards) and made them leaders. They were accountable. Also, the apostles laid hands on them (to bless them, to trust them to lead), and they were sent out.

                  One story I remember a pastor sharing with me one time is that a church he belonged to before he started his church was a 'committee consensus' led church and it literally took over 6 months to decide what color carpet to put in the nursery, and 1/3 of the church left because they didn't get their way. Over CARPET....

                  The punch line is that the buck needs to stop somewhere.

                  From what you've shared, a couple things that need attention

                  1) Everyone's hand in the cookie jar needs to stop. Somewhere, someone has to let go of their 'leader' title. Your team doesn't need co-leaders. It needs ONE leader. That doesn't mean the one leader can't delegate or share responsibilities, but ONE person needs to be the team lead.
                  2) that ONE person needs to be accountable to ONE pastor- preferably the head pastor, or the worship dept. director. If it's the director that director needs to be accountable to the head pastor
                  3) The person needs to trust the leader to make their own decisions. If the pastor wants to make the decisions, then you and co-leader need to figure out what you are going to do- either let go of being 'in charge' and roll with what they say, or stand down.

                  I sincerely hope you can resolve the issues and make a better ministry

                  P.S. My apologies if it sounds harsh or blunt, but these things screamed out to me as issues- not trying to call anyone out or anything
                  If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.


                  • #10
                    To easy your worry, the other worship leader and I work well together where I focus on the instrumental part of it and he focuses on the vocal and song form (road map) of it, I guess you can say "as one". We take turns choosing song when the other is too busy but we agree 98% of the time and if we don't we don't worry about the 2%. I feel that it is great because I have picked songs that he wouldn't have picked and vice versa and these Sundays have had amazing worship.

                    As for the pastors, we have a Senior Pastor and an Associate Pastor. They have separate duties during the week and the Associate Pastor gets a Sunday message once a month or so. I will add that they are alike so much that are involved in each others activities but as a matter of support. So they agree as well and they know I still comes down to the senior pastor in the end and the associate pastor honors his decision. I say that because I have seen it.

                    So because of how the co-leaders and the senior and associate pastors get along so well we feel that the issue is just the same as if it was with one worship leader and one pastor because it is our single decision and the pastors single decision.

                    You are not wrong to thing that because we, the worship co-leaders, have been aware of this and have making sure it is never a problem.


                    • #11
                      I'm eager to hear how this pans out after meeting with the "pastors". There are red flags on every side when I read the initial post, but I'd like to just sit back and see how it goes after the initial meeting, so please let us know.
                      Fred McKinnon, Pianist/Composer/Worship Leader
                      blog: www.fredmckinnon.com

                      Please check out my piano/instrumental music at: