Face it. It’s bound to happen at some point. Maybe your church is beginning to grow and the needs cannot be properly fulfilled by a volunteer. Perhaps you have a staff transition and you find yourself in need. Maybe that talented high school student is graduating and moving away to college and you find yourself ….
SEARCHING FOR A WORSHIP LEADER.
Perhaps this is the situation you find yourself in as a Pastor or Ministry Leader. Perhaps you are the individual who feels called to this great ministry. Regardless of which side of this coin you find yourself, there are many factors to consider when either hiring or applying for the “Worship Leader” position in the local church.
Before looking at education, skill, talents, or resumes, I would research the integrity of the applicant. Let’s face it friends, the church really doesn’t need more ethical, moral, or financial scandals. Integrity and personal character are paramount in serving in any capacity for public ministry. The worship ministry is typically a high profile position that has the ability to influence and “touch” the lives of hundreds of people each week. What reputation does this person have in the community? Has this person demonstrated integrity in their personal life, family life, and financial affairs? If you dig deep enough you’ll certainly find a black mark on anyone’s integrity file, but how has it been dealt with? These are questions that are better asked now than later.
Seminary or Formal Education?
There has been a poll and a lot of discussion on TheWorshipCommunity.Com’s forums recently about whether or not Worship Leaders should have formal degrees from seminary. More and more seminaries are including theological degrees with emphasis in Music and Worship Ministry. For example, Asbury Theological Seminary is launching their new degree tract this fall focused on worship arts. With increasing debate within the modern church about the lack of theological substance in much of today’s worship music, this could be a much-needed boost to the next generation of men and women in worship ministry. At the same time, this is something that could easily be “out of reach” for many. This would not necessarily be a prerequisite in my decision to hire someone for worship ministry. However, I would love to see the senior leadership of churches offering this as an option for ongoing education for those currently in music ministry.
Formal musical education could also be a huge plus for those considering Music Ministry. The church is full of talented musicians who can master their instrument yet have no clue how to instruct other musicians and vocalists. An effective leader needs to be equipped to instruct other musicians, arrange the band, assign vocal harmonies. They should have an understanding of music theory so that they can effectively chart new songs and arrangements.
Talent or Heart?
Attitude is everything … well, almost. I’ve heard it said in “church world” many, many times, “I’d rather have a good heart than talent”. True, we’ve all see the incredibly talented person taking control of the church music ministry whose heart seemed full of pride and self-ego. At the same time, we’ve suffered through failed starts, disastrous key changes, and pitchy vocals from the not-so-talented musician who had a great attitude and heart for worship.
A humble, submissive attitude is a must in worship ministry. In many cases, worship ministry leaders can potentially share almost as much time in front of the congregation each week as the pastor. It’s a position of high visibility and this should be considered when hiring or interviewing for worship ministry. Other character attributes such as patience, compassion, mercy, and selflessness are also important, but they can be nurtured and strengthened if humility and submission are present in the heart of the potential leader.
At the same time, we see Biblical standards for having musicians and singers in charge who are “skillful”. One such example comes from 1 Chronicles 15:19-22, “Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it”. (NIV) Combining the right “heart attitudes” with a “skillful ability” will equip the leader to steer a music ministry in the right direction and will be a huge asset in earning the respect of those that they are leading
Leadership, Vision, and Communication
Lastly, look for a person who is proven in leadership, vision, and communication. One cannot lead effectively without good leadership qualities. One cannot lead effectively without having vision. Finally, one cannot lead or cast vision without the ability to communicate clearly. Again, the good news is that many of these skills can be taught and developed.
In closing, I can speak to you from personal experience. I’ve been involved in worship ministry as a part-time or full-time staff member since 1995. I have a Bachelor of Music degree from a secular school, double-majoring in Theory/Composition and Piano Performance. I’m forever grateful for the education and skills I learned during this time. In retrospect, I would definitely choose formal education again. I did not attend seminary (though the recent news from Asbury has certainly sparked a renewed interest in that option) but have tried to be a diligent student of God’s Word each day.
At the end of the day, we have to believe that God has a destiny planned for our ministries and for the people who will serve there. If you are hiring a person for Worship Ministry, pray diligently and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the right person for the ministry. If you are seeking to be used in this capacity, submit yourself to your local church, serve in whatever capacity you can, and pray for God to open doors of opportunity for you. In the end, we should trust God’s Holy Spirit to lead us in these decisions.