One of the most discussed topics at worship arts conferences (and rightfully so) is the relationship between the worship pastor or worship leader and the lead pastor. There are many obvious reasons for an often-contentious “oil and water” type of relationship. I believe, though, if the worship pastor and lead pastor can share a close working relationship marked by mutual trust and respect, the overall health of the church can thrive.
I’ve had the privilege throughout 17 years of ministry to wear several different “hats” in church ministry. One thing about change like this is it has given me a certain perspective. I started in ministry as a worship pastor, transitioning after 13 years into an executive pastor role. Now, I am a church planter contemplating the pastor/worship leader relationship from the “other side.”
This is one thing I’m learning as we are designing our new church; the lead pastor is always the primary steward of the church’s vision. No one else in the church will have the pressure or expectations placed on him or her to lead the church toward a preferred future than the lead pastor. As stressful as you think your role is as a staff member or volunteer leader, there is no way to simulate the responsibility placed on your lead pastor. The best staff members (or volunteer leaders), then, are the ones who support the vision of the lead pastor in tangible ways. Here are four important things come to mind to help your relationship with your pastor.
1) Pray for Your Pastor Every Day
This is perhaps the most foundational practice for any staff member or volunteer leader. There are two parts to this. First, pray for your leader in private. Lift up his or her marriage and family. Pray that he or she would be open to and led by the Holy Spirit daily. Pray that your pastor would have clarity in making the decisions that only he or she can make in the church. Pray against temptation in his or her life, and that your pastor would continue to grow closer to Christ as they lead others on that path. Pray for evangelistic fruit and for a clear vision for the future of the church. The bottom line is to just pray for your pastor. By the way, this has the potential to change your heart as much as (if not more than) your pastor’s.
Second, pray for your pastor in public. When you are meeting with your team, be sure to pray openly for your leader. Do this both when your pastor is in the room and when he or she isn’t. This can be a powerful way to express unity amongst the leadership team of the church, which leads me to the next point.
2) Always Support Your Pastor in Front of Others—Always!
Never criticize your pastor to members of your church or to those outside your church. I have been guilty of this in the past, and it is never helpful—I repeat, it is never helpful. Granted, there may be times when the pastoral review committee of the church board will ask for a 360 evaluation of your pastor, but this is a specific situation that is intended to be safe and constructive for your pastor. Outside of these specific situations, resist the temptation to criticize your pastor.
Also, depending on your church culture, be careful with the use of sarcasm at the expense of your pastor. Every leader has weaknesses (including you), and it can become easy to poke fun at your pastor. Often, though, it can come across as condescending and unsupportive, even if that was not the intention. Every church culture is different, so use this as a word of caution and use discernment. In some church cultures, sarcasm is a normal and an expected way of showing love and diffusing tension, but be careful.
3) Be a Team Player
Artists by nature are often countercultural and anti-institutional in their outlook on life, politics, and art. This is a very healthy perspective to have on a staff or volunteer leadership team when handled well. On the other hand, the worship artist, perceiving an overabundance of organizational leadership and bureaucracy, can find themselves (publicly at times) at odds with the pastor. I have been on both sides of this situation, and I can tell you that there is typically truth on both sides. As a staff member or volunteer leaders, though, I can tell you that a healthy, unified team will always be better than tension and division (however justified) on the team.
My advise would be to support your pastor and his or her decisions, but build the type of relationship with that allows you to challenge and question those decisions in private. John Maxwell talks about the importance of being able to “lead up,” which means to positively influence your leader without undermining their authority. This is an art in and requires wisdom and discernment, but will lead to healthier discussions and ultimately greater fruitfulness.
4) Set a Goal Each Year That Will Move the Vision Forward
One of the most effective ways to support your pastor’s vision is to set a goal that will directly impact the vision of the church. Every church accomplishes goal planning and ministry plans differently, but as you sit down to plan your year design at least one goal that will directly support moving the church’s vision forward.
For instance, if the emphasis of the pastor over this next season is to improve the discipleship effectiveness in the church, begin to think about tangible ways that you can support this vision. You might develop a discipleship goal for your artists that help to lead the way for the rest of the church. You cannot even imagine the support your pastor will begin to express your unity in this way. As an artist, I know this can seem overly “organizational” and bureaucratic, but believe me this is how teams in healthy churches work effectively.
While more and more lead pastors seem to have background in music and the arts (myself notwithstanding), many pastors still approach ministry from a strong business and strong organizational leadership background. Even if your pastor has a background in the arts, he or she is probably working with a church board full of accomplished businesspeople that might approach things differently than you.
That said, my final challenge to you is this—particularly if you sometimes feel like a misfit as an artist in the church. God desires for the local church to be unified—every part of it. In what other earthly institution can artists, businesspeople, young, old, single, married, and people of all nations and races coexist in unity? And not even just coexist but to be for one another. The gospel unifies us because our lowest common denominator becomes Christ, which makes our differences something to celebrate. As artist, let’s lead the way in the celebration of unity in diversity, and it can start with a unified relationship with your pastor. My prayer is that Jesus’ words below from John 17:23 ring true of your relationship with your pastor.
May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. John 17:23 (ESV)
Image attribution: Grufnar / Thinkstock