Worship Leader Misery

I know a worship leader who recently “left” his church. They said they wanted the typical megachurch-style worship, produced and professional, and that’s what he gave them.

The congregation seemed to love it and attendance grew, but, unfortunately, that’s not what they really wanted. When Aunt Bessie’s honkey-tonk Southern Gospel piano riffs don’t fit in with the style of Hillsong UNITED, spineless leadership caves when she complains about not playing enough and threatens to leave the church.

Non-musical elders, deacons and pastors can’t fathom why there’s a dilemma: they want the bells and whistles (and crowds) of megachurch worship, yet don’t understand why Aunt Bessie can’t be a part of it. They don’t really want modern worship as much as they want to keep some people happy and not rock the boat.

I know of another church music director from the old Willow Creek performance school—top 40 secular hits to open the service with little to no congregational singing. When his pastor wanted the services to be more “churchy” (i.e. actually singing songs about God) the music director quit in frustration—he was a gigging nightclub musician with no understanding of or interest in worship music.

So misery sometimes abounds in the church music world—you can be miserable if you want to do contemporary worship and miserable if you don’t.

The problem is you might be in the wrong church. One big thing I wish I had known as a young music director was: Does my style match my place of ministry? I’m not against either Aunt Bessie’s Southern Gospel or Hillsong United—ministries should be stylistically different to reach as many people as possible. But if you’re a Hillsong UNITED type of worship leader, I’d think twice before accepting a Southern Gospel-style church job—even if the leadership wants you and claims to have plans for updating their music.

Take a look at yourself this week: what are your personal goals and strengths in ministry? Do they line up with the direction of your church? If not, and you’re feeling frustrated, it might be time for a heart-to-heart talk with your leadership.

Bottom Line: A lot of worship leader misery comes from a ministry mismatch.