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The Changing Role of the Worship Leader

worship leaders

I’ve been a “worship leader” for a looooooong time. Started full time circa 1998.
Now I’ve been blessed to be able to do many things in the ministry, and now worship leading is probably only one-fifth of my job.
Yet, I’ve seen the “job” change in various ways.
I’ve seen the church handle the “job” in various ways.
It’s an interesting definition for sure, and I appreciate how different churches handle it in different ways.
Right now, I’m seeing a small shift in what some churches are doing.
I’m seeing many small and large churches shift from hiring a full-time “worship leader” to hiring a full-time “Sunday Producer” and contracting out worship leaders.

The argument for this shape of staffing goes like this:

1. Our church gets to hear from three or four rotating worship leaders and it keeps things fresh.
2. The salary of a full-time worship leader is actually more than if we contract them in. And they save money on health care, etc.
3. The weekly and Sunday worship leader responsibilities don’t warrant a full-time role.

The argument to these points are simple and valid.

1. Having a full-time worship leader allows for deeper relationships to happen within our congregation.
2. It’s more complicated to fly in, rent a car, book a hotel and pay multiple contract employees. It’s simpler like this.
3. Leading three songs and running a rehearsal are only a few things our worship leader does. And let’s be honest: He or she has a killer voice and we don’t wanna lose them.

I was a full-time worship leader/pastor at a few churches. There were seasons when I felt like I was worth my salary in gold.
There were also other seasons when I would argue with the “what do you do all week?” people while attending meetings I didn’t need to attend and planning a service for the 15th time.

I often think of the role of the “Music Minister” from the ’80s and remember how “music skills” was actually a felt need.
Choir rehearsals, orchestra rehearsals, handbell rehearsals, children’s choir rehearsals … it definitely looked more like the role of a “music director” that I see in many churches today.

I also know many worship leaders who actually do more than most people on the staff. From graphics to videos to counseling to weddings. But then, I think they should probably get a raise and a title change!

A very successful church planter friend of mine, whose church is only a few months old, told me last week that a full-time worship guy will probably be the last position hired. If ever.
This is a far cry from how a church plant used to view staffing as preacher and worship guy first.

If there is any sort of application to this post for worship leaders it would be to expand your skill set past singing on Sundays.
I see a pendulum swinging, and quite possibly the role of a “worship leader.”

What are your thoughts on the full-time role of a worship leader and how does your church approach this job?  

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carloswhittaker@churchleaders.com'
Carlos Whittaker is an artist, pastor, thinker, experience architect, and social media junkie. Previously, 
Carlos served as Director of Service Programming at Buckhead Church in Atlanta, GA, one of the three campuses of North Point Community Church. Before that Carlos worked for 10 years as the Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts at Sandals Church in Riverside, CA. Carlos seeks to “disturb and disrupt the church as a whole.” He blogs prolifically at RagamuffinSoul.com.