What are the skills and qualities that a worship pastor should have? The most obvious answer may be musical talent. After all, you can’t lead or teach people to be excellent in something unless you, yourself, are excellent, right? But, how is excellence in music defined? Should worship and worship leadership be defined through a lens as narrow as music? One thing that cannot be avoided is the fact that if the quality of music in worship suffers for too long, the worship pastor may be looking for a new job.
I used to be called a minister of music, but for the last 10 years have been the worship pastor. What does that mean? I will always remember a particular conversation I had as a teen with an adult from my church. The adult needed the help and attention of one of the pastoral staff from their church. They were frustrated because it was the day of the week when the staff rotation provided them with the help of the minister of music. As a minister of music (now worship pastor) for over 20 years, I’ll never forget these words: “I need a real minister—not the music guy!” It seems that those of us who are called worship pastors may be viewed by our congregations as little more than the music director. In some churches, this is conceded, with churches choosing to keep their worship leaders as the hired-gun running the music program while the ministry duties and theological knowledge is left to the real clergy. Still other churches name and treat us as clergy, but do we take up the mantel of pastoring in a way that our congregations need and recognize?
More Than Music
A few months ago, I was contacted by a church that a good friend had given my name to as a possible candidate for their open worship pastor position. After a short conversation, I received an email from them with several questions. Rather than first wanting to audition my musical skills, they wanted my answers to questions that come from the “pastor” half of the title. My wife and I quickly realized that God was not calling us to this church; however, I realized that if a church had asked me these questions at an earlier time in my life, I may have struggled to provide good answers. As the era of the Rock Star Worship Leader is starting to wain, I believe that more and more churches will be asking questions like these of potential worship candidates. I also believe that many potential worship candidates are woefully unprepared to answer them because, perhaps, no one has ever asked. Oh, some of them actually require work and thought. Here is the list of questions I was given:
1. Please explain your theology of worship, giving biblical support.
This is one question I believe I would not have been able to answer with any credibility before my most recent degree. Am I saying that you have to get a degree to answer this question? Certainly not—but it helps. This question reveals the absolute necessity for worship pastors to receive theological training in the area of worship. Look around, there are many places offering undergraduate or masters degrees that can prepare you to lead with theological integrity.
2. How does worship connect with pastoral care? Give examples from your ministry experience.
If the totality of your ministry has been spent in rehearsal or on stage, you will struggle to answer this question. It may seem like our musical responsibilities are so great that we actually have no time for ministry “outside” our area. As pastors, we are called to minister to people in all sorts of places and situations, many outside of the performing arts milieu. I remember hearing Rick Muchow speak fondly of how he sought out a place to minister outside of his job responsibilities and how it blessed him. If you don’t make a practice of visiting people in their homes or when they are in the hospital, you need to. If you realize you never have contact with people outside of a rehearsal or a worship context, pray for God to show you where you can join Him in His work.