From time to time I am asked to recommend leaders to churches looking for Worship Pastors or Music Leaders. I’ve observed several myths about searching for music leaders that limit how churches might find their next leader. Assumptions are being made that just are not true.
Some churches approach this like they are looking for house — We need a four bedroom, three bath with a big back yard… The truth is, we would be much better served if we sought God out on the subject instead creating an arbitrary profile that limited the scope of who this person might be. Have you ever noticed in scripture how often God’s leaders were the most unlikely ones to be chosen?
Maybe one or two of these observations can help.
Myth #1 — Younger leaders need real experience in a similar situation before they are ready to take responsibility for the leadership of a ministry. Not necessarily. Just because a person has yet to lead doesn’t mean they are not a leader. I understand why churches look for some experience before filling such an important role. But, character is far more important than experience. If the person has the skill, the calling, the character, and the servant attitude needed for leadership, your church can help them gain experience under the guidance of other leaders. Don’t allow the lack of experience to be the only reason to pass on a candidate.
Myth #2 — Older leaders cannot connect with younger congregations and younger leaders cannot connect with older congregations. Also untrue. I was recently asked to recommend someone to a church looking for a “thirtysomething” as Worship Pastor. How unfortunate. If they keep that as essential criteria, they will likely find a “thirtysomething” but may miss out on someone better equipped who happens to be 45 years old.
An older church might pass on a twenty-five-year-old because they think anyone under 40 would struggle to connect. Chronological age has nothing to do with calling, preparation, maturity, skill set, and effectiveness.
The right person connects. Not the right aged person.
Myth #3 — Knowing how to lead a choir is no longer important. This might have been true a few years ago when many churches were rejecting sacred church music models out of frustration. But today, church leaders are looking for musicians who know how to lead people, not just be able to sing well. For the last few years, some churches have started looking for two different leaders – one for choir and one for the congregation. But, that can get old real fast. Pastors that I talk to these days want one person able to lead it all and know how to develop other leaders. And nothing – and I mean nothing – is more powerful in responsive worship than a well-prepared choir. It’s in the Bible.
Myth #4 – You have to be less than forty-years-old to like and lead modern worship hymns and songs. That’s just not true. Some of the best leaders I know are north of “over the hill” and have the spiritual maturity to lead with excellence without trying to prove their worth as a musician. And, they have many more years to serve and no intention of retiring.
Not every song that is old should be sung. And not every song that is new should be either. And sometimes the best leader might be older than you think.
Myth #5 — We just need someone who can sing and lead songs. Worship leadership is a spiritual responsibility. Churches are better served if they have a shepherd in that role and not just an artist. Can a church have a leader that only leads the songs? Yes, it can work in some settings if the church is very mature spiritually and has a strong Senior Pastor and a group of leaders providing direction and modeling the worship response.
But, in most churches, the person leading the music of worship will be called upon to lead spiritually — and that requires a relationship with the flock. A leader who only performs can easily become a lightning rod because the lack of spiritual context for their leadership will cause uneasiness in the flock. The people of the church need to trust the “why” of the worship choices or they will quickly find fault with the “what.” It requires someone who can articulate the strategy and spiritual objectives. The Senior Pastor can fill that role, but so can an under-shepherd leading worship.
Either way, the church needs far more than talent in this role.
These ideas and more are what I share with any church looking for a leader in worship. To be sure, God is not bound by any of these ideas and there are exceptions to every one of them. But, churches and leaders limit the possibilities for themselves when they make these assumptions.
Due to popular demand, WorshipLife with Mike Harland is going to every week beginning February 28, 2017. That’s right… Mike and Brian will be talking about meaningful, worship-related topics every week from the historic B.B. McKinney Studios in Nashville, TN!
In fact, to kick things off, Mike has a little announcement just for you:
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.