Being a worship leader is not something that you just wake up one morning and decide to do. It is not something that you can simply learn in school. It certainly is not something that you can just choose. It chooses you.
Many of us were trained in college worship departments or raised in larger churches. We expect the sounds, lights, and aesthetics we grew up experiencing to be the standard for worship services. However, when we actually become worship pastors, we discover that most churches do not have regular worship services quite like those we experienced in contemporary congregations or larger denominational worship settings.
This can cause disillusionment with our role, prompting many young worship leaders to either leave the denomination or leave worship ministry altogether. Some lower their standards and turn leading worship into nothing more than going through the motions.
This does not have to be the case for younger worship leaders, however. After a few years of being a worship pastor, I would offer the following thoughts for other young music ministers.
Although you may be in favor of a ministry assignment that resembles what was presented to you back in college, know this: You must be willing to understand new ways of how to lead, cast vision and apply what you have learned to your own ministry. Being teachable is one of the most difficult principles for new worship ministers. Approaches to planning particular worship services differ based on context, just as workouts vary by body type.
If we want our congregations to grow in their experience of worship, we have to continue to grow as facilitators and leaders of worship. I have had to become teachable and learn how to lead according to what would be best for both my congregation and my community. This means that one particular style does not always work.
It is not always easy, but it is worth it.
We must learn to adapt to our surroundings in order to be successful within our call to lead worship.
Focus on God’s Goals, Not Necessarily Our Own Goals
Through a willingness to change and adapt, we begin to understand God, worship, and culture better. Only then can we hope to make a difference in the lives of others and experience success and satisfaction in our ministry.
Colossians 1:9-10 says:
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
Worship should be Spirit-led art that expresses reverence and adoration for God.
We use our voices and instruments to produce beauty and community. However, spirit-led worship is not just a product of talent and emotion; it flows from our investment in the Word, our focus on prayer, and our attention to context.
Compare Less, Listen More
Our desire as worship pastors and leaders should be to cultivate the same attitude described in Philippians 2:3, doing “nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility, counting others more significant than ourselves.”
As a young twenty-first-century worship pastor, I can honestly admit that in my early stages of ministry, I focused so radically on one particular style and direction that I completely lacked any openness to understanding who the community was that I was ministering to.
It wasn't until I began to invest time in studying Scripture, praying consistently, and studying the context in which I ministered that I began to see growth within myself and my congregation. I stopped comparing myself and my context to others and started listening to what the Spirit would have me to do exactly where I was.
Remembering the Call
Young worship pastor/leader, stop focusing on what other churches are doing. Stop coveting the attendance and experiences found elsewhere. Stop aiming for perfect performances. Only then will you and your ministry grow.
This assignment is your call. Lead people in humility. Know your culture. Know your community. And most importantly, know your calling!
Steven Marjerison is pastor of worship and fine arts at Science Hill Church of the Nazarene in Kentucky.
Holiness Today, Nov/Dec 2017
Please note: This article was originally published in 2017. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.