Your first year as a worship leader at a church is critical. How do you lay a solid foundation with your fellow staff members, your pastor, and your congregation? Here are four crucial tips for your first year:
1. Don’t change anything major. Not for a whole year. Do it the way they’ve always done it. This shows them that they can trust you. This shows you what you’ve gotten yourself into. This helps you get the lay of the land. Take it slow, learn a lot, ask a lot of questions, listen, sit in on meetings, and be quietly prioritizing what needs attention in your second year. The exception to this rule would be (a) if it’s something you absolutely can’t put off, or if (b) your pastor asks you to make a change. Although in the latter case, you would be smart to make sure he’s thought it through.
2. Be a “yes” man. Not in a negative/weak/pushover way, but in an eager to serve way. Be the guy who steps forward to attempt something challenging. Agree to serve on a committee you don’t care much about. Research something the pastor expresses an interest in. Do administrative work that no one else wants to do in your department. When you’re asked if you’ll do something, unless it impedes on your commitment to your family or your conscience, then say yes.
3. Get out of the staff bubble. Go to the potluck dinners and sit with members of the congregation that you don’t know. Lead worship for church retreats. Mingle after the service. Accept (and solicit) lunch invitations. Pursue Godly mentors from your congregation (your pastor will have some to recommend). Help out with Vacation Bible School and be willing to dress up like Noah. Immerse yourself in the life of your congregation. People will notice, and it will help them trust you. And it will help you develop a heart of love for the congregation God’s brought you to.
4. Be consistent. Just like you’re getting used to your new congregation, your congregation is getting used to their new worship leader. Don’t do anything crazy. Don’t alter your approach dramatically from week to week. Dress like they dress. Don’t talk too much. Be faithful, don’t be the source of any major angst, and remember that rapid change in a congregation is very often the most damaging kind of change. Slow and steady wins the race.