The relationship between pastors and worship leaders is notoriously tricky. On the one side you have the person responsible for shepherding the church. On the other side you have the person who thinks he’s the person responsible for shepherding the church. In a healthy pastor-worship leader relationship, that elephant is named and tamed, and the pastor and worship leader partner together in friendship. In an unhealthy pastor-worship leader relationship, that elephant is ignored and allowed to run destructively rampant.
Pastors should rightfully expect their worship leaders to follow their lead. Worship leaders have a responsibility to serve their pastor, love him, respect him, and help him implement his vision. When this isn’t happening, a pastor is within his rights to address this dysfunction until it either improves or the worship leader steps aside.
I once met with a pastor who told me how his worship leader was consistently late on Sunday mornings, didn’t help set up any of the equipment, ignored his song requests, went around him to church elders and complained, and hadn’t improved in any measurable way in over five years. Luckily for the worship leader, this pastor was a deeply gracious and patient man, willing to bend over backwards to make this relationship work. But I shared with this pastor that, from my perspective as a worship leader and lifelong preacher’s kid, he had every reason in the world to expect (if not demand) that his worship leader shape up or ship out.
The tricky relationship between pastors and worship leaders is, in most cases, easily solvable by the mutual lines of communication being as open as possible. The pastor should be able to speak freely and candidly with his worship leader. And the worship leader should experience the same level of freedom and candor towards his pastor. When it works both ways, then the relationship works. But when it doesn’t work both ways (i.e. either person in the equation is unapproachable, inaccessible, or unquestionable), then the relationship is broken.
When the relationship is broken because of the worship leader, the pastor shouldn’t tolerate this. He should do what he can to fix it. But at the end of the day, a pastor should expect his worship leader to have the characteristics of a servant, not a diva. And when the relationship is broken because the pastor has allowed the lines of communication to deteriorate and break down, then he should do everything in his power to repair them. He shouldn’t tolerate this either. It’s not always the musician who’s the difficult one to work with!
Find the elephant. Name it. And then tame it. A loose elephant shouldn’t be tolerated, regardless of whether it was the pastor or worship leader who first set him loose.