Lessons From the Last Decade: Serving Your Pastor Well

1This week I’m getting all nostalgic as I look back on the last ten years of my life serving at The Falls Church Anglican. One of the privileges of being here has been serving my pastor, John Yates. John is a godly man, a good pastor, and has taught me a lot. He took a big risk in hiring me with very little experience and giving me a large amount of freedom and grace. I sure have needed that grace! And I sure have appreciated the freedom.

The relationship between the pastor and the worship leader (or organist, or choir director, or music minister, or all of the above) is notoriously tricky. Today I want to offer a few lessons I’ve learned over the last decade on how to serve your pastor well, and to make this tricky relationship a bit less… well… tricky.

Don’t go around him
The phrase “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission” should never enter your mind when thinking about your pastor. It’s always, always, always better to ask for his permission. Always.

Don’t go against him
Your pastor needs your support, your help, and your encouragement. If you disagree with him, then have a conversation with him and ask him questions. He’d be much happier having a conversation and answering your questions/concerns, then dealing with your flat-out opposition.

Don’t surprise him
It took me 7 1/2 years to realize that my pastor didn’t like being surprised on Sunday mornings. Duh. Now I email/talk with him every week about what songs I’m planning. 99% of the time he says “that’s great”. 1% of the time he says “I’d rather you not…” And avoiding that 1% chance of surprising him has made my life much more enjoyable (and probably his too).

Don’t be high-maintenance
Your pastor has enough high-maintence people in his congregation. Don’t join their ranks. Do your job well, faithfully, humbly, and trustworthily, and your pastor will love you. 

Don’t go outside your parameters
Step 1: Ask and learn what your parameters are. Step 2: Stay inside those parameters. That’s your safety zone, and the protection of your pastor might not extend outside of that zone.

Initiate things inside those parameters
Step 3: Be an initiator. If you know your parameters, and you know where you have your pastor’s support, then just get on with initiating stuff. He’ll be delighted to see you taking charge and will be grateful for your energy.

Help him preach his message
Take the time to find out what he’s preaching on, and do your best to support the preaching of the Word by what songs you pick. A worship leader who ignores his pastor will most likely be ignored by their pastor.

Run your ministry in such a way that gets people involved
Your pastor hears from people all the time who aren’t happy because they “can’t get plugged in”. Plug people in. Have them to your house. Have worship team dinners. Build community. It’s good for the church, and it’s good for the pastor to see you getting people involved. He’ll be grateful.

Be organized
It will be hard for your pastor to trust you with more responsibility if you can’t keep things organized.

Keep track of the history
What times were the Christmas services last year? What about the year before? What did we do about communion on Pentecost last year? These sorts of questions come up in meetings, and if you can answer them, you’ll show that you’re valuable in more ways than just leading music.

Do your part as well as you can
Prepare, rehearse, and lead worship on Sunday mornings in such a way that helps people see and savor Jesus Christ. Work on your transitions and prayers. Help make Sunday mornings a well-run, well-led, and well-received gathering.

Pray for him
A worship leader who prays for his/her pastor is a worship leader who wants the best for his/her church. A church is best served by unified leadership. So, pursue unity with your pastor, and pursue it prayerfully, and your worship leadership will be all the more effective.

4 thoughts on “Lessons From the Last Decade: Serving Your Pastor Well”

  1. Excellent! Might want to check out Ron Kenoly and Dick Bernal’s book “Lifting Him Up”. It includes 10 things Worship Leaders don’t like their pastors doing and ten things pastors don;t like their worship leaders doing. 🙂

  2. Thank you. I found this to be extremely helpful and convicting advice. It’s so easy and common for us worship leaders or music directors to view ourselves with a sort of martyr complex who’s pastors don’t understand us or what we do. The level of true biblical submission that you advocate is astounding and counter-cultural. It rubs against my nature in the best possible way. May we all truly accept our supportive roles and seek to make pastors’ work a joy and not a burden.

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