Title Trivia

How concerned are you with what people call you?

Worship Leader. Worship Pastor. Worship Director. Music Coordinator. Worship and Music Director. Director of Worship and Music and Arts. Lead Worshipper. Assistant Worship Director. Associate Director of Worship and Music. Executive Director of Worship and Associate Director of Music and Assistant Director of Arts.

The list could go on.

I used to be really concerned with my title. It mattered to me – a lot – what it said on the bottom of my email signature. I felt more important when I was promoted from a part time worship leader to a “coordinator of contemporary music”. Then a couple years later I felt slighted when the title “associate” was given to someone else who I didn’t think deserved it.

What a stupid thing to be concerned about.

One day I was brushing my teeth and God spoke these words to me (by the way, God often speaks to me when I’m brushing my teeth. Don’t ask me why): “Would you be just as faithful in your ministry if your title was ‘custodian’?” I was convicted. I had to honestly answer him, no. But I wanted to be. I wanted to be just as passionate about my job regardless of whether or not my title is grandiose. Then God spoke these words of assurance to me: “Jamie, my name for you never changes”.

Wow. Here I was, a just-out-of-college part-time worship leader, and the sovereign God of all creation is calling me out on my petty and prideful obsession over what title goes on my business card.

If the Apostle Paul had an email signature, his title might read “Paul. Chief of Sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15). Or maybe “Paul. Servant of Christ.” (Romans 1:1). His identity was completely wrapped up in his position in Christ. Sadly, too often our identity as worship leaders is more wrapped up in our position on a staff chart.

To help keep me from getting too carried away about my title, I’ve purposely started referring to myself as “one of the music guys”. Sometimes I’ll say “I lead some of the music at my church”. I don’t have my title on my email signature. I don’t have business cards. I try to do everything I can not to get wrapped up in whatever title is given to me by the church.

Sure, titles matter. They signify what role your church has designated and authorized you to fill. They back you up. They help on a resume’. They tell people what you do and what you don’t do.

But they just don’t matter that much. First, they certainly don’t matter to God. Secondly, they don’t matter to your congregation. I bet 99% of the people in your congregation don’t know and don’t care what your title is. Third, they don’t matter to you. God calls and equips you, then he sovereignty places you in the exact place he wants to you serve for his glory. That’s what matters.

Don’t concern yourself with what people call you. Concern yourself with who has called you. The High King of Heaven has called you. Serve him, work for his glory, and let your titles come and go as they may.

A Worship Leader’s Job Description and Pay

I recently received an email from a pastor who asked me this question:

I need some general insight as we start looking for a worship leader for our church plant. What price range should I ask for from my finance/leadership team as I seek to hire a worship leader? Assuming less than 5 years experience leading in a church… If the person is full time? What range of salary is the norm starting out? What if he is part time? And if you only had one service per week – and an odd evening event (good Friday; Christmas Eve) – how many hours a week would you need if it is part time? 15 hours? 20 hours? 25 hours? Thanks.

I wrote him back and thought it might be helpful to post here:

Here’s the best way I know how to lay something like this out. Listed in order of priority:

Weekend worship leading: 3 hours for 1 Sunday service. 5 hours for 2 services. Additional 2 hours per service.
Rehearsal leading: 3 hours.

Stopping here, you have a 6 – 10 hour worship leader. You can pay this person a weekly stipend of somewhere in the range of $250. He’s pretty much leading songs.

Basic administrative duties: PowerPoint presentations (1 hour), service outlines (.5 hour), chord charts (1 hour), making copies (.5 hour), scheduling worship team members (.5 hour), equipment set up (1 hour), emails /phone calls (2 hours).

Now your worship leader is 15 hours a week and you’re looking at paying him hourly. $20 – 25 per hour, I guess. He’s leading songs and doing some admin.

Ministry development: Recruit, audition musicians. Have monthly worship team gatherings. Spend time listening to new music. Read up on theology, music/worship theology and goings-on, etc. This can all average out to 5 hours a week.

Now your worship leader is 20 hours a week and you can still pay him hourly but you’ll probably have to throw in benefits.

The next steps take your worship leader closer to full-time and needing a salary.

5 hours: worship service planning. He’s reading the passages, reading your transcript, taking time to intentionally pray and mull over what songs are going to feed people most effectively and help them respond to God’s word and presence. This might not take this long some weeks. It might take more other weeks. A more full-time worship leader has the “luxury” of devoting more time to getting the set-list “right” – not just pick from a bank of songs.

5 hours: participate in weekly staff/pastoral/service debrief/service planning meetings.

5 hours: Music-centric work such as arranging, writing, practicing, recording, using the art-area of his brain. This will keep him sane, keep things creative, and benefit your gatherings.

5 hours: Ministry-centric work such as preparing teachings for worship team, meeting with worship team members for lunch/coffee, long-term planning and calendar management, and working in whatever area he is skilled in (this depends on the person and his passion).

Misc. hours: Other administrative and time-eating exercises such as: more emails, finance/budget management, overseeing the AV aspects, managing liturgical aspects, special services, assignments given by the pastor, etc.

With less than 5 years worship leading experience, this person should expect to be paid $30 – 45,000, depending on the area of the country, church size, his gifting level, experience, musical skill, education, etc. If he’s good, and if the church starts growing, and he has any sort of family, that will need to get close to $45 – 60,000 really quickly, again, hugely depending on the median income of where the church is located, eventually going over.

If I can be any help to you, or your church as you think through how to structure a worship leader’s position, please feel free to contact me through this blog (contact me).

Breaking Out of Worship Leader Prison – Pt. 3

The good news of the Gospel is that we who were dead in sin are now alive in Christ. We who were once in bondage have been set free. Jesus has secured for us eternal peace with God. We live in the freedom of God’s grace. But do we?

Sadly, too many Christians don’t know this freedom. They live their lives feeling guilty, not forgiven. They live their lives in a constant pursuit to make God happy with them, not in gratefulness for his unmerited favor. They pretend to be perfect. They try to make everybody happy. They’re in prison.

This is particularly dangerous for people in ministry, and worship leaders are not immune. The underlying problem is that people see us up in front and think we’re wonderful or expect us to be. We aren’t living in the freedom of God’s grace so, either we carry our guilt and pretend to be wonderful, or do all sorts of silly things in order to seem wonderful. We start pretending, and this puts us in bondage in all sorts of ways.

Last week I shared six different prisons Christians get stuck in as a result of all this (part one, part two). Now three more:

7. Fear
In 2 Timothy 1:7 we’re told that God has not given us a spirit of fear – but a spirit of power and love and self-control. Why, then, are we so afraid of so much, and afraid so often?

There are some worship leaders who constantly live in a fear of shame, conflict, the unknown, difficult people, new ideas, being exposed, losing their job, missing God’s will, ruining a service, etc. The list goes on. This prison of fear kills worship leaders. We have to break out of this one so God can use us.

Sometimes God puts us in situations that cause fear because then we can realize where we need to trust him more. If we didn’t have a Savior who had known excruciating fear but persevered all the way to the cross for our sake, we would have reason to be afraid. But Jesus took care of any reason to fear. He is our Redeemer and Mediator, our Father is sovereign and good, and the Holy Spirit is the Comforter. So relax and get out of the prison of fear.

8. Needing approval
Dr. Steve Brown, whose class I attended last week at RTS and who spoke on each of these twelve prisons, gave us a list of six “nevers” for people in ministry.

–       Never grovel (kiss up)
–       Never apologize when you’re right
–       Say no more than twice
–       Never lie
–       Never pretend to be someone’s mother
–       Never take responsibility for something that isn’t your responsibility

I don’t know about you, but each one of those points resonate with me and are incredibly freeing to consider. What is he getting at in each one of these “nevers”? Get rid of your need for everyone’s approval.

Living in the freedom of God’s grace doesn’t mean being a jerk, insensitive, undiscerning, un-pastoral, harsh, arrogant, sharp-tongued, or politically stupid. Not by any means.

What it does mean, though, is that once we know – really know – that because of Jesus Christ we are completely loved, accepted, ransomed, redeemed, covered, and freed, then we don’t need man’s approval in order to feel like we have worth.

I love the line from “Be Thou My Vision”: “riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine inheritance now and always”. What an inheritance we have in Jesus. We don’t need man’s empty praise.

9. Obligation.
No one told me, when I first started leading worship, how often I would end up come face-to-face with various problems over the years.

Some problems are small: the music stands are broken, the chairs are in disarray, the website hasn’t been updated, the piano tuner needs to get into the church but it’s locked, etc.

Some problems are big: the drummer is disrupting rehearsals with his bad attitude and sometimes vulgar language, a small coalition of longtime members are petitioning the pastor to get your music out of the service, etc.

Worship leaders will face lots of problems over the course of their ministry. They get in trouble when they think they’re the solution to each one of those problems.

Repeat after me: I am not the solution to every problem.

Feel better? You should. That’s what God’s grace will do to you.

There are three more prisons that I’ll share tomorrow, just in case none of these first nine have convicted you yet 🙂

Breaking Out of Worship Leader Prison – Pt. 2

Yesterday I shared some of what I’ve been learning this week at a seminary class at RTS taught by Dr. Steve Brown. He is a crusader for the cause of God’s radical grace, and began the class by taking us through twelve “prisons” that keep Christians, and especially those in ministry, in dangerous bondage.

It made me think of how these areas affect worship leaders. Yesterday we looked at the prisons of sin, guilt, and failure. Today I want to look at a few more prisons.

4. The past
I have had incredibly painful experiences in ministry. Many of these came at a young age, leading worship at a small church, coming face to face with some very difficult people and situations.

You’ve had painful experiences too. People have written you vitriolic emails. You’ve made some bad mistakes. You’ve messed up. You’ve been beaten up.

I’ve had to deal with the meanness I encountered when I was a fourteen year old worship leader. I’ve had to really dig deep and forgive those people, repent of my bitterness, and let go of it. You need to deal with your past ministry-inflicted or otherwise-inflicted pain too (if you haven’t).

When we don’t deal with the past it affects the present. Oftentimes it affects us in ways we don’t realize and can’t anticipate. When we get a critical email from someone in our inbox today, we’ll blow up and freak out because we’re responding to the woman from 15 years ago. When our pastor critiques how we prayed in public we’ll overreact and draft our resignation letter because we’re responding to the nasty comments we heard two churches ago.

We get hit with stuff all the time as worship leaders. It will pile up if we let it. Let it go and drop it at the foot of the cross. Jesus has offered to carry our burdens, so let’s take him up on that offer. Break out of the prison of your past so you can be a better worship leader today.

5. Self-abasement
Being humble doesn’t mean being a pushover. Being a servant doesn’t mean being weak. Being conformed to the image of Christ doesn’t mean we can’t be ourselves.

It’s possible to be humble and be strong. It’s possible to be a servant and be bold. It’s possible to be conformed to the image of Christ and be ourselves.

The good news of the Gospel is that we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. We’re covered. All the time. We’re not in danger of becoming un-reconciled because we speak up at a planning meeting when we disagree or make decisions that will offend the pastor’s wife who always wants to play piano (but can’t).

This prison – this bondage of always hanging our head low and apologizing for ourselves and taking the easy road and doing the same old bad songs to keep people happy and avoiding difficult conversations – will drive us to insanity.

Being a wuss doesn’t make God any happier with you! Nothing you do makes God any happier with you. God is only happy with you because of Jesus. You’re covered. So, in Christ, be yourself. Break out of this prison of self-abasement.

Yes, wash people’s feet. Yes, serve them. Yes, love them. And yes, pursue humility. But don’t be a pushover. Don’t be weak. It doesn’t make you a better worship leader.

That’s good news. And it should make you feel free.

6. Perfectionism.
Our assumption that perfection is possible is a fatal error. God knows this. So oftentimes God will give us a thorn in our side to prove this isn’t possible. Just because he loves us.

Sin and failure are God’s methodology of showing love to us and receiving praise unto himself since the only way we can really know and appreciate the depth of God’s love is to be unlovable. We are. And the only way to really be grateful for that love is not to deserve it. We don’t.

We all (hopefully) agree in theory that we can’t be perfect. Jesus is the only one who was ever perfect, and it’s through him, the perfect sacrifice, that we are reconciled to God. We don’t deserve God’s grace but it’s been lavished on us.

But in practice we often live in the prison of trying to be as perfect as we can be, in the hopes that it makes God happy with us. This makes us really nervous worship leaders.

Worship leaders who are trying to be perfect in order to please God are in a dangerous place. It’s only when we get it – really get it – that we’re only made righteous through Jesus and because of this we live in tremendous freedom – that we’ll be able to help our congregations get it. Break out of the prison of perfectionism and rejoice in the freedom that comes from the One who is perfect on our behalf.

More tomorrow.

Breaking Out of Worship Leader Prison – Pt. 1

This week I’m taking a seminary class at Reformed Theological Seminary here in Washington, D.C. The course is called “The Christian Life” and is taught by Dr. Steve Brown (no relation, by the way). Steve is hammering home the great freedom of grace that belongs to us in Jesus Christ and the horrible bondage most of us live in without realizing it. This is a shame for believers. It’s dangerous for people in up-front ministry.

Steve describes 12 prisons that keep us from experiencing radical grace and damage our ministry. They’ve been eye-opening for me and I want to share them with you.

1. Sin
Most of us are in a dangerous place. We’re up front, on a stage, sometimes on a screen, and in a position of leadership. The congregation thinks we’re pure, holy, righteous, have a great prayer life, tithe, sponsor an orphan in Colombia, and never get angry or lust.

The problem is that we know we’re not wonderful. We know we’re sinners. There are things we’ve done that, if people in the congregation knew about them, we’d be humiliated and never want to show our face again.

We’re in a profession where we have to pretend to be who they think we are. This is a terrible prison. This is great bondage.

If you go around pretending you’re wonderful (but feeling ashamed of your secret sin), you’ll be miserable. And so will the people who work with you and serve under you.

Guilty people make people feel guilty. Free people make people feel free. We have been set free from our sin by the blood of Jesus. Yes, we’re depraved. But we’re redeemed. Do you lead worship like a free person or a guilty person?

2. Guilt
Conviction says I have failed to be obedient. Guilt is the feeling associated with that conviction, and its purpose is to send us to Jesus. But once we’re there, guilt has no purpose.

Sadly, we carry guilt with us for years and years, and it is a heavier weight than we realize. This weight weakens us, limits us, makes us do stupid things, and acts as a leash around our neck, keeping us from running free in God’s grace

In addition to making people feel guilty, guilty people are always trying to work towards their own freedom. Most of the time this takes the form of us punishing ourselves in the futile hope that this earns us favor.

Hanging your head low, saying “no” to great opportunities, and carrying crippling feelings of anxiety and unworthiness won’t make you free. They’ll keep you in prison.

Worship leaders who walk in the radical and total grace of God are more emboldened to lead their teams and their congregations with abandon. Are you ministering with abandon or do you feel bound up?

3. Failure
Steve Brown describes the problem this way: “There is a neurotic sense of Christians that they don’t deserve success because of their sin. This sense creates failure”.

Think about that for a second.

Too many Christians, and too many worship leaders, have a neurotic sense that they don’t deserve success because of their sin. And so they fail. Maybe they go to a new church and take a new job. But they still don’t understand God’s grace. So they don’t think they deserve success. And so they fail again.

The sooner we realize that our “sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and (we) bear it no more”, the more freely we can sing “praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!” Until we do that, we carry our sin with us, we don’t think we could possibly succeed because of it, and our songs are halfhearted.

More tomorrow.