By Greg Johnson
A worship pastor friend of mine is mentoring a couple of guys for the next year, and he reached out to me to ask what I think a young person who wants to be a worship pastor should know. Because we as an organization spend a fair amount of time evaluating and coaching worship leaders, we see things that seem to consistently plague leaders of all ages. We have developed Worship Axioms, or phrases we use a lot, to define how we feel about some of these areas. Here are four I shared with my friend:
1. It is not, nor has it ever been, about you. (HUMILITY)
I have read a lot of articles recently about the self-focused nature of the younger generation (our generation taught them well…). Especially pertaining to public ministry, unless everything about you is pointing people to Jesus, you are either misusing the mantle of leadership given to you by God, intentionally or otherwise, or you were never called in the first place. Either way, in order to have longevity in ministry, he must become greater and you must become less. (John 3:30) Look it up. It’s biblical. I promise.
2. If you’re not going to spend quality time with Jesus everyday, go find something else to do. (COMMITMENT)
It’s telling of our culture that this has to be spelled out, but I say this as a guy who spent a lot of my public ministry spending very little private time with Jesus. Lack of time with Jesus breeds a shallow and hollow ministry. As my pastor has told me on many occasions, people know when you are not spending time with Jesus. You may be able to fool them for a while, but people sense depth. And, if it’s a struggle to spend regular time with Jesus, there’s a heart issue there that needs investigation. Knowing lyrics is your job, but knowing Jesus is your foundation and calling. Seriously, if, for whatever reason, you are not willing to submit your life to Jesus daily, do something else. Otherwise, you are faking it, which makes you an actor, not a worship leader – two completely different professions (or at least they should be).
3. Get rid of the music stand! (PREPARATION)
Seriously. If you want to be taken seriously as a leader, lose the stand. First of all, it speaks to preparation. As a worship pastor, I was asked the question often, “What do you do all week?” It used to frustrate me, because the job can be demanding, but just for fun, let’s take it to its lowest common denominator. You have to prepare five songs for Sunday. Five. And they’re probably not all new songs. (If they are, then that’s a different topic entitled, Why Your Congregation is Not Singing With You.) So, if you can’t get five songs ready from memory in six days, you are not very good at what you do and should find the reason behind it – procrastination, poor time-management, running on empty (see #2 above) or you have that brain thing Drew Barrymore had in 50 First Dates, and we’ll give you a pass on that one. In addition, I weekly see worship “leaders” staring at a music stand when there a couple hundred sets of eyes staring at them, longing for engagement. I liken it to trying to have a conversation with someone who is texting while talking to you. Frustrating isn’t it? That’s how people feel when you slave your music stand.
4. The lobby is your green room. (CONNECTION)
This is not original thought. I read it somewhere, but the principle is so true. If you are hanging out back stage and not engaged with the people you are leading, or sitting with them in the worship service, you are projecting you have rock star status (And if you are actually lobbying for what is stocked in the green room, WOW is all I can say…). If you want to see engagement go up with your congregation, spend time in the lobby before and after every service among the people. Build relationships with people. This will go further to building rapport with your people than anything you say or do on stage. Now, there are other engagement factors like song selection, verbal and non-verbal communication, but personal relationship with the people you lead will go further than any mechanics you can learn. So, if you are looking for a place to hang out, err on the side of hanging with the people you are called to lead.
Of course, I’m sure you have some great Worship Axioms as well. What are your top three or four?