Kent Sanders | Unlock Your Creative Potential

Unlock Your Creative Potential

The Perfect Worship Leader (Doesn’t Exist)

In my 20+ years in ministry as a worship leader and Christian college professor, I’ve talked to countless church leaders who are looking for a worship leader. The churches have come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s one thing many of them have in common: they’re looking for the perfect worship leader.

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There’s no such thing as a perfect worship leader, of course. No church expects to hire a flawless human being. However, there is usually a set of spoken and unspoken assumptions about the kind of worship leader they’re looking for.

Some churches are looking for a worship leader who …

… is an expert in the latest worship technology but won’t bother anyone with budget requests for it.

… will appeal to the youth of the church while also meeting the expectations of all the senior adults.

… has the energy and enthusiasm of a 20-year-old but the wisdom and experience of a 40-year old.

… bring a fresh new sound to worship but still use all the old hymns.

… will produce a highly orchestrated, technically complex worship event each week but will spend all their time doing office work and pastoral ministry.

… shoot and edit high-quality video but do it with a camcorder from 2003 and a PC from 2010.

… use a style of music that appeals to new people but sounds like that old-time religion.

… has the artistic impulse of Van Gogh but the theological depth of Jonathan Edwards.

… who won’t settle for the status quo but won’t make decisions that might upset someone.

… who will raise the level of excellence in worship but do it without requiring auditions and a higher level of commitment from volunteers.

… who will involve a lot of new people in the worship ministry but will make sure it doesn’t lose that close-knit family feel.

… will include kids and teens in worship but will make sure they sound like seasoned professionals.

… has the creative genius of David Crowder but the mass appeal of Chris Tomlin.

Sound crazy? Yeah, you betcha. But it’s not uncommon to encounter these contradictory expectations in the local church. Sometimes we just need a bit of a reality check.

First, a word to worship leaders, then a word to everyone else.

For Worship Leaders

If you’re involved in a worship and arts ministry, either as a volunteer or staff member, you can probably relate to some of these contradictions. All of the items above come from my own experience, or in talking with my students and the churches that often want to hire them.

You can’t please everyone in the church. In many ways, any leadership decision (including decisions about music style) is a decision about who is going to be unhappy with you. It shouldn’t even be a goal to please everyone. That’s not the point of worship.

For Everyone Else

If you’re a church leader or member not in the worship area, understand that pastors (including worship leaders) are sometimes baffled by the conflicting expectations others have of them. Ministry is complicated by the fact that everyone has different ideas about how a pastor should spend their time. In most other vocations, your requirements are pretty cut and dried, and it’s clear to everyone whether you’re doing your job. Not so with ministry.

Every worship leader has their own unique gifts and strengths, and it’s vital to make sure they are a good match with the needs of the church. This should all be sorted out in the hiring process, and everyone should have clear expectations about what the position entails.

There will always be conflicting expectations of pastors—that goes with the territory. But a lot of confusion can be eliminated by clear communication on the front end of the hiring process.

If you’re in the middle of any kind of conflict about worship, it might be a good time to clarify goals and expectations for the worship leader and their ministry. Everyone benefits when there is clear communication about job responsibilities and expectations.

Potential, Not Perfection

There’s no such thing as the “perfect” worship leader, nor should we look for one. No single person can meet all the ideals of a church. Instead, church leaders should look for “potential.” As a church looks at a potential worship leader and sees their gifts, experience, heart, and other areas, are they potentially a great fit?

Bottom line: Ministry is like a marriage. Nobody is perfect. There will be bumps in the road. But it’s much smoother sailing if you make sure it’s a good fit before getting hitched.

Do you have a story to share about crazy expectations for artists or worship leaders in your church?

Photo Credit: pigpogm via Compfight

About Kent Sanders

I help people unlock their God-given creative potential. I live with my wife and son in St. Peters, MO. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube.