Archive for July 2011

Pastor – Worship Pastor Trust

July 29, 2011

This week’s question for response was:  What do you appreciate about your senior pastor?

The following responses are representative of the responses received from those of you who responded.  There are some prevalent themes in these replies.  I want to underscore those that are primary in the paragraphs that follow the bulleted list.

 

·         My senior pastor is an extremely supportive and Godly man.  His

relationship with the youth pastor and myself is truly unique.  He not

only regards us as colleagues, but friends as well.  I am so thankful to

have a good relationship with the other pastors and staff!

·         He is a man of God who preaches the Bible.  I appreciate his devotion to scripture and to his calling as pastor.  Our pastor can show kindness and compassion.  I am always happy when he invites me to join him on a hospital call or other ministry visit.  In those minutes of shared ministry I see a different side of him and he shares more of his heart with me as a minister and friend.  Those things are very important to our relationship and confidence in one another.

·         My pastor is not afraid to try something new.  He sometimes looks to me to come up with a new idea or theme to add creativity to our services.  When I do he is affirming of that.

·         My pastor is my friend and confidant.  I trust him as a pastor who has personal integrity and cares about his people including my family and me.  I know from talking to other music leaders that this is often not the case in other situations and I know I am blessed in this relationship.

·         I appreciate the confidence my pastor shows in me publicly and privately.

Next to the Lord and my family I am grateful for our relationship most of

all my friends.  He is not afraid to tell me if he does not like something, but appreciates the corrections I make and is not afraid for me to let him know if I see something he is doing that may not be quite right.  He says he appreciates it when I do.  We trust each other.

These responses reflect the many others that contained similar expressions just in different words or addressed to more specific circumstances.  Perhaps the major theme is captured in that very last short sentence when the worship leader stated of his relationship with his senior pastor, “we trust each other.”  As simple and straightforward as it might sound I believe trust is central to any good relationship, especially one in which we are handling holy things.  That is certainly the case where pastor and worship leader are involved as it pertains to planning and leading the public worship of the church in which they serve.  Though planning from different perspectives, using different tools, the unwavering attention to allow for God-centered, Gospel-driven, Spirit-welcoming worship is central to the shared work of preparation for corporate worship.

Three words that I see over and again when reviewing articles and definitions of trust are: competence, benevolence, and honesty.  Those are three powerful words associated with the meaning of trust.  In the case of pastor and worship leader they are certainly applicable.  It also occurs to me that faith is involved in allowing such a trust relationship to develop.  Think with me about each of these in the pastor – worship leader relationship.

·         Competence – I remember in psychology classes studying competency as something that is developed in stages, such as when learning a new skill.  In the pastor – worship leader relationship, trust includes a degree of faith that each is competent at their ministry.  The trust factor is elevated when either expresses faith in that competency.  Faith in competency can be expressed in relation to the stage of development attained.  For example, a pastor who is older or has more experience at ministry might declare to a younger worship leader, “John, you are becoming a fine worship leader.”  A worship leader whose pastor is learning to sing some of the newer songs might say, “Pastor, I notice you are singing our new songs with confidence.”  Over time faith in competency grows to more mature expressions.  For instance, when a worship leader brings a new song text to the pastor to inquire as to its theological accuracy or compatibility to the congregation in context, the worship leader is expressing faith in the pastor’s competency in theological understanding.  If the pastor invites the worship pastor to find or compose music to fit a deep or difficult theological truth to help the congregation comprehend its meaning, he is expressing faith in the worship leader’s competency as a musician and minister.  When either pastor or music minister “runs an idea or thought” by the other, it is an indication of faith in the other’s competency.  Repeating this practice with some frequency builds the trust factor between the pastor and worship leader.

·         Benevolence – trusting human relationships do not exist without a modicum of benevolence.  Since we know that no one is perfect – we are a fallen people in a fallen world – we can know that mistakes will be made.  As trust strengthens in a relationship, unintended mistakes are met with a spirit of benevolence.  Trust grows as the discoverer of the mistake demonstrates their faith that the one making the mistake did not mean harm or deceit in their actions or attitude.  When a charitable attitude is the first intuitive response toward another, the trust relationship is strengthened.  A pastor and worship minister can engage in “safe” communication when a benevolent spirit prevails.  While each one recognizes they have a certain power in relation to the other – pastor holds the place of seniority in the staff and worship minister has numerous people under his influence, often primary leaders in the church – they trust that the power will be used for one another’s good.  What’s more, they have faith whatever power they are given and the trust upon which their relationship is built will be used for the glory of God in His church.

·         Honesty – an assumption of honesty is crucial to a relationship built on trust. Honesty is an aspect of moral character.  It implies integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness.  The Oxford Dictionary says it is absent of “lying, cheating, or theft.”  Blessed are the pastor and worship leader whose relationship is completely characterized by honesty with one another.  Furthermore, blessed is the church whose pastor and worship leader have such a trusting relationship.  What the worship leader or pastor say to one another is consistent with what each says when elsewhere.   Neither pastor nor worship leader will use their position to dismiss the other’s idea or thoughts behind the back of the other.  Neither worship leader nor pastor will take credit for himself when shared process has brought about a winning result, or point blame following a disappointing one.

Our opportunity as worship pastors in our relationships with senior pastors is to always be working toward a trusting relationship with our pastors.  Those for whom that journey is shared by mutual intention on the part of the senior pastor are richly blessed as are the churches they serve.  I know there is more to gratifying ministry than a trusting bond with your pastor, but it sure is a marvelous grace gift when it consistently characterizes that relationship, and it makes positive attitude easier on a daily basis.  I pray for all of you to serve in places where that kind of trusting connection exists.  Where it is not the case that your pastor shares such a desire, I pray you will have the spiritual courage to continue in faith to work toward trust from “your side of the equation,” and meanwhile to rest in the Lord’s calling upon your life.

Prayerfully,

Paul

Unspoken expectations

July 11, 2011


 

Thomas a` Kempis said, “Be not angry that you cannot make others as you want them to be when you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”

 

Whether we admit it or not, one of the most challenging aspects of serving in ministry is serving with others who are different than we are, especially when those others are either in a position that has authority over us, or that we have authority over.  Specifically, the relationship between senior pastor and worship pastor/minister of music is especially challenging because of the close proximity of the responsibilities of each and the marked differences that tend to attract persons to those roles.  The Lord calls us into service, and that sense of calling from Him is crucial to our well-being.  It is also paramount that we trust Him for what is taking place in the one we serve with in this pastor – worship pastor relationship.

 

With that precursor, below is a sampling of the responses received to the above question regarding what worship leaders wish their pastors knew about them and their ministry.  I appreciate the candid and sometimes apparently painful responses.  It may surprise some of you as it did me a bit to see replies even by those who volunteer in the music leadership roles.  Here are responses compiled that are at least representative of most all replies:

 

§  Honestly, the depth of work that goes into producing the Sunday morning service, or that should go into producing it.  He cares, really he does, but he does not understand.  He meets someone who may or may not sing well and invites them to sing the next Sunday regardless of what I have planned.  He will call me up and say let’s do this song next Sunday and its one we have never done before.  He just does not understand the work it takes on everyone’s part to do things well and glorify God.

 

That said we have a good relationship and he goes out of the way normally to get along.

§  I am not a mind reader.  If you want a certain song, please tell me.  I don’t want you to tell me all of the songs, but at least give me a general direction to look at.

 

Wish he knew that I am juggling multiple jobs just like him.  I am a volunteer Music Minister and work a full time job outside of what appears to be a full time job keeping up with musicians, this week’s PowerPoint, teaching Sunday School and Wednesday night classes, VBS, the latest church computer issue, and trying to manage family life as a mother of school age kids.  Due to the economy, I am also having to look for a part-time job.  No wonder so many Minsters’ families are falling apart.  Satan is keeping us from personal study time because we are either too busy chasing lose ends or too tired to focus!

 

Technology is supposed to make our jobs easier but it has increased the demand on our time instead.  I find myself cleaning up after those who say they know how to run a computer or sound board, but cannot.

§  My pastor wants a bigger choir.  I’m struggling to engage new members in our choir.  We typically have 20 or so for Sunday AM worship with a total congregation of approximately 150.  I would like to see what my counterparts across the state recommend, knowing every church is different as are the directors.

 

§  I wish my pastor saw me as a partner.  I really don’t know how he thinks of me.  His communication is limited to instructions.  Our conversations are short and have little sense that he values me more than a hired musician.  I am left with the impression that I am of little value.  Even though our choir and musicians share good relationships with my family and me, I feel no real sense of security when I am around the pastor.

 

§  Just because people in the church express affirmation to me does not need to present a threat to my pastor.  I am very loyal and supportive, but get the feeling he is jealous of my support in the congregation.

 

§  Worship has more moods and expressions besides celebration.  I am sensitive to needs and moods, like most musicians, and want to use those gifts and not just act as a kind of cheerleader.

 

§  My pastor needs to know or acknowledge that we have different personalities and that is ok.  I can help him keep from making certain mistakes and I am sure the reverse is true, but we need to communicate for that to be the case.

 

§  I love the Lord, the church, the people, and the pastor and other staff.  I have been to college, seminary, and continually read everything I can about worship and use of music in worship. In staff meetings and at other times the pastor gives me directions as if I know little or nothing about the church or worship.  I feel belittled, often overlooked, and generally as if my education and service as a minister are  unappreciated.

 

Brothers and sisters, the replies I received reveal the very epidemic that I feel is taking place in so many of our church situations.  I am prayerful that the Lord will help us find ways to turn some of these situations in a more positive direction, and that He will give wisdom and insight into ways we can help one another and strengthen the critical relationship between senior pastors and worship pastors/ministers of music.  I am going to speak with those who work more directly with senior pastors in other capacities here at TBC to see about partnering on conferencing in some of these areas. It is concerning to me that I hear often about pastors who have problems with overextending themselves, yet cannot delegate responsibility.  Those characteristics together with your responses strongly imply to my mind trust issues that need to be addressed.  As I have prayed over these matters the Lord has shown me a way of trust even in this journey of addressing these issues.  For instance, our ministry partners – Union University, Carson Newman, Lifeway, and the seminaries – are aware of these same challenges and address them to some extent from their vantage point.  In fact, I have been working with some of these to facilitate pilot projects that would call pastors and worship leaders to concentrated times of retreat and focus together.

 

Meanwhile, we must pray, support, stay in God’s Word, trust our calling from the Lord as first and highest priority, and walk through the valleys and mountaintops as the Lord gives what He deems best.

 

Please know of my desire to support you, your pastors, your churches, and your people along the journey in any way I can.  Gatherings of worship pastors, lunches and fellowship with other worship leaders, and conference gatherings like the one coming in August can help us by reminding us of that calling upon our lives.  Strands of rope are stronger when intertwined (Ecc 4:12).

Facing Challenges

July 5, 2011

This week’s QUESTION FOR RESPONSE was:

 

What aspect of your ministry through music and worship leadership gives you the greatest challenge while striving for Kingdom accomplishment?

 

Here are some of the responses I received to last week’s posted “Question for Response.”  Several of these are compilations of multiple responses that were very similar.  As promised, names are withheld to promote candid responses:

1.  The greatest challenge for me is to forego personal preferences and opinions of the congregation while striving to present a blend of both traditional hymns and contemporary worship songs. It is so easy to allow personal preferences to creep into decisions, when the key should be scriptural content and properly comparing the congregation for worship. 

2.     My greatest challenge is struggling with so many schedule conflicts that people have in their busy lives.  It takes me more time trying to compensate for time they are either unable or unwilling to give.  Some people who take on major leadership roles simply do not fulfill their responsibility leaving the task for others (like me).

3.     My pastor does not seem to think I am really a minister.  He asks me to do certain songs he likes or thinks the congregation will like, but I want music to be much more than something to appease him or the people.  I don’t know how to get his attention without risking my position or creating a bigger problem with him.

These three responses reflect the three primary areas involved in all the replies I received from last week’s question.  I want to briefly address each area of concern for your consideration and prayer – not just for your own setting, but for all who are serving in worship and music ministry leadership and their churches.  The ongoing need for revival and renewal in the American evangelical church seems to be at the core of each of these expressions.  I believe that is confirmed in what I hear coming from so many of our leaders who are calling for prayer that God would send a Spirit breathed revival on us.  Let us join in that prayer first and foremost.

In response to the three included replies above:

Regarding #1- personal preference issues, dear brothers and sisters, this is a clear manifestation of the need for renewal that is being called for among leadership.  I have to straightforward enough to say that the truth is that we have all participated in this manifestation in some fashion.  In some cases pastors have demanded changes in order to reach people without recognizing all the ramifications of the message we may be sending our own people as well as those we claim we are trying to reach.  The bottom line is that in a sense “the medium is the message.”  That is to say, if we are seeking to reflect Jesus who sought to serve not to be served, then we cannot drift into worship that characterizes Christian faith as something that will give you exactly what you want when you want it.  While we must raise our sensitivity to proclaiming the message in a contextually relevant manner, we must never reduce worship to a commercial enterprise where we are selling fire insurance or peddling prosperity gospel.  Burger King worship is nothing more than idolatry.

It seems imperative that we have open and honest conversations with our senior pastors and other church leaders to better face our need for “takin’ it to the streets” (bearing witness through music in coffee shops, street corners, and dare I say even in bars).  What may be relevant on the bandstand stage in the community park or at the beach may be irrelevant in sacred worship.  We NEED our preaching pastors to speak the truth in love that will help our people practice Christian worship that practices the presence of our Holy God and demonstrates love and unity (See Romans 12 and John 17).  For you and I, music ministers, who are “second chair” leaders, we must approach this conversation in love and deep respect.  Prayer is foundational to any such conversation that risks misunderstanding.  The Holy Spirit is our only hope.

Regarding #2- concerning busy schedules, I would have two points to express to all of us: First of all, we cannot make up for others’ lack of commitment to the church’s worship and/or the ministry through music.  One of the reasons I believe people fall into allowing everything else to come before the church is that we cover for them.  I have seen music ministers who allow their family life to suffer while they work to keep music presentations afloat, only to end up relieved of their position as music minister because of troubles at home.  Secondly, our people are often busy at being busy.  Our culture admires busy-ness for its own sake.  Our message is countercultural in this way.  I recommend consideration of the music schedule – are you doing too much?, and of the church schedule – are you (and others) doing too much?, and finding ways to ease the pressures (often brought on by performance mindset).  Christian worship is an engagement with God, not a weekly production.  You might be surprised how meaningful it might be for your congregation to spend a few moments in reflection while an instrumentalist, soloist, or choir shares a familiar song of worship to encourage such reflection.

Regarding #3- concerning relationship and respect from the senior pastor, I am deeply burdened about this recurring prayer request.  I am hopeful that more conversations in the building where I work (every now and then) will result in conversations with and among your pastors to help address the issue of shared ministry.  Just last week I shared with Dr. Randy Davis, our Executive Director, that I know of very few worship music ministers who do not have a deep desire to serve their pastors and to practice a complimentary ministry.  Even so, the mutual respect is sometimes not shared.  So many senior pastors feel immense pressure to be perceived as “successful” as measured by “nickels and noses” and that pressure is shared with the rest of the staff.  The Worship environments of other larger churches are misperceived as being the key to growth. This is not to say the problems all reside with the senior pastors for we all have opportunity to earnestly serve one another.  Resourceful music ministers can find many different ways to serve their senior pastor and to foster a good relationship.  Respect in both directions is earned over a period of time where trust becomes foundational in the relationship.  Once again we are dependent upon the Lord, thus daily prayer is critical to this process.

I invite all of you to join me in praying for one another regarding these three areas of concern, not only for those who entered these responses, but as they apply to all of our churches and ministries.  The Lord IS our strength.  We need the Gospel to reign in these matters, and only He can provide.  One way He provides strength is through our relationships with one another.  I hope all of you will take advantage of the grace gift we have in one another.  Fellow worship pastors and other music ministry leaders understand your situation perhaps better than anyone.  Do not hesitate to call them and/or to call me to share the load.

Faithfully,

Paul


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