Having the Hard Conversations with Your Worship Pastor

Whether it’s getting the songs out earlier, allowing music stands or not making last minute changes, we all have something we think our worship pastor can do to make our lives easier.

Rarely do we actually see those changes happen. Here’s how to have a productive conversation with your worship pastor.

Seek First to Understand

I’ve been on both sides of the stage, so to speak. I’ve been the frustrated guitar player on the worship team and I am now the often scatterbrained worship pastor. One thing I can tell you is that being in charge of a church worship gathering is very different than playing at one. Yes, we are all leaders and all giving our time, but there is a weight that the leader carries. It shocked me the first time I experienced it.

As a worship team musician, you are mainly focused on you. As the leader, you are trying to focus on everyone and that includes giving the pastor, the team, the tech guys and the congregation what they need. That’s just a lot to deal with. So, while what you are proposing may seem a simple ask, it’s probably not and it’s important to understand that going in.

Timing is Important

Sunday is usually not the best time to ask for a change. With everything happening, it'll just add to the stress instead of being productibe. I know it’s hard because Sunday is usually when we feel our pain points, but just wait. Reach out on a Monday and maybe even set a time to meet with your worship pastor to discuss what you want to discuss. They will be in a much better mental space to hear it.

Know What You're Asking

Change is always hard, no matter how small. Take something like receiving the songs early in the week so you have more time to practice. Seems simple, right?

As a worship pastor, I can say putting together a worship set isn’t just picking a few songs. If you actually care about it you pray, you consider your congregation, you respond to what’s happening in the world and in your church. After exerting so much energy on Sunday, time is needed to build that bank up again. Something that seems like a small change actually isn't when understanding the full picture of what's happening.

Change Yourself

This is the most important and most often neglected piece of this conversation. We’re all human and we don’t really make lasting changes unless we see the benefit for us. You want your worship pastor to want what you want? Show them how it will benefit them! Yes, it’s hard for a worship leader to get things going earlier in the week, but if you show up and rock Sunday when they did, it’s probably worth it. The problem is there are plenty of times I have gotten everything out early and communicated well and my team didn’t look at it until Sunday morning anyway; it’s so disheartening. If you want your worship pastor to change, you need to commit to using that change to benefit the team. It also goes a long way if you offer help make it happen.

Be Nice

Asking for change can sound a lot like complaining so make extra effort to use kind words. Be complementary, not patronizing. Being likable goes a long way.

Put it in Action

Let's say you want your worship pastor to get you the songs earlier in the week. Reach out to your worship pastor on Monday or Tuesday and ask when is a good time to meet. Arrive with a smile and say something like: 

"First of all I just want to tell you how much I love being on the worship team. It’s a gift to be able to minister with you and I appreciate how much you give to this ministry. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can be a better team member and one thing that has stuck out to me is my preparation. There is nothing I would love more than to show up confident in the parts I need to play. I’m doing my best now but like you, I have a lot of responsibilities and I just need more time. Is there any way you can get me the set list and materials a little sooner in the week? I realize it might play havoc with your schedule and be a big ask so I’m willing to make it worth it. If you can commit to getting me the songs on Tuesday, I will commit to being ready every week. You will see and hear a difference from me. Besides that, is there anything I can do to help you make this happen?" 

This statement shows you care for the team and the role you play in it. You're affirming the hard work your worship pastor puts in and you're asking for a change from a position that is understanding.

Even if you do all of this, you might not get exactly what you want. You might need to compromise or you might even get a simple “I can’t”. At least you’ll both understand each other a little more and it might create opportunities for other changes in the team.

At worst, you’ll have spent some relationship building time with your worship pastor and that’s always a win. 

Jason Houtsma is the co-founder and guitar teacher at Worship Artistry, where he is helping musicians of every level answer the call to worship with passion and confidence. Jason has been leading worship and writing music since he was 15 years old and currently serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA. He is husband to Alli and father to Bjorn and Asher.

Having the Hard Conversations with Your Worship Pastor

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