5. Leadership comes from the top

This is a continuation of an earlier post on effective worship leadership. Click here to see other related posts

I once worked as a substitute teacher in Nashville’s public school system. It was a good experience for me. It supplemented some other work that I was doing, yet gave me considerable flexibility so that I could pursue those other things. When you’re a substitute, you are at the regular teacher’s mercy. She may leave you good lesson plans, disorganized plans, or no plans at all.

My worst day was at a local high school. The students were uninterested and disrespectful. There were arguments and flying desks. At a break, I called the teacher who was sick at home. I asked about his lesson plans and mentioned the students’ poor behavior. “Oh yeah, they’re animals,” he said. I realized that, if the regular teacher can’t control his students, then I certainly can’t. I was a secondary player.

Here’s the thing about being a substitute teacher: the best you can do is the average of what’s been done before you got there.

I’ve led worship in lots of different settings and this is what I’ve observed. Worship leading is a bit like substitute teaching. In most contexts, your role is secondary. Regardless of who is on stage, the congregation takes their “worshipping cues” from the pastor. If worship is not important to the pastor, it’s not important to the congregation.  If the pastor is checked out, it’s much more difficult to engage the people. Of course, no pastor will confess that worship is unimportant. However, body language and decisions that are made can give unintended impressions to the church community.

Now, I don’t blog about how to pastor a church nor am I interested in pointing fingers at our pastors. I just know that leading worship can be frustrating. Sometimes, the people we’re leading don’t seem to “get it.” So, we sing higher, dance harder, and play louder, when all along they might be better served if we took more time with the pastor. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Seek the pastor’s input in song selection. Is there a song that’s been on his heart that he would like the church to sing? What’s he preaching this week? He’ll appreciate your asking, even if he has no preference.
  • Seek feedback from the pastor after the service. And take it gracefully. If he sees that his input matters to you, he’ll become more engaged.
  • Champion your pastor. It’s stinkin’ hard to pastor a church. Yours has plenty of critics. Don’t be one of them.
  • Befriend your pastor. If you can, spend some time outside of “ministry,” just to hang out. This, perhaps more than anything else, will build trust between the two of you.

Over to you. How do you foster relationship with your pastor?


About Jonathan Riggs

Singer, actor, songwriter, and entrepreneur. And I like vanilla bean.
This entry was posted in worship, worship leading and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 5. Leadership comes from the top

  1. dianehurst1 says:

    We have a very nurturing pastor, and he is constantly trying to connect with his church family members– for example, if I need to ask him about something I’d better not try to do it after the service, as it will be a LONG wait while he shakes hands and visits will everyone (!) But the way I personally am an encouragement to him is in being available to help with Sunday School. I feel blessed to be in such a close-knit church.

    • Jonathan says:


      That sounds wonderful. I grew up in churches where the preacher shook everyone’s hand on the way out. I haven’t experienced that in a long time.

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