Dynamics of a Healthy Worship Leader - Senior Pastor Relationship

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Over the past 30 years I have had the privilege of working with eight different Senior Pastors in six different churches. I have sat under a wide range of leadership styles and personalities. I have worked with micro-managers and macro-managers; hands-on leaders and hands-off leaders; men old enough to be my grandfather, one younger than myself and a few my same age; team builders and dictators. I can tell you that from personal experience and from the experience of many of my friends, that for the most part, it is possible to enjoy a healthy relationship with your Senior Pastor regardless of his or her leadership style and yes, even if they lack certain leadership capabilities. I will say though that the emotional health of your leader plays a huge role in this. If you are working under someone who is not emotionally healthy I encourage you to seek some expert counsel from someone who can help you navigate the minefield you are in. For everyone else, let me share with you four characteristics that must continually be developed if you want to have a healthy, working relationship with your Senior Pastor.

The first requirement is trust. Trust is the number one quality a Senior Pastor needs from his Worship Leader. This does not come automatically or quickly. It has to be earned. The fastest way to develop deep trust is through loyalty. A loyal friend is a trusted friend. The moment I doubt someone’s loyalty is the moment that relationship becomes damaged. Trust is also developed through demonstrating a good work ethic. When your Senior Pastor knows he doesn’t have to look over your shoulder every minute, he knows he can trust you. Can you be trusted to keep consistent hours and handle church finances? Do you build good relationships with members of the congregation? How do you handle confidential information? One sure way to lose his trust is to talk behind his back.

Second, a healthy relationship is built on humility. Humility is the art of serving your leader. I have watched a number of staff members who give off the attitude that they are God’s gift to their Senior Pastor and the church. Their motivation is to see how they can be served. They think they know better than everyone else and they usually make sure everyone knows it. They don’t take direction well, if at all, and they get upset when they have to go the extra mile to get things done. A lack of genuine humility will become like a rock in the shoe of your leader. Eventually he will have no other choice but to let you go because you are tripping him up. One word of warning here—you can’t fake humility. Either you have it, or you don’t. I can guarantee you your Pastor will know the real thing. The good news is that it can be developed. It takes dying to yourself and it is a very painful, but necessary process if you want to be successful.

Flexibility is a third characteristic that will go a long way to developing a healthy relationship with your Senior Pastor. I wasn’t very flexible in my early days of ministry and that created a lot of friction. There will be times when the two of you will have very different ideas about how things should be done. You have a choice—you can dig in your heels and fight for your cause, or you can let go of your pride and follow his lead. If you insist on doing it your way and it fails, then you will have to answer to him for your failure. But if you decide to follow your leader and it fails, then he will take the fall for you. A side note here—if that happens, make sure your humility keeps you from rubbing his nose in it, because that will cause you to lose his trust. I have discovered a great principle. The more flexible I am I find the more flexible he becomes with me. You reap what you sow here.

Finally, you have to have self confidence. Self confidence is not the opposite of humility. Healthy self confidence comes out of humility because you understand your limitations and your strengths. Your Pastor shouldn’t have to walk on egg shells around you and he doesn’t have the time to stroke your ego every Monday morning either. Don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve and don’t fall apart emotionally when you make a mistake. When you need correcting, don’t take it personally. Learn from it and move on. He has and he expects you to do the same. You will do him a huge favor by letting him know that he can always give constructive criticism without it affecting your relationship. He needs to know that he can deal with issues quickly without a lot of drama. This is an area that we artists don’t do well in. If you are going to survive long-term, you must develop a healthy emotional outlook on yourself. I recommend every Worship Leader read the book, The Heart of the Artist by Rory Noland. It is a must read. If you dare, read it with your Pastor. It will help him understand the artistic temperament better.

Working with a Senior Pastor is not easy, but by developing trust, humility, flexibility and self-confidence it can be healthy and enjoyable. Oh, I almost forgot the most important thing. You will have to pray a lot! May the Lord bless your relationship with your Senior Pastor.
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