What Pastors Wish Their Worship Leaders Knew

shutterstock_92514370_FotorThis past week I had the privilege of participating in the Cutting it Straight conference in Jacksonville, led by H.B. Charles, Jr. and hosted by Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.

H.B. started this conference, now in its second year, specifically to influence African American pastors to preach expositionally. I was invited to be part of the worship track. H.B., along with his music pastor, Joe Pace, hopes to see more black churches singing songs that are theologically rich and gospel-centered. Not gospel like “black gospel,” but gospel like “Jesus bore our sins on the cross to purchase our forgiveness” gospel. While our cultural backgrounds are different, we share a passion to see the Word of God proclaimed in song in the power of the Spirit, and to see churches singing songs that enable the word of Christ to dwell in us richly.

For two of the seminars I was assigned the topic of “What Pastors/Worship Leaders Wish Their Worship Leader/Pastor Knew.” It was a little challenging because pastors and musicians vary widely in terms of their theology and practice. But here’s my attempt to pinpoint “What Pastors Wish Their Worship Leaders Knew.” Although this post highlights areas that might be problematic, pastors should regularly communicate support and evidences of grace in their worship leader before pointing out things that could be better. For the sake of this post, I’m using the term “worship leader” to describe a non-elder who leads the music during the gatherings of the church.

1. Pastors, not worship leaders, will give an account to God for the people in their church. (Heb. 13:17)
Pastors are ultimately responsible for the teaching and song diet of the church.
Pastors should know in advance what songs will be sung, and should play a part in choosing them.
If you want a pastor’s trust, you’ll have to earn it.

2. God’s Word to us matters more than our words to God. (Is. 66:2; Ps. 19:7-11)
Music ministry is Word ministry.
Don’t underestimate the value of proclaiming God’s Word passionately.
Seek to know your Bible better than your instrument.
Lead us to sing the Word, hear the Word, see the Word, and pray the Word.

3. We are what we sing. Therefore, choose our songs and lyrics wisely. (Col. 3:16)
You are discipling the congregation through your song choices and words.
For better or worse, our churches will remember more words from our songs they sing than from the sermons they hear.
Build a repertoire of songs that enable us to express the many varied aspects of God’s glory and the many appropriate responses, and make sure we’re singing them.

4. While song introductions can be helpful, the worship leader is not the preacher.
Your primary role is to enable the word of Christ to dwell in us as we sing, not to preach.
When speaking, typically less is more.
Choose good songs, and let the songs do the teaching.

5. Prayers are corporate conversations with God, not filler.
Don’t pray simply because you feel awkward or don’t know what else to do.
Use your prayers to speak for the congregation, not just yourself.
Model what theologically informed, engaged, Christ-exalting prayer looks like.
Don’t mix up the members of the Trinity, and don’t pray as though God has forgotten his name.

6. Your job is to support congregational singing, not overwhelm or replace it.  (Eph. 5:18-19; Rev. 5:9-10)
Make sure your sound man knows the value of the congregation’s voice.
If you constantly sing harmony, some of us will have a hard time knowing what the melody is.
Don’t assume your instrumentalists have to play constantly.
Pull back from your vocal mics sometimes, stop playing your instruments, and let us sing a cappella.

7. Truth matters more than tunes, but that doesn’t mean we should sing great theology to bad melodies or accompaniment.
Choose songs the congregation enjoys singing and can sing.
Occasionally try changing the arrangement, tempo, or feel of a song so the congregation can hear the lyrics in a fresh way.

8. Keys that serve the congregation take priority over keys that make you sound good. (Phil. 2:3-4)
We don’t come primarily to listen to you sing, but to lift up our own voices.
If you have to sing higher, try occasionally adding fills that heighten the impact and meaning of the lyrics we’re singing.
Congregations get weary if they have to sing a lot of high Ds and Es. If we’re singing F#s they’ll probably drop an octave or faint.

9. Don’t teach us so many new songs that we never learn them and so few new songs that we fail to benefit from them.
Learning about two songs every three months is doable. Learning 4 songs a month isn’t.
We have access to more songs more immediately than any time in history. Teach us the ones that we will feed our souls for more than a few weeks.
If your aim is to serve us, you won’t have to try to impress us.

10. Blaming sin on being an artist/musician doesn’t make it any less sinful.
Moodiness, over-sensitivity, procrastination, pride, irresponsibility, and laziness aren’t due to having a certain temperament but to indwelling sin.
Getting to know non-musicians in the church can provide perspective and encouragement.
If there’s anything in your life that might hinder or disqualify you from serving in your role, please let me know. I want to help you.

11. Your goal in leading isn’t performing, but pastoring and participation.
If the people in the church generally aren’t singing, you’re performing, not leading congregational worship.
Your job isn’t done just because you practiced. People have to actually sing.
Leading with your eyes open most of the time will communicate your care and help you gauge how people are responding.

12. You’re not the Holy Spirit, but you can depend on Him.
Music can’t open the eyes of our hearts, illumine our minds, our change our lives. But God’s Spirit can.
You don’t have to tell us to “sing louder” or “sing it like you mean it” or exhort us with “C’mon!” Give us doctrinal fuel and for our emotional fire and trust the Spirit will do the rest.
When you spend time in prayer asking God to empower what you do, you’ll lead more often with a humble confidence that is easy to follow.

13. Ultimately, Christ is our worship leader, not me or you. (Heb. 2:11-12, 8:1-2)
You don’t have to bring us into the throne room. Christ has already done that. (Heb. 10:19-22)
You don’t have to feel pressure or be anxious about leading us. Christ perfects all our offerings (1 Pet. 2:5)!
The more you point us to what Christ has done and is doing for us, the less we’ll see you and the more we’ll benefit from the ways God has gifted you.

If you’re a pastor and identify with some or many of these points, don’t keep it to yourself. More importantly, take your musical leader out for a meal and express your appreciation in specific ways. Then talk about what could be better. Who knows what God might do?

What would you add?

Check out What Worship Leaders Wish Their Pastor Knew.

(Image courtesy of shutterstock.com)

91 Responses to What Pastors Wish Their Worship Leaders Knew

  1. Chris September 28, 2015 at 10:55 AM #


    Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and experience with many generations of church leaders! I have a quick question for you.

    I’ve read or heard you mention the first point a few different times: “Pastors, not worship leaders, will give an account to God for the people in their church.” I appreciate the encouragement toward humility and learning to submit to a more senior shepherd or authority. However, the statement seems to imply that worship leaders aren’t really church leaders, or that their role isn’t one of shepherding and teaching at all, and that those tasks are solely reserved for the teaching/preaching pastor.

    Can you help explain to me the difference, and your Biblical understanding of worship pastors not being called to account for the way they lead or teach the church? I feel that there’s a definitely a sense in which we shouldn’t think too highly of ourselves or our role, but there also seems to be a sense in which we shouldn’t take it too lightly either. Even in Hebrews 13:17, the word “leaders” is plural.

    Can you help me understand more clearly? Thanks for any thoughts you can share!

    • Bob Kauflin September 28, 2015 at 2:25 PM #

      Chris, thanks for asking. In point #1 I’m thinking of a volunteer worship leader, not a pastor. If the musical leader is a pastor, then the point doesn’t apply. Let me know if that’s helpful.

      • Sam September 28, 2015 at 3:33 PM #

        That’s a helpful clarification for me.

      • Chris September 28, 2015 at 6:10 PM #

        Thanks Bob! That’s definitely helpful. I try to encourage all “song leaders” to strive to function as shepherds, theologians, and teachers-through-song, so that’s probably where some of the disconnect was coming from. (I also currently have the title of “Pastor of Worship”, which has carried with it a greater weight of responsibility and accountability.) God bless!

      • Daniel J. Mount September 29, 2015 at 5:54 AM #

        Bob, I’m guessing you have Hebrews 13:17 in mind; those who watch over our souls will give account to God. But Romans 14:12 also comes to mind; “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

        It’s fair to say, based on these two verses and on other passages, that the leaders of the church have a greater responsibility. But I’m not sure that whether that leader draws a salary for his services makes much of a difference in the level of his accountability to God; the tradition of volunteer church leaders goes all the way back to Paul, at least. And churches in many countries around the world, including some here, have tent-maker lead pastors/elders.

    • Tracey October 3, 2015 at 1:43 PM #

      I don’t think he was saying it in the context you describe. I think that he was just saying that ultimately, it is the Pastor, who is the 1 true Shepherd, and it is his leading, teaching, and preaching, that holds the highest responsibility to the flock (congregation). The worship leader can be identified by just that. Many are gifted to lead specifically in that area, and so that is why you don’t typically have a time where that leader is ministering “through song”. They are only accountable for that particular ministry.

      • Jeff Afonso August 15, 2017 at 11:37 AM #

        The actual context of Hebrews is plural not singular. There are no contextual scriptures identifying or describing singular or “Senior Pastor” type positions in the church. The role of mini popes was foolishly adopted by the Protestant church.

  2. Matt September 28, 2015 at 1:05 PM #

    Excellent post Bob and as a pastor myself, I definitely agree with everything on your list.
    Your influence and teaching on worship greatly serves the church. Keep writing excellent posts like this and keep writing great books on worship like you’ve done.
    Thank you for serving the body of Christ in this way, so faithfully, for so many years. I am grateful for you!

    I’d perhaps add a few small things to your list:
    -Worship is not schoolhouse rock. The congregation doesn’t need so many frequent interjections into the singing, like those encouraging us to “let’s praise the Lord”, or “lift up your voices” in the middle of every song. We also don’t need the worship leader’s own constant responses, like “Thank-you Lord” very much. When it happens every song, this can tend to distract the congregation and make us notice the worship leader too much, making worship about him/her and not the One being worshipped.

    -Sing what we’re supposed to sing. Please don’t sing other parts or harmony when you’re the primary one leading us. It’s confusing and distracting both. Please just sing what we are supposed to sing. Also, while having backup or other vocalists come in and out of the mix is very good and enjoyable, please don’t come in and out vocally too much yourself – it makes us lost as to where we are and we have a harder time following you.

    -It’s not a concert. Please don’t try to play a lot of musically impressive songs that may be difficult or hard to sing for the congregation, or that have such an unexpected or unusual beat that it’s hard to join in and sing. You may not find the songs hard to play or sing yourself and you might really like them. But remember, the majority of people who you are leading don’t have musical or vocal training and might not be able to follow a cool beat or a lot of modulations. We love good music that worships God and expresses worship in a wide range of styles, just make sure that it enhances the singing and that we don’t walk away being more impressed with the music than the words we sing.

    • Bob Kauflin September 28, 2015 at 2:24 PM #

      Matt, thanks for your encouraging words and helpful additions.

    • Bob Kauflin September 28, 2015 at 2:47 PM #

      Matt, I added your comment about singing the melody to the original post. It’s something I was told early on and I’ve found it to be a common practice.

    • Stephen September 28, 2015 at 7:09 PM #

      Sounds like a musical robot would work for your setting. I feel for the individual who is under your leadership. Found this to be less than encouraging.

      • Bob Kauflin September 28, 2015 at 9:38 PM #

        Stephen, thanks for your comment. Obviously, this isn’t true for every pastor/worship leader situation. But many of the points are taken from conversations I’ve had with pastors and worship leaders. The post (and the seminar) was designed specifically to address potential areas of disagreement. It can be used as a jumping off point for conversations about what is good (as I suggest in my post) and what can be better.

      • Rickie Smith July 1, 2017 at 9:30 AM #

        As a worship leader , I agree with you Stephen , I sing and praise God in every song I do , my pastor told me to do all the music and he would do the preaching , my worship team prays over the music every Sunday and I do not just consider myself just another lost musician . I do take offense in his term “volunteer worship leader ” it appears that the thinking there is that a pastor gets a degree to be a pastor and worship leader gets a degree in music , but he (the pastor) is the only one that paid for his degree and therefore he is the only one that has bills to pay . From all the churches I have sung at , I believe it’s a 50/50 deal , a lot of people come to hear Gods Word in song and a lot of people come to hear Gods Word from the pastor . I do know that without music , every church that I went to was dying or already dead .

    • Sandeep September 29, 2015 at 4:37 AM #

      Matt, you make some interesting points, but I feel some of the suggestions might shut the WL in a box. I would not mind if WL is authentic in his expression of the above points.

  3. Fernando Ortega September 28, 2015 at 1:11 PM #

    What happens when points 1 and 3 collide? I have personally experienced such an occurrence.

    • Bob Kauflin September 28, 2015 at 2:23 PM #

      Fernando, I’ve been in that position as well! Sounds like a topic for another post. A few brief thoughts. I start by making sure I’ve expressed my thoughts clearly, biblically, and humbly. If the issues still persists, I lead the songs the pastor requests in a way that makes it sound like I wanted to lead them; i.e., I introduce them with Scripture, read Scripture in the middle, add theologically informed phrases in the middle of the song, etc. If the situation continues for a long time, I begin asking whether or not I’m supposed to lead the music at a church where the pastor doesn’t think the music should be the kind that enables the word of Christ to dwell in us richly.

      • Walt September 30, 2015 at 12:45 PM #

        My wife and I have experienced this exact situation — prolonged conflict between pastor and worship leader. Months of seeing our weekly song submissions being vetoed and replaced was a difficult thing for us. We began to feel that our pastor did not trust us to do the job that we were called to do. Attempts at dialogue failed, and we ended up leaving the church. Only in hindsight did we realize that the situation was one of unhealthy control.

        It is vital for pastors and their worship leaders to have a good relationship. I think that when the pastor knows the worship leader well and they meet regularly to discuss the direction the local church is headed (upcoming sermon series, ministry focus, etc.), a mutual understanding will develop, allowing the worship leader to choose songs freely with the goals of the local church in mind. The pastor needs to trust the worship leader’s musical expertise, training, and calling, just as the worship leader needs to submit to the authority of the pastor.

        Also, I am totally geeking-out about seeing Fernando Ortega in the comments section of a blog. He is a tremendous musician — I’ve been a fan for a while.

        • Bob Kauflin September 30, 2015 at 12:57 PM #

          Walt, ha! I agree, Fernando is one gifted guy. Sorry about your past experience. Totally agree about good communication, and the necessity of trust. I’m planning on posting “what worship leaders wish their pastors knew” on Monday. I think it will provide a healthy balance to what I’ve written here. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Andrew September 28, 2015 at 1:45 PM #

    I always appreciate your wisdom and leadership in matters of congregational worship, Bob.

    Perhaps I misunderstand, but it seems point #11 challenges point #1. Are not worship leaders acting as pastors/shepherds in song selection and leadership, thus meaning we will be held accountable for how we teach and lead the congregation in song?

    Thanks for your ministry. I look forward to reading your new book and listening to the new SG album.

    • Bob Kauflin September 28, 2015 at 2:18 PM #

      Thanks for asking, Andrew. In point #1, I’m thinking of a volunteer worship leader, not a pastor. Thanks for your encouragement!

  5. Heather September 28, 2015 at 11:13 PM #

    A possible addition to consider: Worship leaders can be disciplers, in that those that do it well could be pouring into those that are up and coming. Ideally, I think this should be an intentional relationship of musical and biblical training.

    I would like to ask for clarification on the subpoint under #5 when you say not to mix up members of the Trinity and not to pray as if God has forgotten His name. Just so I understand, do you mean to pray always with the correct roles of the Trinity (not ascribing attributes to Jesus that belong to the Spirit, for example) and repeating God’s names over and over ad infinitum? If this is not what you mean, please help me understand. I probably possess a too-tired brain tonight.

    Otherwise, a wonderful list. I’m an experienced musician and teacher, educated out the wazoo and well-qualified to educate others, but a baby worship leader who senses God’s leading into that realm. I’m grateful for any resources that might be suggested for me to look into, especially as someone from a Southern Baptist background (tent revivals, anyone?) now diving into Anglicanism. Talk about liturgical whiplash! Big learning curve, but I’m loving it. I appreciate any wisdom I could get.

    • Bob Kauflin September 28, 2015 at 11:33 PM #

      Heather, thanks for your encouragement. Great point regarding discipling others. Regarding point #5, you nailed it. “Father, thank you for dying for us,” would be an example of the first. “Lord, we thank you, God, for saving us, God, and Jesus we just want to say, God that we’re glad to be in your presence today, God…” would be an example of the second. I pray you’ll find some helpful resources here and in the recommended books section. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. jorge September 28, 2015 at 11:37 PM #

    Thank you so much for this post! Although I feel I work on making these points a general practice, there are times I fail and I need to be reminded that everything I do and say needs to be done with intentionality and trust that God will speak (and not necessarily always through me). I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this very much!

  7. Ansen Soon September 29, 2015 at 12:31 AM #

    I find it hard to agree completely on #3.

    Who we are, our identity, is not as shakeable as being dependent on our own actions and words. It must be based on who we are in Christ and what He’s done on the cross. Being joint-heirs with Christ isn’t as flippant as saying so. #3 should be a run on from #2.

    I absolutely agree we must be wise in choosing songs that are in line with God’s Word, but our identity runs much deeper.

  8. Irene Minton Pham September 29, 2015 at 3:34 AM #

    Nice article.
    I would add, Jesus healed a lot of deaf people; we don’t need to add to their numbers. Keep the sound down to the level that a person can hear his neighbor. Loud music is bad for our ears, and an affront to the temple of the Holy spirit. God is not impressed by our decibels or the damage they do to our congregation’s hearing.

  9. Chris September 29, 2015 at 6:35 AM #

    Yes! Excellent article. I whole-heartedly agree and hope that many worship leaders read this and take it to heart.

    There is one thing I would add to the list: worship music cannot be treated like a sacrament. God has promised to show up through baptism and communion in His Word, but never does God promise to show up through song. While music can be encouraging to the church body and help to prepare us for hearing the Word, we should never pursue the goal of using music to create an emotion or give us the “warm fuzzies”. This is nothing but emotional manipulation. As worship leaders we should simply be mindful of our role and what we’re actually trying to accomplish.

    • chris October 6, 2015 at 8:44 AM #

      The Bible says we come before his presence with singing and into his courts with praise. I agree that it prepares us for the word, but there is an emotional side to our spirituality.

  10. grammatteus September 29, 2015 at 8:18 AM #

    Some great points here. Maybe as a run-on to #3: Can we all sing the words? In other words, I think worship should be about HIM, not us. Lines like “my life was full of sin and confusion” or “I was sinking deep in sin, sinking to rise no more” are words of testimony, not worship, and I cannot sing them since I was saved at 14, and I was no more ‘sinking in sin’ than any other normal child. I feel I am lying if I sing them, so I just don’t join in. Also, the whole chorus ‘I am blessed’ is all about me, not Christ. May as well sing James Brown’s ‘I got you!’

    I would draw up two points, though. Please don’t capitalise ‘the Word’ when you’re talking about scripture. The Word presented by the apostle John in his gospel, first letter and revelation is Jesus. Our scriptures are the word of God. Not a minor point: I actually met a woman who believed her Bible was with God from the beginning, and WAS God!

    Also, when you try to draw a distinction between a ‘volunteer’ and a ‘pastor’ surely this is only a modern professional distinction? Just because a leader of any ministry is not paid a full-time wage, I don’t see their ‘calling’ as any less or with any less authority (under the auspices of the church leadership hierarchy of course).

    • Bob Kauflin September 29, 2015 at 11:59 AM #

      Tim, thanks for your thoughts! Capitalizing the Word of God is a common practice, although certainly not universal. It’s true that being paid or not being paid is not the deciding factor. I changed the wording of the post to reflect the difference between elder and non-elder. But even when someone isn’t an elder, they are responsible to lead the church in a way that is pastoral, as I say in point 11. Thanks!

  11. manuel jr September 29, 2015 at 8:42 AM #

    Hello Bob!

    Great site to tackle issues that many churches avoid. I shall share this to my friends. As a former “worship” leader for around eight years, I would like to add two points to your thoughts:

    – Congregational singing should be as short as possible giving more time for the teaching of God’s Word , and

    – the leader should avoid over-repetition of parts of the songs. It annoying that to stir more emotions into the singing, the leader repeats the bridge, chorus, or ending almost endlessly. However, to some it works the other way, though.

    Thanks and God bless us!

    • Bob Kauflin September 29, 2015 at 12:03 PM #

      Manuel, thanks for your thoughts! It’s difficult to make a case that singing in our meetings should be “as short as possible.” But the time allotted should never impede on the the time allotted for teaching God’s Word. As to repetition, here are some thoughts I posted a while ago. Thanks for your comments!

  12. Anne-marie September 29, 2015 at 8:45 AM #

    Bob, in several of your comments it sounds like only paid pastors and worship leaders have a responsibility before God for the people. Do you really believe that us volunteers are “off the hook”?

    • Bob Kauflin September 29, 2015 at 12:05 PM #

      Anne-Marie, while any leader in a service has a responsibility to serve faithfully, Heb. 13:17 specifically says that leaders (and I assume recognized elders/pastors) will have to give an account for those God called them to shepherd. And the issues isn’t paid or non-paid as much as an elder or non-elder. So no one is “off the hook,” but teachers will be held to a higher standard (James 3:1). Thanks!

  13. Jim September 29, 2015 at 9:00 AM #

    You make very good points. I have a question. Shouldn’t a worship leader call the congregation to silence before worship begins? A strum and “let’s worship” doesn’t stop the talking and laughing until the end of the first song. I’d like to know your thoughts. Thanks.

    • Bob Kauflin September 29, 2015 at 11:52 AM #

      Jim, thanks for asking. While it’s certainly fine to start with silence before the meeting begins, there’s nothing in Scripture that requires we start that way. We’ve found starting with a call to worship helps focus people’s attention and hearts. I wrote more on that in this post.

  14. John Moerman September 29, 2015 at 9:32 AM #

    I think this discussion could be broadened to involve the historic position of the church regarding the singing of Psalms. It seems to me the challenge constantly facing us as we incorporate songs of human composition is the trend towards man centred/man pleasing worship. Im not disputing the presence of deep and Christ centred hymnody as written by great saints of the past (and a few contemporary), but the trajectory has been to abandon the Psalms… And, when you think about it…, seems rather presumptuous.

  15. Mark September 29, 2015 at 9:40 AM #

    I’ve read a lot of articles recently that I have come to label as “Blame the Band” articles. To read a lot of what is out there….well, it just makes me want to put my guitar away and give up. We (musicians) apparently can’t do much of anything right. But I think this is pretty much on point (kudos for addressing Pet Peeve # 456789 – “in your name we pray” LOL!). I would disagree a bit on keys. I grew up in a traditional church singing hymns and can’t remember one I could sing in a key that was good for me start to finish. (Full disclosure, I’m a 57 year old guitarist playing in a contemporary worship service.) I always ended up going down an octave. I don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world. From a guitarists’ standpoint, many contemporary songs are built off a particular guitar lick that often only works in 1 key. Capos can assist at times but there are the inevitable tuning issues and trying to prepare a song in a radically different key is time-consuming and sometimes just plain does not work. If your bassist plays a 4 string and you drop from E to E flat you lose a considerable amount of low end that was designed into the song. It can be done but given that there is really no magical key that everyone can sing in (B Knuckle Minor?) and time being in short supply, as a volunteer I prefer to stick to the original keys on most things. Sometimes I find that those who lead as vocalists, keyboardists or acoustic guitarists using a capo to always play cowboy chords do not realize what they are asking us to pull off. Other than that small request for grace to the guitarist, great article!

    • Michael September 30, 2015 at 1:29 PM #

      Mark, I hear you about the difficulty of changing keys as a guitarist. However, if the main role of the music leaders is to support congregational singing, might it be possible that a guitar lick is a bad foundation on which to build a song for worship? I would suggest that point #s 6, 8, and 11 are right on point about this: the foundation of congregational singing is the congregation. If a guitar lick requiring a specific key would prevent the congregation singing in a key that’s workable for them, then the guitar lick must be changed or removed. Lead guitar cannot be the priority when leading congregational song.

      Many original keys on worship albums are chosen not for the congregation but for the main vocalist (more than a few come to mind where we regularly have to lower keys at least 3 or 4 semi-tones from what’s on an album because the main vocalist is a high tenor). I get why that’s done, but I’ve never liked it because it’s serving the vocalist and band, not the congregation. (This is where the blend of “industry” and congregational singing has always been a rocky one for me – I’ve never liked the tendency to simply copy what’s on an album – but that’s another issue altogether. :) )

  16. Dave September 29, 2015 at 10:28 AM #

    Bob, I appreciate your article – and especially that you frame it as a jumping off point for discussion. I think any team can benefit from doing the work of talking these things through. What has been the most concerning to me as I read through this article and the comments below is the danger of not cultivating trust with your leadership team or volunteers. I have been on both sides of the table here. In my opinion, a great leader is differentiated by the humility of finding the right people to do the job and giving them the freedom to make decisions (which includes mistakes). When you come to conflict, there should be enough trust within your relationships to have the conversations to reconcile the problem. There also has to be some wisdom from both pastors and worship leaders to realize the differences between personal preference and best practice for leading congregational worship. I would encourage both worship leaders and pastors to move towards each other looking for opportunities to build trust and link arms, not come out with their gloves up.

    • Bob Kauflin September 29, 2015 at 12:08 PM #

      Dave, great points. Totally agree. If this post leads to humble conversation between pastors and music leaders, then it will have been fruitful.

  17. Phil Brown September 29, 2015 at 1:03 PM #

    I appreciate your article and it is mostly helpful. I especially appreciate #5. This is one of the most inauthentic practices in the church. The worst case of it is when the worship leader (or someone else) prays to draw attention away from transitions, e.g., so the choir can leave, so the drama team can set up stage. one issue that I am struggling with is your response to those questioning #1 and the use of Hebrews 13:17. Exclusively applying this to the pastor and only the pastor or in this case it seems to be only those who get paid for leading does not seem to be faithful to the context of Hebrews 13:17. This Scripture could apply to anyone who disciples another person. So if they are not getting a salary then they are not considered leading? I am not sure how this qualifies or disqualifies one as a leader.

    • Bob Kauflin September 29, 2015 at 2:23 PM #

      Phil, thanks for your thoughts and encouragement. The issue is not so much non-paid vs. paid as elder vs. non-elder. And to be fair, it’s hard to say exactly who the “leaders” are in Heb. 13:17, but no doubt they had significant influence in the founding of the church. Because the role of “worship leader” isn’t specifically spelled out in Scripture, I wouldn’t assume I’m going to have to give an account for people’s souls unless I was fulfilling the role of an elder.

      • Michael September 30, 2015 at 1:41 PM #

        Just to echo and expand on Bob’s reply, it seems pretty clear that “leaders” in Heb 13:17 is referring to those set apart as pastors, in the context of Heb. 13 and of the NT in general. Look back to 13:7 – leaders are defined there as “those who spoke to you the Word of God”. Combine that with 13:17 where it says they’re ones who care for your souls, and then combine that with the rest of the NT understanding of people in that role, and it’s clear that it’s referring to pastors, not “anyone who leads someone else”.

        (The “giving an account” part is as interesting as anything else to talk about, but that’s another post. :) )

        As Bob said, there’s no Biblical category of “worship pastor” or any other specific type of pastor. While helpful and not a bad thing, those titles and specific roles are human inventions. The pastor/elder/shepherd/teacher is one role in the NT. So if a worship pastor fulfills all the Biblical requirements for that role and has been commissioned by the congregation as one who has spiritual authority and cares for people’s souls by preaching, presiding over sacraments, visiting, leading, etc., then this would apply to that person.

      • Joseph Leger December 3, 2018 at 12:23 PM #

        Bob, thank you for your article and follow up comments. As to the Worship leader or Worship teams not being laid out in Scripture I would submit that people in that role could be considered the modern day levites. What are your thoughts?

        • Bob Kauflin December 3, 2018 at 1:05 PM #

          Great question, Joseph. Jesus is actually the modern day Levite, in that sense. The writer of Hebrews argues for how he is superior to every Levite, especially in chatpers 8-10. We are all now a kingdom of priests, no one having “more access” to God than anyone else, because we all come through Christ’s finished atoning work.

  18. Mike Johnson September 29, 2015 at 6:00 PM #

    Several of your comments sound to me like pet peeves, not thoughtful and pastoral advice. As a teaching pastor, I’m always on the lookout for good articles to forward to my worship leader. I just imagined how this article might be received in a forward from me… Pretty sure it would discourage rather than encourage. .

    • Bob Kauflin September 29, 2015 at 8:22 PM #

      Mike, thanks for your thoughts. If I was communicating these directly to a leader, I would nuance a number of these statements. This post is really intended as as conversation starter for pastors who might not be able to articulate where his music leader might need to grow. It would be much better to take them out and start by telling them all the things they’re doing well. And certainly some points are more significant than others! This post or this one might be better to forward to your leader. Thanks!

  19. Bradley September 30, 2015 at 12:33 AM #

    Hi Bob, this was very well thought and potentially life saving for a dying church. As a 20 year old worship leader/volunteer (at the moment), I’ve been mentored by some of the best worship leaders in the entire south of Georgia. Coming to God before you step foot on the platform to keep pride from intruding in your worship session, is one of the things you partially mentioned and I’m glad to hear someone else say the exact thing. It works as an indicator that God has truly blessed me with great trustworthy mentors.

    Moving forward, I would like to recommend having this- as a worship leader/ volunteer/ pastor, however you may serve your church; fill your cup. What I mean, is if you can view yourself as a cup, you are at your best or can give your all when your cup is full. So don’t let pride, irresponsibility, or any of those other sins fill your cup. However, fill your cup with the Holy Spirit. Praying persistently for the lost, praying for loved ones, reading your bible, talking out your problems with a trustworthy friend. Whatever you can do to fill that cup with the spirit so much that it overflows when you lead worship. It’s so important.

    Also I want to add that when you practice, practice worshiping. When you practice worshiping, you are not focused on the sound, or the mix, you’re just worshiping. Letting the spirit work within your team. Doing this teaches you how to be reactive to the Holy Spirit when he comes in and brings people to their knees. Keeping on going. It’s an amazing thing when you experience it and it’s allowed our partially small country church to begin to grow and become an amazing tool for God to reach our community. Thanks for the encouraging words and God bless!

    -Bradley Alberson

    • Bob Kauflin September 30, 2015 at 1:21 AM #

      Bradley, so encouraging to hear how God is working through your faithfulness and humility. Your point about prayer is a significant one. May He continue to use you for the Savior’s glory!

    • michaelkeating October 6, 2015 at 2:39 PM #

      Bob – just wanted to commend God’s work in you as you demonstrated His humility and kindness in many of these replies. May He do the same thing in me when someone thinks I am unhelpful or counter productive.

      • Bob Kauflin October 6, 2015 at 4:46 PM #

        Thanks, Michael. I try to remember that what I don’t know usually surpasses what I do know.

  20. Michael September 30, 2015 at 11:34 AM #

    Great article. You said you also did a seminar on what worship leaders wish their pastors knew. I hope you have a follow up article to this one with that information.

    FWIW- my lead pastor sent me the link and I was not discouraged at all with the content or the tone. Most of your points are what I share with guys I mentor, although you said them much better than me.

    • Bob Kauflin September 30, 2015 at 12:09 PM #

      Michael, thanks for your encouraging words. Yes, I plan to post from the other perspective on Monday. Glad you found the article helpful!

  21. jimpemberton September 30, 2015 at 11:51 AM #

    It helps for worship leaders to be well-versed in theology. Few songs work as stand-alone theological treatises. While you want the words to be theologically sound, even the songs in the Bible are complimentary to their context and not complete statements. That means that the songs and hymns we sing need to be contextualized.

    In that vein, I like the addition of a passage from the Bible to contextualize a worship set and perhaps a brief [brief!] commentary to bring it home to the congregation so that when we sing it, we have every opportunity to mean it because the meaning is well-seated in our minds.

  22. Joshua Shepherd October 1, 2015 at 1:26 AM #


    Not great exposition. If you understood Ephesians 4 as you should, you wouldn’t be able to claim that there are pastors and then there are worship leaders as separate ministerially categories. The ministry is fivefold, and your ecclesiology is therefore not Biblical. Biblically, pastors do participate in the leadership of the church and the equipping of the saints, but only alongside the other 4 ministries given by Jesus.

    Open your eyes to see the pastoral and often-prophetic giftings of people leading corporate worship. Realize that those giftings are on par with yours, and that those leaders will also give an account for the way they use their gifts to equip the saints. Really, it’s a repentance issue, at the very least regarding the way you’ve misunderstood scripture, but also as to the way you’re probably treating leaders of corporate worship based on your faulty ecclesioogy (if the tone of this post is any indication). I’m sad that you are broadcasting this, but encouraged to know that regardless of erroneous blog-posts, God’s scriptures are working to reignite hearts around the world to form a priesthood of all believers, not just pastors in some false out-dated hierarchical mode of ministry.

    God bless you and your ministry!

    Joshua Shepherd

    • Bob Kauflin October 1, 2015 at 11:28 AM #

      Joshua, thanks for stopping by. You’re assuming quite a bit about my theology from my post. Many people have inadvertently created a sixfold ministry (or fivefold if you see pastor-teacher as one gift) that isn’t there by adding “worship leader” to the list. Churches today often assign the role of the music leader to someone who not only isn’t a pastor/teacher, but doesn’t even think theologically or pastorally. God’s Word is as clear on the the office of an elder as it is on the priesthood of all believers (1 Thess. 5:12; Acts 20:17-35; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-7). As I mentioned in another comment, the point of the post isn’t to say that music leaders aren’t gifted or that God won’t hold them responsible for their actions. Rather, it’s to say that a pastor/teacher of a church has more responsibility before God for the church than the non-elder worship leader, so the musician should ultimately defer to the pastor in areas of disagreement. Ideally, they’ll realize they’re on the same “team” and work together. But everyone with any responsibility in the gatherings of the church should do what they do to please the Lord and in a way that serves the church. Hope that’s helpful.

  23. Dave Godleski October 2, 2015 at 6:07 PM #

    Thanks Bob for the many ways you’ve brought God’s wisdom, grace and passion to my life over many years. Thanks for another well thought out article. My only suggestion from experience is in the area of relationship building that you mentioned between pastor and worship leader.

    I’m neither one but I still feel strongly that if you invite someone out for coffee or a meal it might be helpful to mention that you’d like to discuss things including thoughts about improvement. That might prevent someone from being surprised or shocked about correction or instruction, or from being suspicious or “waiting for the bombshell” if a pattern has happened over time.

    I’ve been in situations in the past where “uh oh, what now?” might run though someone’s head if invited out. Each relationship is different and hopefully God will bless those who are leading and serving with humility, unity and biblical friendship as they serve together in different roles. Clarity in communication will hopefully be some fruit of that.

    My two cents. Thanks again for all you do!

    • Bob Kauflin October 3, 2015 at 2:17 AM #

      Dave, great point. Great to hear from you!

  24. BushMaid October 3, 2015 at 8:56 AM #

    Thank you so much for this article, Bob. I so appreciate your wisdom, especially knowing your heart is for worship that is Christ-centered and Scripturally sound. As a worship leader myself, I struggle where points #1 and #2 collide, and it’s so difficult to submit and wholeheartedly lead songs that hold very little Biblical truth.

    Another peeve is #10, where standards set by leadership are met by some, and not by others, yet there is no correction. Working together as a team where the laziness of some needs to be compensated by the hard work of others is incredibly frustrating, especially when you look like arrogant for pointing it out in order to improve things.

    But I guess every church,every team, pastor and worship leader are going to have struggles, as no situation is perfect. It’s all a matter of continuing to be teachable, learning through mistakes, submitting to leadership whilst drawing the right lines between obedience and compromise. Thank you for your thoughts here, and also for your book, “Worship Matters”. Myself and two of my siblings (also in music ministry) have read it, and we have been so challenged and encouraged by your Godly wisdom, and well reminded of Who this is all about.

    • Bob Kauflin October 3, 2015 at 9:59 AM #

      Bushmaid, thanks for your encouragement and helpful thoughts. Teachability is huge.

  25. Paul October 3, 2015 at 10:26 AM #

    This may be splitting denominational hairs (and perhaps someone posted a similar view – I didn’t read all of them), but the pastor is the worship leader, or at least should be. Music is one piece of the worship pie, not the entirety. Pastors are worship leaders. Music leaders are music leaders. That distinction doesn’t lessen the importance of collaboration, but the pastor is ultimately responsible. Somehow music has become synonymous with worship to the exclusion of other facets (prayer, preaching, sacraments, tithes, etc.) and that is a rather nearsighted perspective on what worship entails.

    • Bob Kauflin October 4, 2015 at 12:30 AM #

      Paul, I didn’t say it directly, but that’s the point of point #1. Thanks for the comment!

  26. From the Pew October 5, 2015 at 7:56 PM #

    From the Pew – It is obvious when the person leading the music and the guy preaching have not worked together. Being a “senior pastor” does not always mean that he is a great leader. A great leader does not have to have his way always. A great leader listens to suggestions from others and tries new ideas. A great leader brings his group together to practice, so that all those who are participating know what to do and when to do their part. I have participated in the best worship with a bi-vocational preacher and a local vocal music teacher leading music with an old piano being played by senior citizen that worked together. Then to one of the worsted services where the “worship minister” the “senior pastor”, the professional musicians, the sound crew, the lighting crew, and audio visual crew were all doing their own thing as if no one had practiced.
    I am grateful to those churches who have a separate individual leading the singing from the guy preaching. This is good leadership, allowing another individual to learn and lead. The guy preaching should not have the burden or responsibility of leading the singing. The guy preaching should his head and heart into the words God wants him to speak to those of us in the pew.

  27. Jim Porterfield October 12, 2015 at 5:50 PM #

    Just curious… do you have an article on what Worship PASTORS wished the preacher knew? I’ve served on the staff of several churches and can assure you that many preaching pastors are more than willing to give direction (that’s what they call it when they blast you in staff meeting) and are quite unwilling to receive it. ALL who are called to lead are called to do so with a humble and gentle spirit.

  28. Rachel Rivero de Posey April 21, 2016 at 10:35 PM #

    I am way late on the replete article above about what Senior Pastors would want Worship Leaders/Pastors (WL) to know, but I desire to share some thoughts —
    First off, NO *good* WL need be told 95% of what you wrote up above. I don’t know where churches are getting their WL if these are common issues but nothing the author writes above should be new to any WL. If it is, the church is largely at fault for hiring them. That WL has not been taught well and the church should be more wise about who they hire/fire. And they should NOT hire someone because they are cheap…which is too often what churches want, and not hire them because they are cool (read = young, pretty, and all too often lacking in wisdom, delicacy, and thus, musical intuition let alone Holy Spirit hearing ears). A simple guitar/keys player, maybe with some grey in his/her hair, or not, who respects the authority first and foremost of God, Son, Holy Spirit, his/her senior pastor and church, and has intuition and some deep wisdom on how to run a Musical Worship portion of a service goes a long, long way to alleviating almost everything in the article. This would have been evident to, in turn, WISE leadership within the church, in the “auditioning” phase of hiring. So, all too often, I am sad to say that issues with the WL are actually a mirror that points back to the church leadership, seemingly lacking in deep vision and wisdom, who brought them in the first place.
    Secondly, I think a lot of the issues revolving around the concept that pastors will be held to highest accountability and how they thus feel they have veto power/authority over a WL, which in essence they do, and should be submitted to usually, has more to do with culture than with the Bible. According to the verses used to found the reasoning, the WL has the same role if they take their “up front,” visible position seriously. I do not mean all importantly, but definitely the Word is professed by a sound WL and as such is teaching. But, I submit, the way we all see pastors as the highest level teaching unit of a church in modern society DID NOT exist when these words were penned. OUR modern, western culture, churches DID NOT exist!!!!
    We will never solve this completely, this is merely food for thought. I am not the end all of wisdom concerning this, (obviously), but that being said, my husband and I have “led worship” (also a VERY modern notion that has issues too, although we do act in this so called capacity weekly and in diverse places and in English and Spanish) for over 20 years. My desire is to help us see OUTSIDE of this box and flawed viewpoint we have built ourselves into that has, in turn, made the modern day “traditional” church largely irrelevant to much of our society who is STILL in DIRE need of a SAVIOUR! We must respond to the world with a wider, deeper scope and too to the Word of God. It was not written in a vacuum but as PART of time, space, thus history and real events and people. It was not written in the United States of America on Main Street, or at University US with super cute, friendly, polite, well washed and well dressed kids. It was much more like the villages in Asia or Africa today, dusty, dirty, small groups, sitting on the ground, where WE not ME ruled as it does in my very flawed but beloved US. And this very word is still alive and teaching-able and universal! Thank God for that!! Amen.
    Soli Deo Gloria,
    rachel rivero de posey
    (In James 3:1, 1Tim, Acts, 1Peter are where we find many of the concepts of teachers/pastors/leaders and what their jobs are etc).

    • Bob Kauflin April 21, 2016 at 11:53 PM #

      Rachel, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I agree that someone who is a solid musical leader wouldn’t need to hear much of what I’ve written here. But unfortunately, many churches and pastors find themselves in the position of either inheriting a musical leader, or using whoever is available. I suggested these thoughts as a springboard for discussion, not absolute rules, as it’s impossible to know what everyone’s situation is. But I don’t see any Scriptural point for the idea that teaching pastors won’t be held to a higher standard and will be held more accountable than others for the condition of those under their care (James 3:1; Heb. 13:17). Thanks for being faithful to serve the church with your gifts for the glory of the Savior!

  29. Jeff Afonso August 21, 2017 at 6:28 PM #

    This article defines much of what has gone very wrong in the church today. We have moved from a Body of Belivers all working as they have gifted to inspire one another to good works. I believe it is import to Biblically define positions of church “leadership” because of the frequent abuse in the Protestant church today under the misguided definition of “Pastoral Authority”. As I understand the Bible, this authority does not exist in scripture, but comes to us from tradition.

    Often times we see the Priest of the Roman Catholic Church, is the Pastor of the Protestant Church. Neither exists in the New Covenant Bible, but are based on the typology of the Levitical Priesthood of the old covenant. Hebrews chapter 7 does away with the Levitical Priesthood and the New Covenant gives a Priesthood to every believer (ACTS 1:6–5:10, 1PETER 2:5,9),

    I would like to clarify here that in the New Covenant, Bishops and Pastors are not distinct from elders; although we all have different gifts, the terms are simply different ways of identifying the same people. The textual evidence indicates that all three terms refer to the same office. The qualifications for a bishop, listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and those for an elder, in Titus 1:6-9, are unmistakably parallel. In fact, in Titus 1:5,7, Paul uses both terms to refer to the same man.

    I have heard in the church and from the pulpit that –“the Bible says for us to submit to our spiritual authority”—or—“we have to submit to pastoral authority”

    Now it is obvious that there is a change in the words used—seemingly subtle. After all, the verse does say for us to “obey them that have the rule over you–submit yourselves” The common logic–the common way of interpreting this verse is to then relate the concept of “rule” with “authority”.

    The common belief is stated somewhat in this way–“the Bible clearly tells us that there is someone within the church who “has the rule” over others—this means that there are some Christians who have “authority” over others–and that there are some Christians who are meant to “rule”–which of course means that they have the

    God-given right to make decisions within the church–the

    God given right to “do the ministry” the

    God given right to “make the rules” within a church and the

    God given right to tell you how to put your “faith into practice”.

    This is where we have a problem. We have taken the worldly view of what “rule” is over the Bible definition.

    What is your understanding?

    • Bob Kauflin August 22, 2017 at 2:37 PM #

      Jeff, thanks for your comment. I don’t think I believe Scripture teaches “pastoral authority” the way you’re describing it. A pastor’s authority comes from God’s Word. Everything after that is on a sliding scale with God’s Word on one side and personal preference on the other. In the middle are areas that require biblical wisdom. A church being led by pastors doesn’t negate the use of gifts in the church body. In fact, Eph. 4 indicates that pastors are called to equip saints for the work of ministry. But, while no pastor has the “God-given right” to do the things you list in your comment, they do have the responsibility to lead the church in the way they think most edifies the members of that church. And in those cases, God desires for the members to make it a joy for the leaders to lead them.

      • Jeff Afonso August 23, 2017 at 11:51 AM #

        Hello Robert,

        Thank you for taking the time to respond. The point of my previous comment was that, though it is not a biblical definition of pastoral care, most churches operate under the false understanding that a single person, in this case the “senior pastor” has ultimate rule over a particular body of believers. He is the chief speaker and vision maker. For the most part, the rest of the congregation is only to partake in bake sales and tithing. If anyone in the body, including the musical worship director, receive any accolades from the congregation, the senior pastor has a vision from God and that individual is reprimanded for speaking beyond their Authority or, they are removed. This obviously doesn’t happen in all churches however, I have been a worship director for 30 years. Music and lyrics are only a part of the gift and calling God has placed on my life. I take the first 40 min of the service very seriously. Often times the words do not contain scripture so I will provide biblical context and encouragement. Leading in any other way would make me a “song leader”. Because the Pastor of our church believed he was the only person who should speak from the pulpit, he had me removed by a 3rd person without an explanation. We never even spoke about it prior to my removal. Though I wanted to, I didn’t rally any support. I believed that if the Lord wanted me to lead worship, He would reinstate me in His time. A few months later, the Pastor apologized and asked me to return. I have returned however, he has told me that he does not want me to speak, simply sing the songs and have a brief closing prayer. I explained to him that was not possible as I believe the Lord wants me to lead as I previously described. I am still leading today however, the Pastor has made it very clear, he believes I am rebelling against his God given “Authority”. The elder board supports me on an individual basis but remain silent when the pastor is in the room. In closing, I do not see in scripture where there is a single superior leader who rules over others as is the case with a Senior Pastor.

        God Bless you and your family.

        Jeff A

        • Bob Kauflin August 23, 2017 at 12:04 PM #

          Jeff, I’m so sorry about your church experience. I don’t think I’d make this about your senior pastor’s “authority” as much as seeking to serve those around you and preferring the interests of others (Phil. 2:1-4). I pray you continue to grow in your relationship with your pastor that others may see God’s grace evident in both of you!

  30. Delbra Pratt September 24, 2017 at 8:36 PM #

    Bob, very thought-provoking article. Reading through the comments and your replies was very interesting and a little troubling, because there are so many who believe the worship leader fits into the five-fold ministry. My husband is a pastor and at times has had resistance to his guiding the leader and the singers. In the past, he too has had a music leader tell him that “God speaks to him just as authoritatively as he does to the pastor” and therefore “his opinion is on an equal level of my husband’s”. For my husband, staying humble and committed to teaching and making disciples has helped him weather the sometime-storms of our music ministry. Blessings!

  31. Moments Of Inspiration October 8, 2020 at 5:40 PM #

    I just skimmed over the first few, and find this attitude extremely controlling.
    While pastors are indeed tasked with the logistics of running a church, they by no means should lord over how the worship is done!
    Or else it’ll be a power struggle, and control battle, that will either make many good musicians and worshippers leave, or submit to a controlled atmosphere; which is akin to the anti-christ in church (meaning, Christ doesn’t rule, the pastor does).

    • Bob Kauflin October 9, 2020 at 1:20 PM #

      Moments of inspiration, thanks for your comment. The fact that Jesus rules over his church doesn’t mean he hasn’t established order in the church. Paul instructs Titus to appoint elders in the church who are over the members of the church in the Lord and admonish them (Titus 1:5; 1 Thess. 5:12). The writer of Hebrews says we are to obey our leaders and follow their example (Heb. 13:7, 17). Paul tells Timothy he is to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” those in his church (2 Tim. 4:2). Of course, Peter says elders are not to be domineering, but examples (1 Pet. 5:2-3). Leadership can be carried out in a way that honors or dishonors Christ.


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