As we descend upon the post-battle era of the worship wars, (yes, it’s over and the clear winner here is Satan, but that’s another topic of discussion for another day…) I’m beginning to see a trend happen with the younger worship leaders being hired by the church, and unfortunately, just like the secular business world, the CFO (or pastor, committee, or whomever hires) is silently and quickly forcing the more veteran, university trained, ministers of music out and hiring (fresh out of the mini-van) worship leaders ready to usher in new music, yet naïve to the fact that they are getting paid far less or sometimes not at all.
Part of my job involves going from church to church and hearing about the ins and outs of various music programs at churches from a consultation standpoint. One thing that I’ve taken away from consulting is that there is an epidemic happening, and it’s saving the church a lot of money, but it’s also devaluing music in the church.
Churches will hire worship leaders without much training and ability and they will learn how to lead every Sunday in front of congregations eager to worship. The problem with this concept is that the worship team becomes a distraction, it’s easier for the powers that be in the church to devalue the importance of music even further, and to make matters worse, congregations, worship teams, and staff are leaving services rarely feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit, and are going into the week ill-equipped for the trials of the day that lie ahead.
The question remains… Who is to blame here?
Most pastors, committees, and boards (even though some claim to) don't know a lot about music or sound (prime example is the sound guy who has “run sound” at the church for 20 years and has never touched an EQ knob) but have also never been properly trained. The church is one of the only places in the world where you can learn how to do your job over decades, and since most of these positions are volunteer, there is little to no teaching, training, correction, or reproof. Most of the time, it’s an over the top, reactionary response to an avoidable situation: let’s buy this expensive feedback suppressor so that squeal we heard in the middle of that wedding won’t happen again. When in actuality, what we need to be doing is: let’s send you to an FOH conference so you can learn how to run live sound properly and then teach what you learned to others so we can start a rotation, and you don’t have to run sound every single week and we aren’t in full meltdown mode when you want to go on vacation.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin: Music isn’t important to everyone. Everyone I know hasn’t necessarily been moved by the Spirit through music in a major way before, so there are some cases where there are Pastors, committees, and boards who for various reasons care less about music, and will pay worship leaders based on what music means to them personally; not what a worship leader can bring to the table, or if the worship leader can usher in the Holy Spirit. Bias is unfortunately unavoidable when people are involved.
There are two problems with this scenario:
1. The disconnect between music and worship:
This problem stems even further. There are many churches I’ve come into contact with over the years that will pay a worship leader to clean toilets and be a janitor as well as lead worship yet will not pay him as just a worship leader. Many of these younger worship leaders know this as normal in regards to their position in the church. I see this as a great way to save money, but where does the importance lie? What are we showing our congregations as important to Sunday morning? Does it prepare us for the week to have a clean church, or to experience God in a new way through music that invites the Holy Spirit, refreshes us, and revives our souls?
Because of these churches and their perceived business savvy, you may have saved the church a buck, but you have also put the future of your music program in possible jeopardy as well as the possibility of making a mockery of the value of music in the church. You may not realize, but the lack of training of your worship leader/custodian, plus the hours he/she must dedicate to keeping the church clean instead of the hours he/she should be dedicating to honing his/her craft, growing in the Lord, finding new theologically sound music, and working with and developing his/her team is a volatile mixture that will only result in explosions and continual train wrecks on Sundays.
The advice I would give is make the custodian’s job a volunteer position and pay the worship leader while having weekly meetings with him/her and pastor to help him/her grow in their faith while giving him/her wisdom to share with the congregation every Sunday. The life lessons a pastor instills in a worship leader can help him/her become a better leader, husband/wife, exhorter, and even a better witness!
2. The largest book of the Bible is a book of... you guessed it: Songs (Psalms)
God enjoys music and talented people playing music for him. The scriptures are full of God putting musicians in positions of power because of their talents.
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.
1 Samuel 16:16
Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.
These are just two of many examples of scripture highlighting the value of talent and music and holding these abilities to high regard in the church.
I believe in a culture of church where the worship leader is a full-time position devoting all of his/her time into growing, being trained in conferences, being taught by the pastor, and ultimately spending his/her life and career in the church surrounded by congregants and staff who care, value his/her work ethic, and he/she in turn will reciprocate those feelings to the other staff and congregants. It’s completely worth it in the long run.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.