Dear Pastor, If There’s One Thing That Would Bless Me as a Worship Leader…

Zac HicksPersonal Stories & Testimonies5 Comments

The Wind in My Sails, by Amy RiceThe Most Tense Relationship in the Church

The Pastor-Worship Leader relationship has, in recent times, been one of the most difficult ones to navigate, whether a church leadership team is large or small, paid or volunteer. I have had innumerable conversations with worship leaders over the years who feel HUGE amounts of tension and friction between they and their overseeing lead pastor. In another post over at The Gospel Coalition, I cite this relationship as one of the top five reasons for worship leader burnout.

There are many things that need to be addressed about the relational dynamics between the worship leader and the lead pastor, but I’d like to side-step the details and just look at one thing…one thing…that I’ve seen pay huge benefits to this relationship. And this is, of course, from the worship leader’s perspective, because it’s the seat I sit in.

Dear Pastor, if there’s one thing that would bless me as a worship leader, it would be for you to

ENCOURAGE ME.

Call it a weak constitution. Call it a “typical needy artist’s profile.” Call it what you will. When the rubber meets the road, I need your encouragement. The Spirit in me knows that all the affirmation I need I already possess in Christ. But my flesh, in its weakness and unbelief, is incredibly blessed, affirmed, uplifted, energized, and recharged when you simply tell me, regularly and often, that I’m doing a good job.

A Story

I have been blessed, over my years of worship leading, to have worked for now four different senior pastors who have been great encouragers. But many (maybe most?) worship leaders I know don’t feel that way. 

A few weeks ago, I was hanging with a local worship leader friend of mine (someone with whom I have that kind of no-strings-attached-safe-place-to-blow-off-some-steam kind of relationship), and he was sharing about the recent turnover of pastoral leadership in his church. He related how disconnected the new pastor seemed to be to him and that they really hadn’t had much face-to-face interaction. Often times, it seemed like the only communication came in the form of business-like emails, sometimes asking for something, sometimes shoring up details, sometimes bringing up thoughts or concerns. My friend began doubting whether his pastor thought he was doing a good job or the job he wanted. This all reached a boiling point in his heart, and he sat down with his senior pastor for “the talk.” He poured out his heart and was brutally honest in a sincere but respectful way. Thankfully, this conversation seemed to open up the doors to a lot of vulnerability between he and the pastor, but I want to focus on something specific my friend said about a moment in the conversation.

The worship leader related to his pastor how he hadn’t received much feedback or guidance and frankly didn’t even know whether the pastor liked what he was doing and the direction he was headed in. The pastor responded by basically saying, “Oh my goodness, no…I’ve never worked with a more gifted worship leader. You’re amazing. I think what you’re doing is spectacular.” 

My friend told me that those 10 seconds were all he needed. He said it put wind in his sails and honestly gave him such a boost that he could in that moment say, “Hey Pastor, whatever you need me to do, I’m behind you. I’m yours.” That’s the power of encouragement.

Please Encourage Us

I’ve experienced it time and again. There’s something special and unique about encouragement that comes to a worship leader from the lead pastor. Worship leaders can be encouraged ten times over by anyone else and it doesn’t have the same effect. 

I will speak for myself, here. When I have been regularly encouraged by my overseeing pastor, I’ve felt as though I could go to hell and back for him (I say “him” because I’ve only worked for male leaders, though I know others in different situations). When I know that I am supported and that he is behind me, I’ve been able to withstand all kinds of unpleasant things elsewhere. I’ve been able to withstand those nasty, critical, character-assassinating emails from disgruntled congregants. I’ve been able to withstand unstable staff environments and rocky times in the church’s life. And on the flip side, when there have been moments of doubt or tension between me and my senior pastor, it really has the opposite effect of destabilizing everything. In short, a healthy relationship between worship leader and senior pastor, fueled by perpetual encouragement, is one of the most critical ingredients for a worship leader’s stability in ministry.

So, pastors, we love it when you encourage us. We are charged, energized, and fueled by it. And please tell us specifically what we are doing that you really appreciate. Chances are, we’re likely to do it again…and even better…the next time.

Finally, I have to brag on my awesome senior pastor, Tullian Tchividjian. I am blessed by his encouragement tremendously. In fact, yesterday, almost embarassingly to me, he went out of his way to express his thanks for me before the congregation. It was a wind-in-my-sails moment. I pray that all of my worship leader friends have many, many, many of those moments in their lifetime.

5 Comments on “Dear Pastor, If There’s One Thing That Would Bless Me as a Worship Leader…”

  1. Dear Pastor Zac,
    My husband and I have wanted to let you know since the new member meeting recently just how much your ministry has impacted us. Prior to physically attending CRPC, we would watch service live on-line. My MS would hinder us from physically attending. There was one time in particular that you performed "From The Depths of Woe" and I was so moved by it that I took multiple screen shots of the lyrics so I could research the song and try to find it. I continually had the song stuck in my head for days and weeks on end. I told my husband that I had to find that song! I searched on line by googling some of the lyrics to no avail. One day as I went into my husband's office, he was listening to that song on his computer while he was working. He had downloaded "To Him Be The Victor's Name" album. I said, "that's it!!! that's the song I've been trying to find!!! How did you find it???". He had looked it up through CRPC's website. Once he downloaded it into my phone for me, I began to listen to it over and over again. I cried every time I listened to it. It ministered to us just as much as Pastor's Tullian's teachings did. Our first time attending CRPC physically was amazing. God blessed us with you and the worship team performing "From the Depths of Woe". Only God could have orchestrated that for us! Next Sunday we will be "received" into the body and we are so excited to be a part of what our glorious God is doing at this church. Your ministry and Pastor Tullian's has put the wind in our sails! Thank you for all you and the rest of the worship team do. Your gifts are a huge blessing that we don't take for granted. You are SO appreciated.!(We arrive early to listen to rehearsals 🙂 )

  2. Just imagine what it's like when the lead pastor is the worship leader's husband. 😛 I imagine, especially in smaller churches like ours, this is not an uncommon situation. All the more important to hear that encouragement, and all the more likely (as in many other marital situations) that we're likely to take each other's jobs for granted. I can tell you that feedback from staff gives a ton of encouragement to pastors too, more so than from congregants, just as you mentioned for worship leaders. By and large, encouragement is an under-practiced art form that is so much more than a pat on the back.

  3. Every worship session you do leads me inside the gates of heaven and before the throne of God, while preparing my heart for Tullian's exposition of the unconditional grace of God in which he makes me marvel at the grace of Him seated to the right hand of God. It's a powerful combination! Without the excellent job that you do on a weekly basis it just wouldn't be the same. Thank you for all that you do and for your hard work. You are loved and greatly appreciated!

  4. Pastor Zac,
    Thank you for blessing us in such an amazing way. You truly made our morning being received as "new members" something beautiful and memorable to behold. Our journey was brought full circle as you closed this mornings service with the "Song of Response". Thank you Pastor!

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