Of all the ingredients needed for a healthy church, one of the most important is a leadership team that works well together.
This is true for a megachurch with paid staff, and for a small church working entirely with volunteers.
One of the most visible and influential relationships on a church leadership team is the one between the lead pastor/speaker and the worship leader (or choir director, or song leader...). And nowhere is the health of this relationship more important (or more on display) than during a worship service.
Over my decades of pastoral ministry, I’ve seen just about every version of this relationship played out – in both healthy and unhealthy ways.
In my experience, they fall into five main categories, two that are unhealthy, three that are healthy:
Two Traps To Avoid
1. The Top-Down CEO
In this situation, the lead pastor is not just in charge, it’s a “my way or the highway” situation.
Certain songs are outlawed, others are required, and they can change at a moment’s notice on the pastor’s whim.
The leadership and abilities of the worship-leader are secondary, if they’re taken into account at all (forgetting the “leader” part of the title “worship leader” in the process).
This usually leads to
- a revolving door of worship leaders
- a puppet for a worship leader
- a pastor who takes over the worship-leading
- or no worship leader at all
2. The Hostage-Taker (a.k.a. The Diva)
In this case, the worship leader oversteps all appropriate boundaries and does whatever they want to do, for however long they want to do it, holding the service hostage – along with everyone in it.
This is often the result of one of two situations: A) a worship leader that has become so popular that their fame outweighs all other considerations, or B) a church that has been without a worship leader for so long that they’ll put up with anything just to have one.
Neither is healthy. Both must be resisted and corrected.
No, it won’t be easy to dislodge a diva, or to lose a hard-to-find worship leader, but it must be done for the long-term health of the church.
Three Ways To Work Together
While both of the previous styles are unhealthy, any of the following three (or a hybrid of them) can work, depending on a variety of factors. None of them are perfect, and some may not be right in certain churches, but I’ve seen all three work at different times and places.