Everyone Is Looking For A Worship Leader
Adam Russell (Director of Vineyard Worship) offers insights on why we are seeing a strong current of demand for worship leaders.
Lead Pastor of Vineyard Campbellsville (Campbellsville, KY) & Director of Vineyard Worship
[Original Post By Vineyard Worship]
I’m writing this because of a real change that I’ve noticed in the worship world of the Church over the past couple of years. It’s pretty common when a pastor or church is looking for a worship leader that people reach out to me. I’ve been deeply connected to Vineyard Worship for a while, so it makes sense that pastors would want to email me or text me when they kick off the search for a new worship leader. Historically, I’d get a couple a month but for the past couple of years, that number has exploded, and now I regularly get 10-15 requests a month. The short story is that everyone is looking for a worship leader.
I don’t think there is any one thing that is causing the uptick… instead, I think we’re seeing the coalescing of many factors into a really strong current of demand. Here are a few:
WORSHIP LEADERS TURNED PASTORS
One huge factor contributing to the need is that many seasoned worship leaders have become pastors. This is especially true in our Vineyard context. In fact, it’s my story. But one of the consistent trends right now is that aging pastors are retiring and often the worship leader is a prime candidate for filling that spot.
The move away from full-time worship pastors has been happening for a very long time and now we are beginning to feel the strain of it. When we are paying worship leaders on a bi-vocational model there will naturally be a higher turnover. If worship leaders can’t make a living wage leading worship they will need to make up the difference with another job which often leads to higher turnover.
I’ve also noticed that part-timers usually don’t have the margin to train up other worship leaders in the same way that full-time staff can. This doesn’t mean there isn’t any training going on, but it’s often focused on the narrow band of things that happen on a Sunday morning – leading the band, playing well, engaging the room – and those other parts of worship leadership like pastoring, discipling, teaching administration, songwriting, and thinking through non-musical worship just don’t happen. In the end, we have more people who can stand behind the microphone and sing well enough, but very few who have a theology of worship or a deeper understanding of the pastoral craft.
EVERYONE DOES MODERN WORSHIP
For years modern worship was essentially a style within some Charismatic and Pentecostal churches. Now, everyone does modern worship. And just for clarity’s sake, what I mean by modern worship is songs heard on the radio or perhaps written in-house and played by a 4-5 piece band. We are living in a world where the Anglicans and Episcopalians and Baptists are all incorporating guitars and in-ear monitors into their liturgies. Demand is up, and supplies are down.
When the Coronavirus hit and shut us all down every pastor realized that they needed a way to connect and serve their congregations. Overnight we had to start streaming… and many of us had no clue how to do that. We leaned on our most tech-savvy people in our congregations which happened to be our worship leaders. One trend I noticed was non-streaming churches reaching out to worship leaders or tech people who had the skills to build a platform for doing online church. Overnight worship leaders and sound people became as important as lead pastors… again demand is up.
Given that this is our reality and that most of these forces are going to be in play even after the pandemic subsides, what should pastors and worship leaders be doing right now to make sure that the worship culture in their churches stay strong and compelling?
TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN
Whether your church has a worship leader or even if you don’t, right now is the time to invest in the people that you have with ongoing training. Assume that in the next 2-4 years you will have a major transition in the worship leading spot at your church. Are you ready for that? Send your worship leader(s) to training events – consider those moments “continuing education”. Staff worship leaders – invest in those who lead with you week in and week out. Create spaces where people can grow as musicians, and singers, but also as pastors and administrators. Right now there is probably someone in your midst that is ready to take another step… see them, call them out, and help them learn what’s next.
WIDEN THE SCOPE
If you are looking for a worship pastor right now, you need to widen your scope on what you consider to be your “perfect worship director candidate”. Look for older worship leaders…the trend is always younger, but that means there are older worship leaders with years of experience available right now. Look for someone younger. Often we are looking for that 28-year-old who is highly skilled and in touch with what’s happening in the worship space, but maybe there’s a 19-year-old who just moved to your town for college and they will be with you for the next four years! Look for females, look for a musical director instead of a worship pastor, consider your very musical drummer, or maybe a BGV singer who is highly administrative. There are a lot of ways to make worship work… look at who is already around… widen the scope and be flexible with job titles.
DETERMINE A SALARY RANGE
Determine a salary range rather than a firm number. If someone is experienced, has further education, and also has video or design skills that person could be a staff hire that would warrant a higher salary and also bring major skills to the team. Don’t let a fixed number keep you from getting a highly skilled worship leader who has the skills to lead worship and possibly be a pastoral anchor on your team.
ALLOW WORSHIP LEADERS TO SHAPE THE SUNDAY MORNING LITURGY
Increasingly, worship leaders, especially those who stay and have a longer trajectory with a church, want to shape more of the Sunday morning liturgy than just picking the 4-song worship set. Begin to look for ways that the worship leader might contribute to how communion is done and other non-singing elements of worship. The trend, even among us Charismatics is towards a Sunday service that includes scripture reading, silence, singing, responsive readings, communion, and other forms of Christian practice that have historically sat in other church streams. Bright lights, video, and 4 songs in the same key are not what up-and-coming worship leaders are hoping for in terms of their vocational service. More and more are looking for a place to grow and really craft the worship lives of the people who call your church home.
CONSIDER THIS A CONVERSATION… WHAT AM I MISSING?
This isn’t the whole story… what am I missing? What are you seeing? What obvious thing did I not bring up? Email me and let me know!
Adam Russell is a husband and father of four. In addition to his role as the Director of Vineyard Worship, Adam is Lead Pastor of the Vineyard Church in Campbellsville, KY and also serves on the Vineyard USA Executive Team.