7 Tips for Succeeding in Your New Role as Worship Pastor

Don't let your first role as a worship pastor overwhelm you. (Lightstock)

This goes out to all the worship pastors in their first role, in their first church. Or, maybe you're beginning a brand-new role in a new church.

Welcome to the end of your life. Kidding! My goodness, take it easy.

I wanted to offer some insight and encouragement to you as you set out to serve your local church. What an exciting opportunity to steward your gift in the service of the bride of Christ. It really is an incredible calling and opportunity.

I know worship pastors have been a "thing" for a lot of years, but you need to realize something. 50 years ago, this was unheard of. Full- and part- time pastors whose sole purpose was to serve the church in congregational singing and music were non-existent. Today, many would consider this role of secondary importance only to the senior pastor. What a gift and opportunity!

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There are a few things I wish I'd known as I stepped into worship ministry. I was 20 years old with worship leading experience in youth group and college, but very green in every other way. Here are seven things I wish I'd known back then.

7 Tips for Succeeding in Your New Role

  1. Invest in Your Love for People. The reason I say "invest" is you may not feel all that compassionate for the senior citizens in your church or the people who don't seem "into" your music. That's OK. Take a deep breath. Make it a priority to invest in a heart for people. There is nothing more important in worship ministry. Pray for God's heart. Spend time developing relationships with people outside of your comfort zone. Be a pastor to your church family.
  1. Seek to Understand Before You Are Understood. You may have big dreams, massive visions for the creative culture of your new department. That's wonderful. But for a little while, place those high expectations on the shelf and simply seek to understand the culture of your new church. For the first month, don't try to change anything. Just be with people and understand them. Absorb the culture and vision that is already there. Take notes on what is beautiful and what is dysfunctional. Every church has it all.
  1. Initiate Relational Connection. You may think your church hired you for your skills, heart and work ethic. Sure, that was part of it. But if you are difficult to be around, there will always be tension. Especially in the first few months on the job, be very intentional about developing strong relationships with your lead pastor. Initiate connection with your supervisor. Develop relationship with your worship team. When tension and trouble come to your church and ministry (which they will), strong relational connection will serve to help weather those storms.
  1. Become a Student of Communication Skills. I don't mean you need to preach world-class sermons and become a speaker. I'm talking about how promptly you respond to emails. How you return phone calls. You may hate this and the anxiety it produces in your life. Get over it. Become a student of strong, organized communication skills. Plan two 30-minute blocks of time in your day where you clear your email inbox and get back to people. Don't allow it to pile up. Focus on this as an utmost priority. Because it is.
  1. Prioritize the Presence. Let me be honest. Very quickly you will feel overwhelmed in your new role. Ministry never slows down. We always dramatize Easter and Christmas and look forward to things "slowing down." Church ministry never slows down. The task list will grow. But never, ever become too busy for the presence of God. Make this an intentional part of your day that you protect at all costs. It is truly the lifeblood of your leadership.
  1. Protect Your Schedule. I get it. You may be young with a lot of energy. Maybe you're single and have tons of time to just live at the church, sleep on your office couch and do 10 years of work your first year. I get the excitement. But your 40-year-old self will thank you if you get this right. Just because you have a salaried position (and work weekends) doesn't mean ministry owns your life. Create boundaries now. Invest in your health. Maintain hobbies. Read books. Watch documentaries. Keep yourself interesting and you'll find more longevity for the work you do.
  1. Organize Your Team. One change you can implement right away, without any consent or second thoughts is organization. Serve your team well by being organized. Get ahead on Planning Center. Plan a solid rehearsal before it happens. Communicate songs and song details. Trust me. One of the biggest frustrations with worship pastors is their lack of organization when it comes to leading musicians and singers. Launch into this with total excellence.

I'd love to hear from you. What would you add to this list? What is missing?

Also, I'd love it if you could share this post with some young worship leaders in your life or those in transition.

David Santistevan is the worship/young adult pastor at Allison Park Church in the Greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. Connect with him at davidsantistevan.com.

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