Month: May 2023

What Worship Leaders Need from Their Senior Pastors

A few weeks ago I wrote about the difficulties that can impede a healthy senior pastor / worship pastor relationship.

In my career (and as a bystander of my dad’s career) as a worship pastor I’ve experienced deep and healthy relationships with some senior pastors as well as tenuous relationships with others.

I’ve been wounded & I’ve found healing.

Empowered & felt restricted.

Affirmed & humiliated.

It’s not wise to project my experience on all worship pastors everywhere. But I have enough relationships with other worship pastors to know it’s a ubiquitous experience for those who stay in church ministry for any length of time.

This post is not a “do these 3 things to make your worship pastor submissive” or “3 principles for perfect pastoral relationships.”

All human relationships are complex and dynamic because of our God-given uniquenesses. So we must resist our simplistic diagnoses and responses. But there are patterns that I’ve come to recognize; common desires from both sides as well as common hurdles.

I concluded the previous post with a “letter to worship pastors” as an attempt to share how they can become the kind of worship pastor that supports their pastor and the ministry of the whole church.

This post will be the reverse: a letter to senior pastors.

Full disclosure, I’ve never been a senior pastor, but my present role as an executive pastor has positioned me to see things I couldn’t have seen before. And, I have a healthy and mutually-life-giving relationship with my current senior pastor and I believe I’ve been able to identify some of what we’ve both done to intentionally invest into the relationship.

The purpose of this post is also not for worship leaders to *hint* to their senior pastor by emailing them this blog – or vice versa. Please don’t do that!

That’s passive aggressive and it’s unlikely to bear the fruit you’re hoping it will. But these two posts together can serve to initiate talking points between the two parties. Before you read on, it might be helpful to take a minute and pause (especially if your working relationship is strained) and say a prayer. Something like, “God help me to do what I can do to change what I can change and open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds toward one another.”

The first thing I want to say to senior pastors is please remember that your staff’s primary purpose is to serve God as they serve your congregation alongside you – it’s not to serve you.

 

They work for you, yes, but a healthy church culture (and all relationships, really) is marked by mutual-submission and shared responsibility. You, pastor, are a gift to your congregation. Sometimes you are not treated as such and that is grievous to God. But your staff members are a gift to you for the sake of sharing the enormous burden of leading, shepherding, and caring for a congregation.

With that as the foundation, I would like to get very practical.

When you are tempted to get critical of or frustrated with your worship pastor, ask yourself this question: “Why did I hire them?” “Did I hire them for their theological acumen or their public communication skills?” It’s possible, but unlikely.

Most worship leaders are hired because they have either a single dynamic skill as a singer, musician, songwriter, or charismatic leader or because they are serviceable at a wide variety of musical skills. Of course, this isn’t always the case. I hope you believe your worship pastor is the best in the world at what they do best, but what I’ve witnessed more often than not is: the worship leader was hired because they can sing, play guitar and piano, and they’ve been faithful at their church and then they’re expected to be a great volunteer-team-builder, a visionary leader, a lighting and audio engineer, a pastoral theologian, and a decent administrator.

Those unicorns do exist, but if you don’t have a unicorn on your team don’t expect your worship pastor to suddenly become one.

Quit comparing your worship leader to Phil Wickham or Brooke Ligertwood on stage and to your executive pastor off the stage and simply affirm what they do well. Let’s be honest: if they’re a brilliant musician it’s unlikely that they’re also a brilliant strategist and administrator. You (or another staff member) might have to help them create a plan for growth, execution, and follow-up.

Now, this is not an excuse for complacency or a refusal to grow.

We don’t have the right to be complacent or stagnant as followers of Christ. If your worship pastor seems complacent or resistant to growth it’s likely there’s a much deeper issue. But temper your expectations of them with a measure of reality.

– What do you need most from your worship pastor?

– Have you clearly articulated areas of growth for them?

– If you have, have you empowered them to take steps in that direction?

– Do they have the budget, personnel, and resources to make it happen?

Many feel like they know *what* to do but *can’t* do it for any of these reasons. Find out why and don’t let the reason they *can’t* accomplish the goal be something you could’ve fixed long ago.

I’ve also encountered many worship leaders who feel like their pastor wants *something different* or *something more* but they can’t, for the life of them, name or describe what it is they truly want.

 

Think of how frustrating it is when someone tells you they’re leaving your church but can’t (or won’t) tell you “why” beyond “it’s just a feeling” or “things aren’t like they used to be.” That’s maddening! I challenge you to work hard to clearly communicate what you’re looking for. It might be clear to you, but is it clear to your worship pastor?

I’ve experienced this first hand…

One time I had a boss tell me he wanted worship to be “much stronger.” I wondered: stronger content? Or maybe just louder? More “anthemic” style songs? More talented singers or charismatic people on the team? I was clueless so I inquired. And gained no clarity. Fortunately, over time he affirmed when he experienced what he wanted and I learned to discern it and craft sets toward that end. In a perfect world you would define “the win” together in conversation. But if you can’t do that, it’s your job to define clear goals for him or her.

Lastly, invest in your worship pastor.

If they’re great at the skills of the job, but are lacking in wisdom, spiritual depth, or pastoral care, show them the way. I

Invite them to join you on hospital visits or in pre-marital counseling, give them opportunities to share a devotional at staff meeting, draw them into your sermon preparation every once in a while. Nurture the pastoral calling in your worship pastor through invitation and opportunity. And don’t criticize them when they don’t do something like you would have done it. It could be because they don’t have the education or the experience that you do. But it also could be because they’re not you and their way is just, well, different.

If you treat your worship pastor with dignity and respect as a pastor rather than as a paid musician there’s a good chance they will rise to the occasion.

They are far more likely to have an open and teachable heart when they sense that you view them higher than they view themselves. Call them higher. Invite them. Empower them. Resource them. And be clear with them when they’re repeatedly missing the mark. Your church – and The Church – are far better off when your worship leader functions as a worship pastor, and that’s probably what you want too. Even if you don’t know it yet.

Written by Jonathan Swindal

Article taken from here.

What Makes a Great Youth Pastor

What Makes a Great Youth Pastor?

Here are 4 suggestions I’d like to add to the list of what truly makes a great youth pastor:

1. A great youth pastor is healthy.

I’m not saying you have to eat kale for every meal. Because at camp that’s literally impossible. I am saying that a great youth pastor prioritizes their personal health, so that they can invest in the health of their staff, volunteers, parents, and students.

This means you are creating habits that optimize your ability to show up at your best each day for the people you’re serving. If you’re crushing it when it comes to programming and creating environments students love, while your physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual health are all being crushed you’re experiencing counterfeit greatness.

2. A great youth pastor is whole.

Being whole has everything to do with your integrity. In fact, Google the word “integrity” and you’ll find that it’s defined as “the quality or state of being whole and undivided.”

To be whole is to have integrity.

Great youth pastors don’t stop at being healthy. They are intentional about being who they are in public while they are in private.

This means that those closest to you benefit most from you.

It means what you do when no one is watching would we worth following if others could see.

This means you make decisions that you’d encourage your staff, volunteers, and students to make as well.

Look, this isn’t about being perfect but it is about doing your best to be whole.

I think we are all theologically sound enough to know that we cannot do this on our own. This is why prioritizing and investing in your own relationship with God means everything. Yet, as a youth pastor, sometimes it’s way easier to help students grow in their faith than it is to experience that growth ourselves.

This is why I think great youth pastors, whole youth pastors, find ways to know and be known by others. Youth ministry is not for the faint of heart. It’s also not for the isolated. Whether it’s a best friend, a mentor, a spouse, or other church staff . . . make sure that someone knows you beyond the formalities of your leadership role. Make sure you give someone you trust access to who you are. No matter how you do this, if you want to be great and you want to serve others the way Jesus was able to, you must make sure to be whole.

3. A great youth pastor is humble.

Jesus already told us that true greatness is service, so we just need to live as though we believe it.

If your goal is to grow to a point where everyone else can do the work and you can watch your influence spread . . . you might need a humility check.

In youth ministry, it can be so easy to let our egos get the best of us. When the compliments come in from parents, when volunteers are willing to go the extra mile, when students show up in droves, when our social media gains traction, when other youth pastors recognize the good going on in our context.

None of this is inherently bad. In fact, all of these things can be amazing.

The differentiator is our level of humility.

That doesn’t mean you can’t take credit for anything. Or that you should put yourself down or downplay the impact of the ministry you lead. But you should ask one question:

At the end of the day, do I think that this ministry rises and falls on me?

Then depending on your answer, you can either continue to remind yourself of your dependence on God daily or you can choose to repent for getting caught up in some pride.

Personally, I’ve been in both positions. Dependence on God is always better than reliance on self.

The Holy Spirit is the only one who changes hearts. Choosing to lead with the humility this statement invokes will having you heading toward greatness in no time.

4. Great youth pastors are hardworking.

This one is last, because I believe for most youth pastors this one almost comes naturally.

Youth pastors know how to work hard. Great youth pastors pour blood, sweat, and tears into the work they are doing to invest in the faith and future of the next generation. You don’t do this at the cost of the first 3 points we’ve covered. But you are willing to work hard as you partner with the Holy Spirit to shepherd students.

By choosing to work hard you’re committing to rewriting the stereotypes of youth ministry. Here are a few ideas on how to do this.

You . . .

  • show up professionally and prepared to contribute.
  • take seriously your responsibility to grow as a student of culture, Gen Z (and Alpha), theology, and leadership.
  • prioritize safety in the ministry in order to build bonds of trust with parents.
  • don’t just take from your volunteers, but you invest in them as human beings relationally and spiritually.

You work hard at all of these things because you believe serving those in your care is serious business.

5. Great youth pastors commit to the long haul.

This one is tough because at last check, the average tenure of a youth pastor is typically 18 months. That’s 1 ½ years of focusing on shepherd students through a 2-4 year journey through middle or high school. Now, I don’t want you to think I’m throwing shade here. I get there is a real temptation to view student ministry as a stepping stone to adult ministry or a lead pastor role. The problem is student ministry should never be a stepping stone.

Student ministry may just be the most important ministry in your local church. I know it’s not always resourced that way. And I know it doesn’t always feel like it when you hear other people talking about it. I know it takes some serious convincing sometimes to believe that yourself. But I can promise you there is no opportunity like student ministry.

The years of MS and HS are often the years where people are developing a faith of their own for the very first time. Abstract thinking is developing (hello, walking in the Spirit) and worldview is being formed. Right in the middle of these critical phases, we are able to help students see that God is active and invested in every part of life.

Gaining Traction in Youth Ministry

Also, just practically speaking, in my experience it takes roughly 3 years to gain any strategic traction in ministry. Now, if your goal is to be a personality that everything else orbits around, this won’t matter a ton. Strong personalities can create flash in the pan success, numerically speaking, pretty quickly. But, if you want to do the work of discipleship . . . like recruiting, training, and equipping volunteers to truly multiply leadership and shepherd students, it’s going to take some serious time.

It wasn’t until my 3rd year of back-to-school training as a youth pastor that I was able to watch the leaders file into the room confident that we had built the right volunteer team. It took 3 years of recruiting, vision casting, and even releasing leaders to other opportunities until our team was able to see the real fruit of the work. After 3 years we knew we still had a long way to go. But, we felt for the first time that we had the right people to help build the right kind of momentum to move us in the right direction.

Student ministry is a long game. I can’t help but wonder what would happen to the state of the church across the world if youth pastors committed to being in the youth ministry space for the long haul.

6. Great youth pastors have a curriculum.

This is a shameless plug. But honestly, it’s really hard to do any of the first 5 things without a solid curriculum. Is it possible? Potentially! Did curriculum clear the way for me to focus on what is most important in youth ministry? 100%!

At one of my former churches, I was asked to lead through some of the darkest and most difficult days in the history of our congregation. They were also days full of potential for creating a healthy student ministry that could help the local church win!

For me, the curriculum that made so much possible during the years of transition in our church was XP3. I used XP3 before I joined the Orange Students team. So, I can tell you that I believed in XP3 Curriculum just as much then as I do now. The beautiful part of getting to be a part of the creation process now is that I know how much it meant to me as a student pastor then. To be able to spend my time investing in leaders, building our staff team, and strategizing way to be a more effective ministry was invaluable. Plus, having curriculum helped me develop as a communicator.

I was skeptical about that last part at first. Until my lead pastor took me to lunch where I pushed back on curriculum. And then he asked me if I think having an entire team of people who spent their work week focused on creating great content would help me develop as a communicator myself . . . which quickly humbled me. After years of using XP3, I realized just how true that was.

Look, as a curriculum user and local church youth pastor, I can tell you that XP3 truly was a game changer in my context.

Wrap Up

There you have it, 6 marks of a great youth pastor.

Just remember: The road to greatness is far less glamorous and far more rewarding than any of us could imagine.

It’s not wrong to want things like more students involved in the ministry.

More influence to make an impact.

And even more opportunities to spread the Good News about Jesus.

But what if true greatness is measured differently?

In fact, Jesus shared a principle that might just shore up any tension you’re feeling at this point in our time together.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

True greatness is measured in service. What does it look like for you to serve others in healthy, whole, humble, and hard-working ways?

I have a hunch that it starts by letting go of modern ideas of greatness and choosing to seek God’s vision of greatness first.

Maybe then we’ll begin to see God move in the next generation in ways we never could have asked for or imagined on our own.

Written by Shane Sanchez

Article taken from here.

7 Times You Should NOT Hire More Church Staff

Earlier this year, I received a Twitter request to provide guidelines for hiring additional church staff. Not too long ago, you could add staff according to a clear formula. Typically, that meant one full-time minister for every 100 to 200 in worship attendance.

Unfortunately, it is no longer best to approach adding staff in a formulaic fashion. Most churches do not add staff according to a programmatic approach. In the past, the pattern started with the pastor, followed by either music or education, and then age-graded ministers, such as students or children.

Today, the decisions are much more fluid and contextual. I must have an extended conversation with a church leader before I even begin to suggest additional staff. So, instead of answering the Twitter request directly, I approached it inversely. I thus offer seven occasions when a church should not hire additional staff.

It is not a good to hire additional staff when:

1. When it takes ministry away from the laity. There has been a tendency in a number of churches to bring on staff as “ministry hired hands.” The laity in effect pays the staff to do the work of ministry. This approach is both unwise and unbiblical. A new staff minister should demonstrate that he or she will actually increase the number of people who will do the work of ministry.

2. When you add staff according to the way you’ve always done it. Church practices are changing rapidly. Communities are changing. Technology is advancing. When a church is considering adding new staff, the leadership should see it as an opportunity to re-evaluate needs in both the church and the community.

3. When it’s not a smart financial decision. There will be times when a church should take a step of financial faith to add a staff person. But that doesn’t mean that such a decision is done without prayer, study and good stewardship. Make certain you are comfortable that the resources for the new staff will be available.

4. When a particular group in the church pushes its own agenda. It is not unusual for groups in a church to want their “personal minister” to take care of their needs. Make certain that the addition is best for the entire church, not just a select few with influence or money.

5. When a friend needs a job. Don’t hear me wrongly on this point. I am not saying that a church should never bring on a friend of the pastor, staff or a church member. I am saying that an addition should not take place only on the basis of that friendship.

6. When it’s just to copy another church. I’ve seen this often. A church (usually a large one) employs a new and creative way of adding and naming new staff positions. It won’t be long before I see churches all across the country making identical decisions. Certainly, it’s OK to emulate a church if it’s best for your church. But don’t add staff just because another church is doing it.

7. When you are unwilling to deal with a current ineffective staff member. Here is the scenario. A current staff member is obviously ineffective in his or her current role. So that person is moved to another role, sometimes one that does not add true value. Then a person is hired to fill the role once held by the ineffective staff member. This “workaround” results in a bloated personnel budget and, usually, poorer morale among effective staff members. Be willing to make the difficult decisions before adding new staff.

Written by Thom Rainer. Thom is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources

Article taken from here.

5 Signs That It’s Time For A Staff Member To Resign

When a staff member makes the choice to resign, it can feel like a defeat of some kind, like something broke or a mistake was made. But sometimes transitions are a normal part of staff life.

Some transitions are very difficult. The kind when you need to “fire” someone, but those situations are rare and usually represent one of three things.

  1. You didn’t have the honest and tough conversations.
  2. One or more people were not willing to change.
  3. You waited too long to make corrections.

If we set the more extreme cases aside, we can see that transitions on your staff, while not necessarily routine, can be part of a healthy environment. This perspective is far better than keeping a staff member when it’s not working, just because no one is willing to be honest and make the tough decision.

Of the following list of five signs, more than one might be in play, but rarely all five for one person. Some signs seem like they lean toward negative, but are actually normal, and can sometimes be corrected so the staff member should stay!

1) When the person’s frustration overtakes their productivity, and good coaching doesn’t help.

This is often a combination of competence and circumstance. The person does a good job, but their skills don’t quite rise to the standards necessary to take the ministry to the next level. And good coaching hasn’t helped. As for circumstance, it could be anything from organizational changes to a new senior pastor — ending up in frustration on the part of the staff member. The result is increasing frustration and decreasing productivity.

2) When the person’s discouragement robs their joy, and they can’t break through by prayer.

This scenario tends to be more personal than skills and organizational circumstances. But it can be a combination of many things; from their salary not meeting their needs, to their spouse not being happy at the church. We all experience discouragement, but prolonged discouragement is sometimes only resolved by getting a fresh start.

3) When the person begins to experience an inner restlessness about the environment, and they can’t find peace for months.

This case is often misdiagnosed thinking it’s a bad attitude, lack of loyalty or misalignment. Those are possible, but perhaps God is moving and stirring a change within the staff member in order to prepare them for a move in the near future. The Kingdom of God is large, and God may need him or her somewhere else. Don’t fight that. The important thing in this case is to stay in front of it. Talk about it. Figure out why peace eludes. If you don’t, it will likely turn into an attitude, loyalty or alignment issue.

4) When God speaks and ignites a flame for another place or position of ministry.

This sign differs from the previous one in that God’s voice is bold, clear and decisive. It’s not a gradual stirring. When I left INJOY / John Maxwell Company, I absolutely loved my job, everything was going great, and John and I enjoyed a wonderful relationship. But God spoke and told me that I was to be the XP at 12Stone. John remains my mentor and dear friend, and we both know that had I stayed, that disobedience to God’s call may have derailed my work at INJOY.

5) When their relationships begin to deteriorate.

In some ways this is a combination/culmination of two or more of the above signs. Essentially the person, (or the church leadership), has waited too long. When this takes place, no matter how great the relationships are, or how strong the competence, the primary relationships begin to deteriorate. If this has begun, it must be corrected as fast as possible. It will not get better on its own, and almost always gets worse. Make the change while you are still friends.

Written by Dan Reiland

Article taken from here.