Four Ways to Improve the Worship Leader–Pastor Relationship

Worship leader: your pastor is the single most important professional relationship you have. He is likely your direct supervisor. He's the one who will sing your praises, or defend you to a disgruntled church member (or even before a board of directors or elders). He's also responsible for the entire worship experience. You may be the primary facilitator of music and media, but he's ultimately in charge-and he's usually the one taking the fallout when things go awry. You absolutely want a healthy, dynamic relationship with your pastor.

I'm grateful to still have both professional working relationships, and friendships with the pastors under whom I've served. Here's what I've learned.

1. Start with Respect. Honor your pastor for the position he holds. Recognize that he's attempting to juggle the needs of the entire congregation. Whatever difficulties you have as a worship leader, he has exponentially more. Don't add to his headache. Like you, he is trying to do the best he can with his calling. Support him, defend him, publicly honor him.

2. Be a friend. Your pastor wants a good relationship with you, trust me. You are a reflection of his leadership. Besides the pastor, you are the most influential leader at your church. You certainly have the largest platform. He has enough negative pressure. He wants (and needs) solid, trustworthy people around him. Do you think he wants a contentious office relationship? Decide to be his advocate. A true friend is quick to forgive, quick to assume the best, keeps a confidence, and of course is fun to be around.

3. Exceed Expectations. Do everything with excellence. Discover his vision for a worship experience and seek to surpass it. If you mess up, don't make excuses, but admit it immediately. Take complete ownership. At some point in the near future, you will want to take a risk and try something new. You are far more likely to be trusted with the freedom you desire if you have a record of excellence and integrity.

4. Accept his ideas and criticism graciously. Whether it's an artistic suggestion or a personal rebuke of your job performance, your pastor will at some point articulate room for improvement. Hopefully he does this alone, or at least couches it gently (since we worship leaders tend to be pretty sensitive). Regardless, realize that his criticism is probably right on, and is coming from the person who most wants you to succeed. Again, your performance is a direct reflection of him. Don't roll your eyes, sigh, or defend yourself. Treat it as valuable advice-like a consult you didn't have to pay for-and grow from it.

We worship leaders can be artsy and high maintenance. Some of you have put a bad taste in your pastor's mouth. You have some repair work to do. And I'm sure many of you work with difficult pastors. But you're difficult too, so you're even. Thankfully I've found that people tend to be gracious when you approach them in humility.

Whatever your current state, you can begin today to put these into practice. Not only will you enjoy the benefits of a healthy, dynamic, mutually beneficial, and edifying relationship with your pastor, your congregation will benefit from seeing the synergy between the two most visible and influential leaders in the church. Authentic friendships are highly attractive.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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