When Worship Leaders and Senior Pastors Clash

We were observing a Sunday morning rehearsal.

“Why didn't you tell me about this before?” said the flustered senior pastor said to the worship leader. A couple of times.

We thought they might come to blows, and the worship leader was visually livid.

I mean, I did send the worship leader a text saying not to punch him at least until after the 11 o’clock service.

It turns out they’ve worked together for 20 years and are like an old couple that just puts up with each other.

I’m sticking out my sad lower lip as I write that. Seriously.

Some relationships between worship leaders and their pastors have gotten better and closer during this lockdown.

Some have gotten far worse.

Stress (like this lockdown has caused) can make us more of who we are. It can magnify what’s usually under wraps.

I took an educated guess at what relationships between worship leaders and senior pastors are like, and I came up with this:

  • 25% love, honor, and have a deep partnership
  • 50% get along but miss the benefit of a true partnership
  • 25% love the church, but there’s just this one guy/gal that they can’t stand…just so happens to be the senior pastor

That means 75% of worship pastors and senior pastors have room to improve their relationship. Plenty of room. And unlike the situation that got Lucifer kicked out of his “church,” here both sides are responsible.

If you’re in the lower 75% (and you might need to ask your worship leader what they think), we’re praying for you guys. Please don’t stay there, but rather make it your aim to live in that top 25%.

How to get toward the best 25%

1. Believe that it’s needed. You’re not a toaster.
I knew a worship leader who said, “When I’m talking to the pastor, I feel like he wouldn’t treat me any differently than he would a toaster.” Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 calls us higher than this. In fact, we read that the main proof of a disciple is the way I love my fellow human. The main proof!

If you don’t believe me that it’s worth the energy to pursue a true partnership, talk to worship leaders or pastors until you find a pair with a great relationship. Don’t settle. There is more!

2. Build a relationship.
“Working relationships fail because of lack of relationship,” I’ve said in many coaching sessions. Because we’re often from different worlds and have different language and priorities, misunderstanding will be the norm until we learn what makes each other tick. To have a working relationship, we must build an actual relationship.

3. Pray for each other.
That relationship may be birthed by praying for each other. My heart shifts when I pray for your good, when I bring you before the Father in intercession. Two realities are at play here. First, prayer shifts situations. God may be waiting to move until you ask. He wants you involved. Second, praying for someone grows a love in us for that person because it requires love to intercede for them. If you’re going to share your desire to build a better relationship, spend a few weeks praying for that person before talking with them.

4. Pray with each other. 
Now it may take real courage to bring your authentic self to a time of prayer with someone you don’t fully trust or like, but this does something profound. Sharing vulnerability with God in front of another person leads to vulnerability with that person. It’s why it’s not a good idea to pray one on one with someone of the opposite gender. (If you’re the opposite gender of your pastor or worship leader, add your spouse to the mix.)

5. The low road is the high road
We want a competition of humility, not a battle of wills. Who can go lower?  “There is no problem that can’t be solved, no situation that can’t be addressed simply by walking in a deeper level of humility!” - Unknown. Get your ego off the table and be Kingdom-minded. There is too much at stake here to make this about you. Go low.

Friends, life is too short to settle. There is far too much on the line for us to allow mediocre relationships between worship leaders and pastors. And sometimes, you need an outside person to help. We’d gladly walk alongside you as a caring coach as you build a great relationship together!