Worship Leaders Get Paid to do Nothing, Right?

Ryan Egan —  February 17, 2011 — 18 Comments

My desk at Concept7

“What do worship leaders do most of the day?” was the search term that caused someone to spend over nine minutes on the site yesterday. This got me thinking a bit about what the congregration’s perception of a worship leader might be. After all, we just get up on Sunday mornings (or whatever day we happen to lead worship), play our songs, read a little Scripture, and that’s it right?

Although full-time (and even part-time) worship leaders know that this is far from the truth it’s good for us to take a step back from our world, step into the shoes of a church attender who is sacrificing a piece of their finances in order to pay for “the guy that helps us sing songs.”

I’d love to spend some time hearing from all of you on what you “do most of the day” so that we can gently encourage and enlighten those who might not understand the responsibilities that come with the worship leader vocation. I’ll get things rolling with a very inexhaustive list of some things I think are worth paying the worship leader to do that does not include leading music during corporate gatherings:

  • Spending time researching and choosing quality music (both from a content view and a singability view)
  • Equipping and mentoring folks who would become worship leaders in the congregation (or even all the members of the worship team)
  • Working with the pastor to plan meaningful worship services
  • Practicing an instrument and memorizing music (Yes, I think worship leaders should be paid to do this, I also think pastors should be paid to practice delivery of their sermons)
  • Spending time in God’s Word and prayer in preparation for what they will say during their time of leading worship during a corporate gathering

As I said, this isn’t an exhaustive list, so it’s your turn.  Have at it.  What do you, as a worship leader, “do most of the day?”

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Ryan Egan

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Ryan is a follower of Christ, husband, father, worship leader, & creative. He is heavily involved in the Association of Free Lutheran Churches and desires to teach others to live a life of worship in everything they do.
  • Anonymous

    Depending on the size of your church, worship leaders can also be involved in:

    Volunteer scheduling
    Sound (equipment maintenance, training)
    Design (graphics, powerpoints, lyric slides)
    Media (videos, both sourcing and creating)
    Web Design
    Event planning

    Actually, the list could be endless. Full-time ministry is often a case of “hands-on-deck” and so even if someone is a worship pastor, children’s pastor, senior pastor, they will often assume tasks that may not have any direct connection to their primary calling. In fact, I have often had to fight to keep the main thing the main thing.

    It’s interesting that you say many people think worship pastors sit around singing songs all week. That sounds like some kind of far off dream to me!

  • http://www.iamanoffering.com iamanoffering

    Thanks for the list, Kenny! I’m not sure if all people who aren’t worship leaders think that way, I’m just wondering out loud if that might indeed be a perception that we don’t realize sometimes. Singing songs all week would be fantastic, wouldn’t it?

  • http://twitter.com/edrotheram Ed Rotheram

    Good article Ryan,

    Interesting to see you’ve made the correlation between Worship Leaders & the Worship set, and the Pastors and Sermons as a relationship, as this is something I too have been thinking about recently.

    I think that Pastors and Worship Leaders should work together to make the service cohesive – if a pastor is doing a series on faith, for example, it makes sense for the worship leaders to have that in the forefront of their mind to select songs that reflect this. All too often separate agendas get in the way and you go through a worship set (even some worship songs) that lead you into a theological maze. It makes far more sense for there to be a clear path through the course of a service, series or season. This is an ideal, though it’s not always realised, and is not, so far, a situation I have encountered on any great level.

    Memorising music is a great tool for worship, I tend to memorise our sets (with the occasional look over to the projector screen for a vocal cue), and I do find it freeing, however it isn’t for everyone. For worship leaders not on staff, as many aren’t in the UK, it can be difficult to juggle church, church responsibilities full-time jobs, family, social lives and quiet times, and therefore there sometimes just aren’t enough hours in the day. Scaling back is of course an option, though not always a viable one.

    I personally tend to spend time before worship sets (we do one a month) praying for songs, themes, and words to shape the set. We have a repertoire of about 40 songs in the band I’m in, and we tend to choose mainly ones we’ve done before, though we’ll often juggle keys around to ensure continuity for much of the set, and this clearly takes time.

    Ultimately, worship leaders’ goals should be the same as any other serving Christian – to draw closer to God and to better know Him and His heart for us. Bless you mate.

  • http://www.iamanoffering.com iamanoffering

    Well said, Ed! I always try to at least make some connection between the teaching of the day and the songs. Both for the reason of directing our minds clearly and for helping the truth of the teaching get “stuck” in our hearts through music.

    I agree that memorizing isn’t for everyone. However, I think it’s something that a worship leader should get paid to do (if they’re getting paid, anyway). If a congregation expects the worship leader to be free to LEAD worship they need to be freed from technical aspects and from looking down at sheet music all the time, and the only way to do that is to memorize the music (or have a back-wall monitor installed, which would be incredibly helpful.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=596167835 Dan Cogan

    When folks in our fellowship find out I’m a full-time staff member they almost inevitably ask, “What do you do all week?” or some variation of that. Since our fellowship would be considered “small-to-medium” (somewhere in the 150-200 range) we kind of justified bringing me on full-time by making my job description intentionally broad. Technically I’m the “worship pastor”, but practically I’m the communications director or creative arts director. This means then that throughout the week my primary responsibilities include (but are not limited to) website development and maintenance, video announcements for Sunday services, bulletin, creating fliers for events, musical composition, service planning, etc.

    The service planning is unique for us, as we are in a sort of perpetual sermon series. Our pastor teaches through one whole book of the Bible at a time (typically about one chapter each week; Old Testament on Wednesdays, New Testament on Sundays). So I always know where we’ll be in Scripture each week. Many weeks there are songs taken specifically from that certain passage, and I’ll do my best to work a song like that into the set and others songs themed generally similar.

    Sometimes, however, this doesn’t always work. For example, this past Sunday we studied 1 Corinthians 7:1-24. I couldn’t for the life of me find a song written from that portion of Scripture, but I spent time praying over the set and the Holy Spirit providentially tied what we sang into the message. Explicitly? Perhaps not, but there was a wonderful cohesiveness that I couldn’t have planned even if I’d tried.

    All that to say, by the time Friday rolls around I usually wish there were more days in the week.

    Incidentally, when I first came to this page I missed the comma and question mark in the title, and I thought it said, “Worship Leaders Get Paid to Do Nothing Right.”

    My feelings were only slightly hurt.

    P.S. This Sunday will be my first sincere swing at doing an entire set without the aide of chord charts and lyrics. I’m chronicling this experience at http://worshipministry.com

  • http://www.iamanoffering.com iamanoffering

    Whoa, misplacing that comma does change the whole perspective doesn’t it?? I think most worship leaders are doing plenty of things right, for the record, including you, Dan! Thanks so much for your perspective. It seems like a lot of worship leaders double as creative directors from what I’m observing lately.

    We’re similar in how our pastor preaches as well – he’s much more expository than thematic most of the time, so I can relate there.

    Thanks for the link, I’m very interested to see how that goes!

  • Joegastler

    I can’t get this comment box to expand in Safari, so I’ll be brief:

    I agree completely with everything Ryan and Kenny said, and I would add the following:

    1. Choir rehearsals
    2. Handbell rehearsals
    3. Staff meetings
    4. Vision planning
    5. Being the young guy who ‘knows the technology stuff’ (tech support)
    6. Writing devotions for the congregation
    7. Organizing, managing and filing
    8. Teaching lessons
    9. Listening to the recording from Sunday morning

    and, perhaps, most important:

    10. Planning for the future. I don’t mean planning for 8 weeks down the calendar, I mean knowing that if you got hit by a bus tomorrow, your church would be okay without you. I mean knowing what you want your ministry area to look like in 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 5 years. In the words of a pastor friend of mine – if you’re doing your job right, you’re working yourself OUT OF A JOB.

  • Joegastler

    (by ‘vision planning’ I mean that I get involved in the broader discussions with lay leaders and staff about where our overall church is going – not just my specific part of the ministry)

  • http://www.iamanoffering.com iamanoffering

    Thanks for stopping by, Joe! This is a fantastic list. I also hold the philosophy of working yourself out of a job. I didn’t use to, but the more we look scripturally about our roles as equippers within the congregation, the more I realize our job is to equip believers for every good work, not just do everything ourselves all the time.

    I like number 6. Hadn’t thought of doing that before! A congregational devotion book (or email) would be a fantastic thing to do!

  • http://www.iamanoffering.com iamanoffering

    Excellent.

  • Scottharrison

    I’d love to say what I do on a typical day, but there are few typical days. Tuesdays are probably the most office “heavy” days. We have a weekly Staff Meeting, followed by appointments with our senior leader. All this followed by what I like to call “pounding it out”. That is to say, responding to emails, organizing rehearsals, writing charts (I almost always write charts for the songs we do), etc.

    I’ve had the opportunity to work in churches that were in the beginning of my tenure less than 100, and to have also worked as a worship pastor in a church of 8000. There is a world of difference in what goes on between them. The never changing things are the organizational tasks, music, service planning etc. The difference comes happens at about the 600 member mark. You have to begin make the transition into a people manager. At the 8000 member level, you’re leading on multiple levels and multiple teams. You’re planning months ahead and you’re recruiting daily. You’re organizing singers, band members, technical people, camera operators, schedules…the list can be as diverse as your job description. But, to answer what do you do all day? I think the answer to that question can be seen in what the DNA of the church is. I honestly don’t know ANY full time worship guys that do nothing all day. They usually wear many hats and operate on multiple levels of influence and responsibility.

    I was looking at Ed’s comments below. Ed, you’re exactly right when you say that there should cohesive elements in services that lead toward the message of the day. There are times when it’s difficult to find the songs that speak to a topic, for instance if the pastor is speaking about relationships or intimacy…well, it’s a little more of a “let’s just worship” kind of a day. But if it’s a study of Ephesians and the beauty of God’s grace, the door is wide open for songs that will speak to the day, will add to the pastor’s message, and help provide a “landing place” that leads to the time of decision or action (not that every sunday has to have an action step or decision time).

    Oh, and Kenny, I wear ALL those hats in my current church! I think it comes with the territory!

  • http://www.iamanoffering.com iamanoffering

    Wow Scott – thanks so much for your thorough addition! Great perspective and thanks for sharing the “common threads” between smaller and larger congregations.

  • http://www.SaintLewisMusic.com/ Shannon Lewis

    Following up on the phone (calls or texts) various musicians or point people for services!

  • http://www.iamanoffering.com iamanoffering

    That can definitely take a good amount of time!

  • Jnmtennant

    I have been a worship leader now going on only 4 years. I play acoustic guitar and sing. I pick the songs, mentor the team members, recruit new team members, play funerals, baptisms, and other special events, co lead mens ministry, as well as all of the other things you have posted on this list. I was welcomed with open arms from the people here, but have never asked, nor offered a paid position. I have a full time job which I have hated as it sent me under the knife recently for major back surgery. I am now 3 months post surgery and have to go back to my job. I’m praying that God will work something else out, and that maybe He will strike it in the hearts and minds of our congregation to offer me something so I will not have to continue to break my back. I don’t think I will be able to continue to do both as it is ever apparent that with the new hardware that is in my back, it is a tremendous burden to work two jobs. One paid, and one an offering. I don’t know what to do. I haven’t talked to the Pastor yet. I know that this kind of thing could surely have a dividing factor and I don’t want that. Please pray for us.

  • http://www.iamanoffering.com iamanoffering

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I will pray for you today and please let me know if I can help in any other way!

    Ryan Egan
    http://www.iamanoffering.com
    twitter.com/iamanoffering

  • Mr Mikey Richard2

    “Singing songs all week.”… That sounds like heaven to me… I mean literally we’ll be singing praises to god non stop in heaven right?

  • Johnny Dodger

    I am a worship leader and I’ve had the same questions of “what’s the perception” vs. what do I actually do during the week when I’m not on stage. I had a hard time answering since it’s so different from week to week, so I looked at a snapshot of a year’s worth of programming, averaged it all out and noticed I spend:

    - 60% of my time communicating (emails, phone, rallying + interfacing with volunteers)

    - 30% of my time doing other random tasks (meetings, tech, website, video, etc.)
    - 10% (that’s right only 10%) of my time actually playing music, leading rehearsals, or conducting worship services!

    It all averaged 48-50 hours per week, so the perception is far from the reality in my experience. after 7 years I still have people ask me “so are you full time?” and “what do you do all week?” Funny :)