For Worship Leaders: How to Get Along with Your Preacher

train tracks

Last week, I wrote a post designed to aid my fellow preachers in getting along better with their worship leaders. I did so because I believe that relationship is critical to a church’s well-being. Well, relationships are two-way streets, and there are some things worship leaders can do to help their relationship with their preacher flourish. Here are six. Please note these are obviously generalizations. Preachers and Worship Leaders come in all varieties ūüôā

  1. Don’t crowd out preaching¬†unless it’s actually germane to what the church wants to accomplish that day. Preachers can tell if/when you feel they aren’t worth the time they’re “taking up” in the service. Some preachers really are poor at their craft. If they are, people won’t stay–and neither will the preacher. Studies show preaching (and the preacher himself) continue to be the primary reason people choose a new church. This doesn’t minimize anything else. It just means crowding out preaching is unwise–unless the message is better facilitated through another means on a given day. In a church that shares Communion every weekend, preaching should not take up more than half of an assembly, and should usually run around 40% of the time allotted. If your service is an hour and a half, the sermon should run no longer than 45 minutes. 40 is even better. I shoot for 35 (including the communion prayer), in a service that generally lasts 1:20.
  2. No surprises. Don’t decide you are going¬†to break new theological ground for the church unannounced. If you think the church needs to move forward on some issue–open the discussion and keep it open. No passive-aggressivism. No feigned ignorance of what the church has or hasn’t done before. No, “I thought everyone did that…I had no idea our church was so neanderthalish.” Keep it on the up and up. The odds are, the preacher is equally convicted the church needs to move forward. However, they (not you) will take the bulk of the bullets for the change. You are usually¬†on the same team. Don’t ruin that with major surprises.
  3. Don’t silo your ministry. What I mean is, don’t act like worship is the only ministry in the church. It isn’t–though it’s vital. Don’t ask that everything orient around it–or operate as though nothing else needs money, time or attention.
  4. Acknowledge the controversy your ministry generates–even when you’re not doing anything to generate it. The preacher is the front-line soldier in taking criticism. Both the elders and congregation will complete about you to him. To some, it appears you’re not working very much/hard. To others, you are the source of the church’s problems. The preacher (if they are a good one), will be filled with shrapnel of worship battles. Don’t go out of your way to make the preacher’s job more difficult in this regard. Avoid laziness and agenda-pushing. Arm your opponents with nothing. Arm your preacher with a ministry well done and obvious diligence. I don’t know exactly how to do that than producing obvious growth and excellence in your ministry. That will help silence critics, and it’s what God wants, anyways.
  5. Understand the personality/professional differences between you and the preacher. This might be a simple left/right-brain difference. It’s likely more nuanced than that. Most preachers worship with their minds. Remember that as you explain what you’re trying to do and where you are trying to¬†head. Help them understand what the service is “saying” or “teaching.” Engage them intellectually, and it will help them engage with your ministry experientially.
  6. Expose them to vibrant worship, and expose yourself to vibrant preaching. It’s a lot easier to appreciate ballet¬†if you’re watching Baryshnikov.¬†I hate ballet–but I’d watch Baryshnikov or one of my daughters. Most worship leaders don’t hate preaching at all–but could use some heightening of appreciation for it. One of the best things I do is attend conferences with our worship leader,¬†in which some of my favorite preachers preached with Hillsong, David Crowder, and others leading worship in between sessions. Go to things together–Catalyst, Willow’s Global Leadership Summit, Fellowship’s C3 Conference, Exponential, etc. These will bring you together and heighten your appreciation for one another as true partners in the Gospel.

What else might you add to these?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “For Worship Leaders: How to Get Along with Your Preacher

  1. tim, this is a good post for preachers & worship leaders. one thought I would add: spend the time to clarify the reason for the worship gathering with your worship pastors/leaders as well as with your leadership team(s). and by “clarify the reason,” while it should definitely include a theological grounding (our ecclesiology), it should also include the “weekend win” in the vision, strategy, and life of your church. we must clarify this with our team because everyone has their unique vantage points on the purpose of the worship service. the preacher weights it toward preaching & teaching. the worship pastor weights it toward singing and the arts. the community life pastor weights it toward community. the outreach pastor weights it towards outreach. and on and on. so, we as senior leaders need to help clarity the “weekend win” for our teams and then communicate it well and often with the “why” for our congregations.

    • Jonathan, absolutely, totally, agree. It seems to me this disconnect is the source of a lot of the other problems–where this problem exists. Theological cohesion is vital.

  2. Awesome. I just took the time to read down your blog and you had already done what I just wrote about above. Way to be informed, Brandon! haha. Good stuff! Feel free to delete both of these comments seeing as how they essentially cancel each other out.

  3. All good stuff here. I think my only critique would be…I’ve read a TON of stuff like this. Preachers writing about worship leaders and how they should do this or that to “get along” with their preacher. What I’m waiting for is some good stuff from a preacher out there speaking blessing over other ministries they work along side. Even as inclusive as this blog sounds, it still smacks of —here’s what you should do for me. It might be cool to follow this up with an article about how preachers can, in turn, best support the worship (or sub in any other ministry) ministry at their church. That seems like a cool leadership idea. Speaking blessing into the ministries around you.