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Are Worship Ministers Real Ministers? It Depends....

Everybody is not Always as Involved in Worship as We Think
     Like Youth Ministers of previous decades, many Worship Ministers (or Worship Pastors) feel that not everyone sees them as "real" ministers.  Some have told me they feel the only time some people even talk to them is to complain about something that happened in worship.  Considering the amount of work, not to even mention years of education, that many of you put in every week, this sense of frustration is entirely understandable.
     But, as is also sometimes true of Youth (or Student) Pastors, the blame for this chasm of understanding about your role is not entirely their fault.  
For many of the newer ministry roles in the church over the past fifty years, there are sometimes reasons for these perceptions (that ____ (insert whatever your ministry area) is not a "real" ministry).  This is not a post to criticize.  Most of us know there are few roles in the church that receive as much steady criticism as that of worship ministry.  The last thing you need is one more voice complaining about something.
     Think of the observations in this (and the next) blog post as simply pointing out there are things within your power that can dramatically reduce this perception.  One piece of good news is these same things will also reduce (but not eliminate) the stream of complaints that may come from some  in the church.
     There are two broad truths that are the framework through which you need to think about these observations:

The ministry people see
is how they come to see
who they see as ministers.

     This simply means many people will only see your role as a paid musician and music leader because that is the only role they actually see you doing.  You can't change that with an impressive title, a great web page, a written job description, or hanging a glowing neon sign above your head loudly proclaiming "Real Minister."  All they see you doing is leading worship. And so, you are just a worship leader.  A paid church musician.  Period.  End of story.  Unless...
     In every church I have led, I have asked the staff to share up to 1/3 of their available time involved in general church ministry.  This would be things like hospital calls, visiting people in crisis, and even includes funerals and weddings.  Ironically, it is those very ministry positions that don't interact with large groups of people in the general congregation (like Student Ministry or Children's Ministry or Worship Ministry) that will benefit most from doing this.
     I want you to see there are two great benefits and one great reason why you should go to your lead pastor or elders are say you absolutely want a slice of the general ministry pie.  Okay, maybe you phrase it more like, "I want to help carry some of the burdens of this church's ministry."

Benefit 1: People See You Differently

     First, it should be obvious what this does for the people you visit, or the people related to the people you visit, or the people who know the people related to the people you visit (getting a picture here?):  You called on Ethyl before her gall bladder surgery: spent a few minutes, shared some scripture, had some prayer.  Oh my goodness.  You must be a real minister.  That's what real ministers do.  It also opens their eyes that you are doing a lot more than music on Sunday.
     It also gives a subtle message of the other leader's view of you: the senior minister and elders see you as a real minister.  They sent you.  The pastor gets Wednesday.  You get Thursday.  That means, in some sense, are must be a real minister, just like the preacher.
     Also, although it may only come one or two at a time, people in the church have an experience where you, have been used by God to comfort and strengthen them.  They don't forget that.  It changes what they see standing on stage on Sunday.  You're no longer the worship leader.  You're _____ (insert your name here).  You're that person who sat with them while they were not doing that great, and God used you to make the bad times a little easier to bear.  Oh, they may still wish you wore a tie or led an anthology of Gaither Greats every Sunday.  But, now they see your clothes and hear your music choices through the lens of seeing you as a real minister.  One that helped them or helped someone they love.

Benefit 2: It Changes Your Worship Leading

     Second, God never wanted any leadership in the church far separated from pastoral care and ministry.  Some people complain (rightly, I believe) if the elders see their role as just having meetings and making decisions.  They are supposed to be shepherds, first and foremost. Then, we assume, the decisions they make are impacted by their compassion and care for the people.  Isn't this, if anything, even more true of every single man or woman on a church staff?
    Whether you know it or not, involving yourselves in the real lives of people in your church who are in no way connected with your praise team will enrich your ministry, strengthen you spiritually, and, in subtle but important ways, will also impact what you are doing in leading worship.  Yes, some of those people in the church now see you as a real person.  But, guess what?  Even if they have no love whatsoever for your worship music selections, you now look out and see them as real people.  They are not the adversaries.  They are not even the loyal opposition.   They are part of your Christian family that you care for and, believe me, that changes how you see them.
     Think it through.  Your grandma may not have the same tastes in music as you. But, when she sees you leading worship, she sees you and you see her differently.  You're not just a guy up front leading loud worship and she's not just that old lady who doesn't like good worship music sitting in row six.  The relationship trumps musical tastes, mutes complaints, and enriches the mysterious connection between leader and worshiper to make both more aware of the love that binds us all together.  In this, ultimately, God is also honored.

     On a side note:  If you are a woman, it is true that you may not be asked to perform many weddings or lead many funerals (but, I hope you know, both of those may very well happen from time to time).  For that limitation, however, there are unique avenues of amazing ministry open to you.  Being a woman simply gives you a level of connection and understanding with women in your church that are experiencing struggles uniquely related to being a woman.  Your male co-workers just will not have the same deep connection.  While you share in general ministry with both sexes, you are given a special gift when calling on a woman who has lost a child during a pregnancy, or has undergone an hysterectomy, or is struggling with some aspect of menopause.  Sure, others on the staff called earlier in the week.  They shared scripture and pray.  So will you.  But, with you, things can be felt and shared and conversations can occur that they will never experience.  Whatever else was involved, this surely was one of the unique roles of deaconesses in the early church.

Reason: It is Expected of You

     The biggest reason you should involve yourself in general ministry is that it is expected of you.  It may be expected of you by people in the church.  But, that's not what I'm talking about.  The one expecting it of you is God.  Regardless of your job description, whether or not you want to get involved in these things, or anyone ever asks you to do them -- it is something we both know you ought to be doing.
     We say Worship Ministry, but the term doesn't really work.  A Senior Adult Minister cares for older adults.  A Student Minister cares for students.  And, so, a Worship Minister care for...?  Worship isn't a person or group.  It's an event.  Events don't have ministers.  Events may have planners.  Events may have technicians.  Events may have ministers doing things at the event.  But, events don't have ministers.  People have ministers.
     The most important person you want to see you as a real minister is God.  And, trust me, he's not going to come to that conclusion because of a title or education or musical talent.  If you want to be seen by anyone as a real minister, make sure your first question is, "How does God see me?"  But, this means the answer can't be in re-educating God about the technology and production needs of the modern church.  It is in making sure your service in His name, financially supported by His people, falls within a sphere of things God would see of broader ministry.  Yes, this absolutely includes designing and leading the gathered church in worship, but it has to mean more than that.
     You, along with every other person on the ministerial staff, needs to come together and commit yourselves not to loose that essential core of the work of pastoral ministry - authentic person to person care - because running the machinery of a modern dynamic church is just too demanding, too time consuming (and, it's also a lot more fun) to spend time in our busy week calling on little old Aunt Susie.   Jesus isn't inside your keyboard.  Jesus doesn't care two cents about your guitar.  Jesus dwells in Aunt Susie and has loved her from before the foundation of the world.  And, right now, he's with her and maybe He's wondering if you lost her phone number.  Stack your greatest musical achievement up against little old Aunt Susie and which one do you think Jesus would say matters most?

     People do not slip away from God because they were not sufficiently impressed with our latest productions.  They slip away because, in that dark night of the soul, alone and overwhelmed, none of us was standing there alongside them.

6 comments:

Joel said...

So true. I was a Worship/Youth minister for 7 years right out of college. It was in a smaller church where the Senior Minister did most of the "general church ministry". People seemed to feel cheated when I showed up in the room instead of the Sr. Minister. Now at my second located ministry where I am just over the youth, I share hospital duties and other responsibilities. I found to be extremely intimidating at first. Now, however, I look forward to meeting with people and it really has changed my ministry and relationship with many people in our faith community.

Tom Lawson said...

Joel - great insights from someone out there doing it. thanks for taking the time to comment.

Greg Johnston said...

Three good points in response to the issue. And you didn't bore people discussing the sematics of the term "minister." Which is what I would have done.

Greg Johnston said...

I had another thought. It wasn't as fast as my original thoughts on the subject, but it may be better. If when the Worship Minister heads out to make those pastoral calls, he were to take other members of the worship team along with him and use it as an opportunity to teach them about the sort of ministry that reflects most clearly God's image, then he would not only be a legitimate minister but also a genuine pastor-shepherd.

"As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them ..." Mark 6:34

Dan Rolfe said...

Thanks Tom. I only found your site a few months ago, but I've come to really enjoy your posts. I'm planning to pass this one on to the guys who lead our worship ministry.

Tom Lawson said...

That is an excellent idea. It would be expanding the ministry of the church by equipping while it also cares for people. Thanks, Greg, for the input.