8 Reasons It’s Tough to Find a Worship Leader

We use different titles for the position. Minister of Music. Worship Leader. Music Minister. Pastor of Worship. Whatever the title may be, I’m learning that churches are often struggling to find someone to fill this role well. As I talk with pastors, here are some of the reasons this search isn’t always easy:

  1. The best worship leaders are already employed. That’s the case, of course, with most ministry positions. Churches work hard to hang on to good staff members, so many worship leaders are not available.
  2. It’s tough to find worship leaders who are musically gifted and theologically astute. More and more churches are looking for staff who are not only gifted in their expertise, but are also prepared to talk theology. That’s particularly the case for staff who choose songs to sing each week.
  3. A lot of positions are combination positions (e.g., Minister of Worship and Youth). The problem is that not many potential staff members have equal passion for both roles. They accept one role so they get to do the other—but something typically suffers.
  4. Some “music leaders” can direct singing, but they’re not as strong at leading people to worship. Their efforts seem more perfunctory than heart-felt, more “professional” than personal.
  5. Worship wars may not be as strong as they once were, but they still exist. Even worship leaders have their own preferred styles of worship, and not everyone is equipped and capable of leading multiple styles well.
  6. Worship leadership involves a lot of work, and some churches don’t pay very well. They want the best leader out there, but they’re not always willing to pay to get that leader. Some churches seem to expect magnificent leadership at minimum wage.
  7. More churches consider their worship leader to be an elder/pastor. This commitment means their staff candidates must meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3. Some potential worship leaders bring a lot to the table, but they don’t always yet qualify as a pastor.
  8. Some worship leaders have been scarred from previous ministries. That’s not the fault of the hiring church, but they’re often reticent to hire someone who still seems to bear bitterness and hurt.

I’d love to hear from pastors and worship leaders alike. Pastors, what would you add to this list? Worship leaders, what hiring issues have you faced with churches? Let’s help each other.  

8 Comments

  • Stan Lowery says:

    I am also finding, especially in some of our smaller more rural churches, that there are fewer musically trained individuals in the churches. After the current generation finishes serving the churches are facing a crisis of no one in the church who could lead and/or play musical instruments. Even larger churches are also experiencing this to some degree. Is there something we can do to raise up worship leaders/musicians in our churches?

  • Jerry Watts says:

    Hey Chuck,
    You present very valid points. Having served as a Music Minister (back when we were called that), I know the difficulty of the combination position. It is very much ‘accepting one to get the other’, and I never thought that was a particularly good way to do the Lord’s work. So, #3 should be heralded.
    You point in #4 leave many ‘in the cold’ because sadly, too often, ‘leading the singing’ is all that is desired. I fear that “authentic worship” has been neither modeled nor taught. This is painfully apparent in the Southern Church culture where you could go to the “Preaching Service.” This is intended in no way to minimize the ‘ministry of the spoken word’, but rather to highlight the need for personal worship to be experienced in the corporate environment – which results in the deepening of the spoken word.

    Candidly, we need a way (some would call it a system – systems sometimes go ‘out of control’), to help our young worship leaders grow Spiritually to the place they recognize good & not so good theology in the lyrics. AND that develops them musically to where they have the needed skills to create a musical environment that is neither a concert nor a funeral, but rather, an authentic worship experience which incorporates from the Celebration of Praise to the Humility of Worship, leading us to the very Throne of Grace.

    Thanks for your much needed article.

  • Jordan says:

    Yeah, if you consider your worship leader to be an elder or pastor, then you’ve cut applicants by at least 50% if not more. I’ve been a worship leader for students now for years, not because of any great musical ability, but because of a leadership ability. However, it’s impossible for me to be hired on as a worship leader for a church because almost every job post I have seen for such a position start with “Must be a man…”

  • Gary from Southern NH, USA says:

    Great article!

    Thank you.

  • John W Carlton says:

    In my first three positions I served as music and youth minister. Music Ministry was a previous designation for worship minister or worship leader. All of my training was in music and I did youth work so that I can have a job doing music. Back in the 70s and first past of the 80s you could combine the youth work with the music. It won’t work that way today, in fact it quit working for me. This is the reason that I went bivocational and gave up the youth responsibilities. I had a loving church that kept me on as a bivo minister. Also I was nearing 40 years old and it was time for me to quit trying too stay up with those kids.

  • John Bennett says:

    I’ve been serving as an interim WL for a while. One thing that has been a challenge in our search is finding someone who is can lead an energetic, blended worship style and also direct a choir.

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