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An Open Letter to Transient Worship Pastors

An Open Letter to Transient Worship Pastors

The average tenure of worship pastors around the nation is surprisingly short. Not many weeks go by that I don’t hear of someone looking for a new position. My friend and counterpart from the the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, David Manner, has written a great article that helps explore “a couple of common threads that are contributing to this restless desire and/or mandate to find another ministry position”

Dear Worship Pastor,

I have had hundreds of conversations with worship pastors about wanting, needing, or having to relocate.  It has been my observation that a couple of common threads are contributing to this restless desire and/or mandate to find another ministry position.  Ironically, neither one of the root common denominators are related to musical or stylistic issues.

My first observation is that there is often confusion between calling and convenience.  The primary question you must ask is, “am I called to do this…not just here, but anywhere?”  A calling is a personal invitation from God to carry out a unique task.  It is a strong inner impulse prompted by conviction of divine influence.  And, it is not always convenient.

What is compelling you to do what you do?  Convenience responds with, “This is what I was trained to do.”  Calling responds with, “This is what I was made to do.”  If you are leading worship just because you love to play and sing, because you need to supplement your income, because you enjoy being up-front or because you are not trained to do anything else, then your compulsion might be out of convenience instead of calling.

If, however, you are divinely called to lead worship and believe God also called you to your present place of ministry, then a secondary question you must ask before you consider a move is, “has God released me from my call here?”  Even when another place of ministry seems more convenient, appealing, challenging, fulfilling and rewarding you must be reminded that God did not promise that you would always be happy, revered, loved, appreciated or followed.  So, until God releases you to go…stay.

My second observation is that musical talent and platform presence may help you secure a worship pastor position but developing leadership and relationship skills will help you keep it.  In fact, mandated change in the form of forced termination is often the result of this deficiency and rarely occurs as a result of musical weaknesses.  And yet, where are you spending most of your worship leadership preparation time?  You will never be able to teach enough new songs to make up for your relational and leadership failures.

Leading music doesn’t necessarily equate to leading people.  Meaningful relationships develop as you place more focus on the people than the project.  Don’t leave relationships in your wake as you move toward the end result since the process with the people is also ministry.  What will your congregants remember most about your worship leadership…how you led them musically while you were on the platform our how you treated them on the way to and from the platform?

God may indeed be calling you to consider a new place of ministry.  A change of venue, however, may not settle your restlessness.  Until you consider the previous observations and others, you may again experience the same discontent after a couple of years in a new place of ministry.

About The Author

David Manner

Dr. David W. Manner serves as the Executive Director for Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. Before joining the convention staff in 2000, David served for twenty years in music/worship ministry with congregations in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Oklahoma Baptist University; a Master of Church Music degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and a Doctor of Worship Studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies.


  1. Gary Rushing

    Great article – thanks! Can you point me to any research into the average stay of a worship/music pastor? I am beginning doctoral work in this area and need many more resources on this trend.

    Thanks very much!!

    • Kenny Lamm

      Sorry, other than resources found through a Google search, I do not have a resource with this information.

  2. Clyde Buckner

    Thanks, Kenny – David’s article is right on target. I recently retired after serving 3 churches #1-4 years, #2 – 8 years, #3- 31 years. It is always about people – we direct choirs and ensembles, but we lead people; we plan services, but we join people in worship. Hang around a while and you quit planning funerals and start burying your friends – you quit leading children & youth choirs and start marrying your “kids” and celebrating the births of your “grandkids”. It’s all about people. Jesus was pretty smart when he said “Love me and feed my sheep”

  3. Mark Brady

    It also appears from resumes I’ve looked at that worship leaders tend to jump denominations. Seem to be more interested in being where the music is happening.

  4. JimP

    Thanks Kenny – this reinforces and affirms things that I have been experiencing!


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