Worship Mythbusters: Leading music is glamorous and fun most of the time! NOT

CNNMoney.com recently did a series of articles based on research by payscale.com and found that 67% of those that lead worship or direct music in local churches for a vocation say the job is stressful. The research says this job is in the top 15 MOST stressful. Uhmm, this is obvious to those of us who lead worship, but to have research debunk the myth of the glamor of being a music guy/gal in a church might be helpful in fixing some things.

In the article he mentions how weddings and funeral musical work is stressful, but they really do not go to the underlying reasons I believe the majority of people in this vocation incur stress. Notice that senior pastors, youth directors and other ministry personnel are not on this list. While all ministry is stressful, something unique to this activity is in play. I say this with deep respect for those in other roles.

I fundamentally believe there is pandemic implosion of the worship leader role and vocation–even for the volunteer or bi-vocational worship leader. History shows this current pattern to be true (nothing new about worship wars for instance). Each week I talk with very talented people in this line of work and the same story is replayed over and over again. Every conference I attend, phone call or IM I field or observations I listen to by others has led me to consider a wide-scale threat. Glamorous you say?

Here are some unique mythbusting nuggets to consider:

  • When there is conflict in a local church, the music becomes a rallying point for battle. Ever heard of the term “worship wars” in your setting? Well, guess who lives in the middle of that.
  • Everyone has an opinion about the music and experience in a worship service, with the one who is leading the activity often being the only non-voting member in the discussion.
  • Everything this person does is in public and executed through other people: choirs, worship bands, tech teams, etc.
  • Leadership of churches often devalue the scale and scope of work to execute the quality and impact they expect.
  • The skills needed include: creative and artistic genius, project management, musical talent, stage presence, theological facility, leadership, administration, ability to work independently, ability to be micromanaged and you have to look the part (whatever that means).
  • In the push to be relevant to culture, the worship leader is only as relevant as the latest thing on one hand or if you have opposite views he/she must reject the latest thing. You can’t win either way.
  • Spiritual warfare is heated in the activity of our public worship settings. So, obviously in that sense these folks are targets.

I have some ideas on specific solutions to help the local church win and the worship leader survive and perhaps even thrive. However, before I do that in another post (or series of posts) I am interested in your view of my summary and what the research shows.

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

32 comments

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rich Kirkpatrick and tehillamusic.com, Sunridge Worship. Sunridge Worship said: RT @rkweblog: Could leading worship really be one of the most stressful jobs one could have today? http://tinyurl.com/ybbr78b […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rich Kirkpatrick and tehillamusic.com, Sunridge Worship. Sunridge Worship said: RT @rkweblog: Could leading worship really be one of the most stressful jobs one could have today? http://tinyurl.com/ybbr78b […]

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rich Kirkpatrick and tehillamusic.com, Sunridge Worship. Sunridge Worship said: RT @rkweblog: Could leading worship really be one of the most stressful jobs one could have today? http://tinyurl.com/ybbr78b […]

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rich Kirkpatrick and tehillamusic.com, Sunridge Worship. Sunridge Worship said: RT @rkweblog: Could leading worship really be one of the most stressful jobs one could have today? http://tinyurl.com/ybbr78b […]

  5. I read this article and had many of the same thoughts you have outlined so well here. Add multiple services, having to be not only artistic but highly technical (now), plus working with so many different types of people, and yes, it is stressful. Additionally, I think many churches don’t seem to understand that they need a worship PASTOR – so the emphasis seems to be on things that are only experienced publicly (as you mentioned). Yet you must succeed with foundational elements of spiritual leadership – many times handled in private, or in smaller groups – in order to truly build a ministry that lasts. In other words, we are graded on externals, yet we need to be so much more than that, and do so much more than that. I’m not sure I’m communicating this well.
    Anyway, I was not at all surprised that this made the top 15. I think worship pastors feel pulled in many different directions – and never able to win. I remember after one particular Easter our staff met. Half of them LOVED what we did on Easter morning (I planned and oversaw all of it) and half of them were very vocally disapproving of it. So I sat in a staff meeting while I – and my work – was torn apart. Yet as the congregation exited I got so many excited comments. But hearing many different opinions – after the fact – voiced be those who had no idea of the time, effort, hours I’d spent putting it together, and with no care for how this might make me feel – was depressing. To put it lightly.

    I remember going home and wanting to quit.

    1. This is common. How much time was spent evaluating the effectiveness of the pastors sermon in comparison? I can guess and make that question merely rhetorical–not much!
      You hit on the bulls eye the pastoral element and the technical. Those should be on my list above as major points of what the job is, even if not in title.

      1. Rich, whether or not it was “effective” was never discussed. Only what they liked or disliked. And – btw – the admin staff was invited to join in! Such fun!

  6. I read this article and had many of the same thoughts you have outlined so well here. Add multiple services, having to be not only artistic but highly technical (now), plus working with so many different types of people, and yes, it is stressful. Additionally, I think many churches don’t seem to understand that they need a worship PASTOR – so the emphasis seems to be on things that are only experienced publicly (as you mentioned). Yet you must succeed with foundational elements of spiritual leadership – many times handled in private, or in smaller groups – in order to truly build a ministry that lasts. In other words, we are graded on externals, yet we need to be so much more than that, and do so much more than that. I’m not sure I’m communicating this well.
    Anyway, I was not at all surprised that this made the top 15. I think worship pastors feel pulled in many different directions – and never able to win. I remember after one particular Easter our staff met. Half of them LOVED what we did on Easter morning (I planned and oversaw all of it) and half of them were very vocally disapproving of it. So I sat in a staff meeting while I – and my work – was torn apart. Yet as the congregation exited I got so many excited comments. But hearing many different opinions – after the fact – voiced be those who had no idea of the time, effort, hours I’d spent putting it together, and with no care for how this might make me feel – was depressing. To put it lightly.

    I remember going home and wanting to quit.

    1. This is common. How much time was spent evaluating the effectiveness of the pastors sermon in comparison? I can guess and make that question merely rhetorical–not much!
      You hit on the bulls eye the pastoral element and the technical. Those should be on my list above as major points of what the job is, even if not in title.

      1. Rich, whether or not it was “effective” was never discussed. Only what they liked or disliked. And – btw – the admin staff was invited to join in! Such fun!

  7. I read this article and had many of the same thoughts you have outlined so well here. Add multiple services, having to be not only artistic but highly technical (now), plus working with so many different types of people, and yes, it is stressful. Additionally, I think many churches don’t seem to understand that they need a worship PASTOR – so the emphasis seems to be on things that are only experienced publicly (as you mentioned). Yet you must succeed with foundational elements of spiritual leadership – many times handled in private, or in smaller groups – in order to truly build a ministry that lasts. In other words, we are graded on externals, yet we need to be so much more than that, and do so much more than that. I’m not sure I’m communicating this well.
    Anyway, I was not at all surprised that this made the top 15. I think worship pastors feel pulled in many different directions – and never able to win. I remember after one particular Easter our staff met. Half of them LOVED what we did on Easter morning (I planned and oversaw all of it) and half of them were very vocally disapproving of it. So I sat in a staff meeting while I – and my work – was torn apart. Yet as the congregation exited I got so many excited comments. But hearing many different opinions – after the fact – voiced be those who had no idea of the time, effort, hours I’d spent putting it together, and with no care for how this might make me feel – was depressing. To put it lightly.

    I remember going home and wanting to quit.

    1. This is common. How much time was spent evaluating the effectiveness of the pastors sermon in comparison? I can guess and make that question merely rhetorical–not much!
      You hit on the bulls eye the pastoral element and the technical. Those should be on my list above as major points of what the job is, even if not in title.

      1. Rich, whether or not it was “effective” was never discussed. Only what they liked or disliked. And – btw – the admin staff was invited to join in! Such fun!

  8. I read this article and had many of the same thoughts you have outlined so well here. Add multiple services, having to be not only artistic but highly technical (now), plus working with so many different types of people, and yes, it is stressful. Additionally, I think many churches don’t seem to understand that they need a worship PASTOR – so the emphasis seems to be on things that are only experienced publicly (as you mentioned). Yet you must succeed with foundational elements of spiritual leadership – many times handled in private, or in smaller groups – in order to truly build a ministry that lasts. In other words, we are graded on externals, yet we need to be so much more than that, and do so much more than that. I’m not sure I’m communicating this well.
    Anyway, I was not at all surprised that this made the top 15. I think worship pastors feel pulled in many different directions – and never able to win. I remember after one particular Easter our staff met. Half of them LOVED what we did on Easter morning (I planned and oversaw all of it) and half of them were very vocally disapproving of it. So I sat in a staff meeting while I – and my work – was torn apart. Yet as the congregation exited I got so many excited comments. But hearing many different opinions – after the fact – voiced be those who had no idea of the time, effort, hours I’d spent putting it together, and with no care for how this might make me feel – was depressing. To put it lightly.

    I remember going home and wanting to quit.

    1. This is common. How much time was spent evaluating the effectiveness of the pastors sermon in comparison? I can guess and make that question merely rhetorical–not much!
      You hit on the bulls eye the pastoral element and the technical. Those should be on my list above as major points of what the job is, even if not in title.

      1. Rich, whether or not it was “effective” was never discussed. Only what they liked or disliked. And – btw – the admin staff was invited to join in! Such fun!

  9. Social comments and analytics for this post…
    This post was mentioned on Twitter by rkweblog: Could leading worship really be one of the most stressful jobs one could have today? http://tinyurl.com/ybbr78b

  10. Social comments and analytics for this post…
    This post was mentioned on Twitter by rkweblog: Could leading worship really be one of the most stressful jobs one could have today? http://tinyurl.com/ybbr78b

  11. Social comments and analytics for this post…
    This post was mentioned on Twitter by rkweblog: Could leading worship really be one of the most stressful jobs one could have today? http://tinyurl.com/ybbr78b

  12. Social comments and analytics for this post…
    This post was mentioned on Twitter by rkweblog: Could leading worship really be one of the most stressful jobs one could have today? http://tinyurl.com/ybbr78b

  13. So what does it say about me and the fact I have TWO of the most stressful jobs??? Too Funny 🙂

  14. So what does it say about me and the fact I have TWO of the most stressful jobs??? Too Funny 🙂

  15. So what does it say about me and the fact I have TWO of the most stressful jobs??? Too Funny 🙂

  16. So what does it say about me and the fact I have TWO of the most stressful jobs??? Too Funny 🙂

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