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Pastors: Should Your Worship Leader Also Lead Communications?

In an extraordinary number of churches, the worship leader is also the leader of the communications or media team. After all, it can make sense – a good worship leader knows music, knows how to communicate a message, understands the experience of being onstage, and has the trust of the pastor. Especially in a small church it’s a logical choice. But as a church grows, it could lead to problems, and here’s why:

1) A worship leader is a worship leader first. He or she will always look at everything through those eyes, consider the worship department and team a priority, and no matter how mature, naturally slant decisions in that direction.

2) Great worship is important, but is only a part of the overall outreach of the church. A communications or media director needs to understand balance in a church’s message. For instance, while the new worship album is terrific, its promotion needs to be integrated into the overall messaging and branding of the church.

3) Invariably, where worship leaders are media directors, I’ve noticed that camera placement, lighting, staging is all designed around the worship set, and not the pastor’s message. Again, a strong media director needs to understand the balance.

4) In the same way, when worship leaders also lead communications, I’ve noticed the equipment related to music is always amazing, while the equipment related to video, live streaming, and other communication areas is often neglected, or less expensive and effective. It’s often the same way when it comes to the salary and experience levels of each team.

This is in no way meant to disparage great worship leaders, and I have no doubt that in some cases it can work. But the bottom line is balance. A communications strategy involves sharing the message and brand identity of the church without undue influence from any single department of the church. While there are remarkably capable, seasoned, and mature worship leaders in churches today, leading worship and music well is a full time responsibility in itself. So let’s allow them to focus on worship and music and be amazing.

Adding communications and media under that authority is far too often viewed as an “add-on” and not given the weight and responsibility it deserves.

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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  1. I may be biased (I am a Communications Pastor, who doesn’t lead worship), but I agree! Twenty years ago it would be normal for a Worship Pastor to lead all things media. After all, they dealt with the sound more than anyone. But in the last few years, with the RAPID increase in technology, Social Media, 24/7 communications, HD Video, etc, it is more important than ever to have someone completely focused on all things Communications.

    I work really close with our Worship Pastor, on a peer level, to lead. In that we make sure everything they have in media is provided. Because I am in a separate department, we are able to focus with greater detail on all things Comms and Media, church wide. They can then focus on picking, learning, and leading worship, church wide. They are able to do what they are best at – setting an atmosphere for God’s presence. And the Comms Director can do what they do best – Tell an awesome story of Christ and what He is doing. It helps us BOTH!

  2. Well Phil……first I would make the case that the worship leader wouldn’t want to be involved with media at all if he or she had the choice. It would seem to me to be a huge mental distraction trying to lead people into the presence of the Lord while also thinking about what slide is on the left screen or if the video feed is playing back correctly in the lobby. I’ve done consulting in a ton of churches and I can count on one hand (with fingers left over) the number of times a worship leader was successful at handling both of these roles. It’s simply too much for one individual to do and still maintain a meaningful spiritual mindset during the service.

  3. The two roles are remarkably different. They are both important, but I agree with your rationale: they should not be performed by the same person. I recall a friend who had just come from a highly charismatic pentecostal church in California, back to my town in Australia. He raved about how during the worship service that the “Holy Spirit” appeared above them as a light filled cloud, which filled up the church so they couldn’t even see each other. He showed me the event on a Youtube video, and while my orthodox, conservative mind is always open, all I could see was a few spotlights shining on the dust in the atmosphere – like you would get in any room in my house. The moral? What feels like a wonderful live experience, may not translate as well through media. The worship leader’s main job is to help people enter the presence of God (to love Jesus more). The media director needs to consider how to best present this act, but also consider how it will translate to people watching outside the church walls.

  4. All four points you make are completely true, Phil. I have never worked with a worship leader who would of made a good media director or communications director. As you said, their ideas are slanted and further more, from my experience, the more creative they are, the more distracted they are- which brings on a whole new slew of issues that effects everyone working with them.

  5. I would wholeheartily agree with you and the comments. A media communications director comes with a skill set that understands crisis management, the effective use of social media, and can be objective about the Pastor’s and Church’s messaging objectives, that most Music and Worship leaders cannot focus on while preparing for effective and meaningful worship praise and music presentation. Having one person oversea those vastly different and taxing jobs is setting that person up for an early burnout and a very unhappy, frustrated staff.

  6. Interesting insights Phil. I think many churches don’t have a choice.

    Their size and budget dictates the dual role. I’ve seen tech/youth/young adult leaders all take on the role. But never the other way around. A comm’s person then move into a tech/youth/young adult/worship leaders role.

  7. I agree with your points Phil. When a church is smaller, I think it is a natural fit for the worship leader to pull double duty. As the church grows, I recommend a worship leader be focused on worship. Having the communication or media director not be the worship leader allows the overall message and brand of the church to be properly represented.

  8. I’ll agree with all of the other comments, and add one more I’ve seen quite often (and this is just my point of view – some feel the opposite). When the worship minister is put in charge of the media, quite often it becomes all about “the show” instead of focusing on worship. Having worked on thousands of shows in my lifetime, including concert tours, theater, live television, and more, worship should not be about how great or impressive the lighting, sound, or video might be. It should be about worshiping our Lord. Media should be there to enhance that worship, take away all distractions to getting there, and bring in as many people as possible to participate in that worship. But the focus needs to be the message and the act of worship, NOT the show and what we in the biz call “flash and trash” – things that impress just for the sake of impressing via technology.
    Again, just my personal view, but one which we have used to choose where our family worships. If the venue is focusing on the media to impress and make a great, loud, flashy, fun show, but they don’t enhance the message or the worship, and if they actually SEPARATE the audience from the worship team and experience, then they are like a resounding gong or a crashing cymbal…
    That said, the same thing can happen with a media minister that is all about the show. So it’s not just when music ministers are in charge!

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