It is so crucial that the church employ a worship director with a combination of formal music training and intensive spiritual education, mentoring and some life experience. The process of contextualizing worship-oriented material so that it is relevant while not alienating people is a difficult one. It requires a deep knowledge of both the musical and spiritual needs of a congregation. Too often there is little crossover between music and theology in Christian post-secondary education. Worship pastors/directors either end up being theology graduates who can play a little guitar or music students with little spiritual and theological training. Each side of this equation presents unique problems:
Theology education + minimal musical training:
- Minimal musical training may lead to a strong inclination towards the kinds of music that sits within the musical comfort zone of the leader.
- That can lead to a “tyranny of ability” that leaves the worship leader unable to steward the inevitable changes that come with increasing diversity in a church because they can’t play music outside of a single genre.
- It also makes it easy to fall into the trap of merely playing the latest CCLI offering because it’s just easier to do that.
Musical education + minimal theological training:
- While this may enable a versatility when it comes to genre, this can also result in a lack of spiritual depth in handling the complex theological needs of a congregation
- Like it or not, the theologians that most congregants encounter consistently are the songwriters who write our worship music. Interrogating the theological nuance of various contemporary offerings requires a certain level of spiritual critical thinking that a music-only education does not equip one for.
- It can also lead to a “tyranny of preference” in which this leader looks down on more simple expressions as too “simplistic” to be of any value.
The solution lies in offering truly convergent programs that focus on equipping worship leaders with both musical and theological skill set. Also, churches can offer professional develop opportunities that seek to address the pitfalls of either deficiency.
I strongly believe that a worship director position should never be treated as an “entry-level” position in the corporation of church. Many graduates of baccalaureate degrees are in their early 20s and often lack the kind of convergent training mentioned above. It is crucial that the church surround young worship pastors with mentors who can speak into situations with the kind of wisdom that only lived experience can give them. The fault lies not with the youth of some worship pastors but rather the lack of proper training and mentorship.
Some churches will find themselves in a situation where it is not economically viable to hire a staff member to oversee worship in the church. In such a situation, maintaining an open dialogue between musically educated and theologically educated lay ministers will be important. Worship ministry shouldn’t be “handed off to someone.” Rather, a church should seek to lovingly foster a collaborative environment in which the different parts of the proverbial “body” (as spoken of by Paul in 1st Corinthians 12) function to form a worship liturgy “by the community” and “for the community.”
next week: part 3 Style, Metrics, Trends