Four Ways to Improve the Worship Leader–Pastor Relationship

By Jordan Richmond

Worship leader: your pastor is the single most important professional relationship you have. He is likely your direct supervisor. He’s the one who will sing your praises, or defend you to a disgruntled church member (or even before a board of directors or elders). He’s also responsible for the entire worship experience. You may be the primary facilitator of music and media, but he’s ultimately in charge—and he’s usually the one taking the fallout when things go awry. You absolutely want a healthy, dynamic relationship with your pastor.

I’m grateful to still have both professional working relationships, and friendships with the pastors under whom I’ve served. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. Start with Respect. Honor your pastor for the position he holds. Recognize that he’s attempting to juggle the needs of the entire congregation. Whatever difficulties you have as a worship leader, he has exponentially more. Don’t add to his headache. Like you, he is trying to do the best he can with his calling. Support him, defend him, publicly honor him.
  2. Be a friend. Your pastor wants a good relationship with you, trust me. You are a reflection of his leadership. Besides the pastor, you are the most influential leader at your church. You certainly have the largest platform. He has enough negative pressure. He wants (and needs) solid, trustworthy people around him. Do you think he wants a contentious office relationship? Decide to be his advocate. A true friend is quick to forgive, quick to assume the best, keeps a confidence, and of course is fun to be around.
  3. Exceed Expectations. Do everything with excellence. Discover his vision for a worship experience and seek to surpass it. If you mess up, don’t make excuses, but admit it immediately. Take complete ownership. At some point in the near future, you will want to take a risk and try something new. You are far more likely to be trusted with the freedom you desire if you have a record of excellence and integrity.
  4. Accept his ideas and criticism graciously. Whether it’s an artistic suggestion or a personal rebuke of your job performance, your pastor will at some point articulate room for improvement. Hopefully he does this alone, or at least couches it gently (since we worship leaders tend to be pretty sensitive). Regardless, realize that his criticism is probably right on, and is coming from the person who most wants you to succeed. Again, your performance is a direct reflection of him. Don’t roll your eyes, sigh, or defend yourself. Treat it as valuable advice—like a consult you didn’t have to pay for—and grow from it.

We worship leaders can be artsy and high maintenance. Some of you have put a bad taste in your pastor’s mouth. You have some repair work to do. And I’m sure many of you work with difficult pastors. But you’re difficult too, so you’re even. Thankfully I’ve found that people tend to be gracious when you approach them in humility.

Whatever your current state, you can begin today to put these into practice. Not only will you enjoy the benefits of a healthy, dynamic, mutually beneficial, and edifying relationship with your pastor, your congregation will benefit from seeing the synergy between the two most visible and influential leaders in the church. Authentic friendships are highly attractive.

How have you witnessed a good relationship between the worship leader and pastor benefit the entire church?  Have you seen the negative affects of an unhealthy or strained relationship?

Jordan Richmond is the worship pastor of Cayman Islands Baptist Church in beautiful Grand Cayman. He has also served local churches in Florida and Kentucky.


  1. says

    Jordan, Every pastor loves to hear this kind of wisdom from a worship leader. It is true that some pastors can demonstrate an egotism that makes life hard for the entire staff and bothers other pastors as well. At times the concept of fairness may seem to be non-existent. It may take a worship leader to the point where a new place of service must be sought. But remember that the scars of today turn into a healing balm in the future and it will minister to you, your family or some young worship leader whose name you have yet to learn. Knowing a little bit about you any your ministry makes me want to share you with others who are just now beginning to learn the lessons you have shared today. Many thanks.

  2. Bruce H. says

    I lead music for a very well known pastor/evangelist for seven (7) years. All of your points I followed completely with total sincerity and commitment because I was a new believer. (I had walked the isle at six (6) and realized at 25 that I was not truly saved.) It was a start-up church and I was leading music before the new pastor came. The pastor and I never had a close or moderate relationship even though I desired his discipleship during those years. I always felt a distance between him and I. I drove 45 minutes one way to serve as music director and teacher for both services on Sunday and on Wednesday night. I was never paid and never thought twice about it because we were building a church. When the church was averaging 300 I finally decided to resign due to the strain I felt between the pastor and I. The pastor accepted my resignation without a question. It was after I left that I began to grow spiritually. I will have to wait til I get to Heaven to find out what the issue was that caused the distance between us.

    • says

      I’m so very sorry Bruce. Relationships are definitely 2-way – no guarantees. I actually have a similar story, as do many church leaders. I honestly thought I was done with church work. While painful, these are the experiences that shape us in ways we may never totally understand. Just stay faithful brother. We have the scars, but let them keep you humble and sensitive. You will find that it’s these crushing experiences that make you valuable on stage and as a leader. And be strong – ultimately your future in ministry is not in man’s hands but in God’s. Blessings to you.


      • Bruce H. says

        Thanks, Jordan.

        I hope I didn’t come across as a victim. Everything that has occurred in my life is confirmation that God is conforming me to the image of His dear Son. I agree with everything you have said and know that all of it was there to display the grace of God toward me. Paul’s thorn can be exemplified in many ways. Many other events have taken place in my life since then. God has always been in the abyss before I arrived. Thank you for your compassion.

        • says

          No worries Bruce – I didn’t take it that way at all. I was recently asked by a well-known worship leader to tell him about a time I’ve been broken. I cried as I told my story. He then responded by saying, “No man has business being up front until he’s been broken. A flower smells best when it’s been crushed.” I can’t think of anyone God uses in great ways, who hasn’t experienced that. You never know what God has intended for you – He specializes in using the broken.

          Thanks so much for your comments Bruce – and blessings on you!

  3. says

    Neil Greenhaw and I have been planting a church together for a year and a half. It’s a pretty awesome partnership. Neil “gets” me, my vision, and my communication style. I “get” him, his creative brain, and his pastor’s heart. We are friends and co-laborers and I couldn’t be more blessed!

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