What is a Worship Pastor?

In the next part of our occasional series about the jobs different church musicians do across Scotland we hear from Thomas Dean, worship pastor at the Edinburgh church Central.

Central LogoI’m sure what is involved in being a worship pastor is different for every one you ask. But for me personally my role is about inspiring our team to lead the church in worship. We have a large team at Central (over 70 people currently), which means my role isn’t simply just to choose and sing the right songs on a Sunday but to teach and train those around me to make the right decisions. This needs a lot of careful thought. What do we need to read to inform us of God and of our world? What should we be singing? Does it make sense to new people and even non-believers? What equipment should we be investing in? There’s also a lot of administration that goes on but after a few years that should hopefully become straightforward. Ideally I’d be making increasingly more time to pray, listen and write songs. But I’m honest enough to admit that sometimes it’s a sorry battle between those things and clearing my inbox.

I’d been leading worship at my home church in Glasgow from age 16 or 17 and upon moving to Edinburgh got roped in to lead at my new church Thomas Deanin just my second week there! After four years at university of learning and making many mistakes I was asked to do a year’s internship, and was then offered a job for 2 days a week. In many ways it was a dream come true to be able to get some payment to do the thing I loved. It’s not always easy having to find other work to supplement your income, but it’s a decision many worship leaders and pastors have to make and when you’re a young person it’s easier to manage since you have less outgoings. I studied classical music at Edinburgh University which you might think comes in handy, but to be honest my knowledge of Wagnerian Opera and orchestration aren’t the first things I use when meeting up with young worship leaders or rehearsing the latest loops with chords 1,4,5 and 6!

Thinking about the most important gifts you need and the biggest challenges you face, setting the right practical example is a real benefit, but I honestly think the best worship pastors are the best leaders. I could sing like an angel (I can’t!) and lead the church in passionate worship (hopefully getting there) but if I don’t know how to invest in those around me it’s going to be a fleeting triumph. Knowing how to help nudge people in the right direction in their playing, their worship leading, their preparation and setting goals for the team is the biggest challenge and the biggest joy. In our church we call it discipleship, investing in those around you what you’re learning from Jesus. I want to learn and then to try and teach patience, wisdom, discernment, and skill in those around me – younger and older.

Musicians have a particular ministry because God loves it when we sing to him. If He doesn’t, could nobody tell King David who would have wasted half his life song writing in the presence of God. There’s something in our hearts that’s awakened through song; often it’s a personal vulnerability, or a heightened awareness of God being with us, or a new perspective on the world around us as we take time together to focus all of our attention on God, the giver of life and the lifter of our heads (Psalm 3). We all have our part to play, God has gifted our team in making music and helping people to corporately engage with the maker of everything – we want to make the most of our God given talents by working hard and getting creative.

In terms of practical suggestions for what other worship leaders can focus on to do their job better, the one thing that people often overlook is how to set healthy expectations in their team. Is there a process for choosing songs? What happens when people are constantly late or don’t turn up to practice? Does the team ever have fun together? When people feel included and have a common purpose to work together towards the atmosphere can shift very clearly. Ask God for a vision of worship for your church, He’ll speak!

If you would like to hear some of Thomas' own music he has released an EP called He Knows My Name. You can find chord sheets there and also on the Different Voices new music page for the track "Father's House".

Thomas blogs on the Central website and on a blog for their whole team. He is also the Scotland rep for Worship Central.