The Opportunities are Great
The most frequent question I am asked by those who are considering music and worship ministry as a possible vocation is “Can I get a job?” Fortunately, the answer is a resounding “yes” — there are many positions open and they are diverse and often flexible. At a time when some other fields find it hard to secure positions, our field seems ripe with possibilities for finding employment. While position descriptions continue to change as churches transition, positions are available for those who want to serve.
Diverse Positions and Skills
Never before have the position announcements been so diverse. The combinations of skills that churches are seeking are broad – contemporary band leadership, organ playing, choral directing, guitar, keyboard, technology, sound reinforcement, graphic design, media, arts management, etc. Often times, the combination of skills are non-traditional and reflect the particular needs of the local congregation rather than the usual skills of people who may be preparing for this vocation. Position announcements often reflect the need for immense flexibility and continued preparation for skills that may need shoring up.
Fitting the Niche
Yet, not all of these positions are right for all musicians who want to serve the church or even for those who have specific training and skills. The challenge in today’s music and ministry job market is finding exactly the right fit both for the potential minister and the congregation.
As the music of the church has begun to transition from being so heavily influenced by larger entities (mega churches, institutional models, etc.), the emphasis on worship’s being local and contextual has increased. Music and worship leaders of the future will need skills to listen even more carefully to people and learn their stories and histories in order to design and lead worship that incorporates local flavor.
Willingness to Move
While positions are available and in some cases plentiful, they may require relocating to another part of the country. For instance, a recent student at Baylor found a position that fit his unique skill set and theological perspectives by moving from Texas to the West Coast where he serves in a congregation from a denomination quite different from that in which he was reared and nurtured. Another former student is in the process of moving from his small Kansas town to a much smaller city in Oklahoma to take a part-time position that fits his skills and priorities. Once he gets there, he’ll find other employment to supplement the relatively small salary he’ll receive.
Since many in today’s churches are not content worshiping in only one musical or cultural dialect, the need for those seeking music and worship vocations to prepare broadly has never been greater. As we move forward (regardless of age), worship leaders will be challenged to master multiple musical styles, to converse about contemporary developments and trends in worship, and to be conversant regarding historical patterns and understandings. All the while, we will need the pastoral skills to form the weekly gathering into a recognizable “local” offering.
Persona and Emotional Intelligence
Compared to music ministry position postings of the past, image, authenticity, and perception are significant components of many worship leader advertisements. Words such as dynamic, innovative, winsome, spirit-filled, prophetic, shepherding, and energetic are prominent. Also, listed are pastoral skills — ability to guide a team, an understanding of interpersonal dynamics, and provide musical mentoring. Other qualities deal with issues of emotional intelligence – the ability to accurately understand and gauge one’s on emotions as well as those of others.
What constitutes appropriate training for worship leadership positions is also in flux. While graduate degrees and seminary training were often the norm in the past, many positions cite these qualities as “preferred,” and they are also open to undergraduate education as the highest educational level. However, it seems that most positions do prefer college-level training in music. Furthermore, while at other times training was seen as something you receive before investing a long life of service; training today is ongoing with many refined and specialized skills being perceived as “on the job” and “ongoing.”
Full-time and Part-time
Positions are plentiful, both full-time and part-time, and often expectations for part-time positions seem nearly equal to full-time expectations – even smaller churches want higher quality ministries with creative leadership. As we look toward the future, likely full-time positions will not diminish; however, many more congregations will seek the flexibility of leaders who can guide others, rally a team of volunteers, mobilize other passionate people, and form a dynamic ministry in which the part-time person serves in the function of enabler for others.
A challenge for the future among leaders in our field is the creation of avenues through which thousands of well-trained musicians who are not able to find music employment in their mostly performance-based training can receive preparation to guide these ministries. As many younger people are content and skilled as creating a “job” from a series of smaller jobs, serving the church as a musician/minister will serve as the linchpin for these entrepreneurial individuals.
Age Bias Addressed
Many older music and worship leaders are particularly aware of what is perceived to be an age bias among current music and worship leader positions. Although to my knowledge no one has studied this perception; anecdotally, there does seem to be some validity to this claim – many position announcements do seem to advantage younger leaders.
Worthy of future research, this potential bias needs to be addressed with careful consideration and conversation among pastors and other church leaders. Likely related to our culture’s obsession with looking and acting young – especially for visual leadership – it will be incumbent for younger leaders to receive broad based training in order to assure that later in their ministry they have the skills necessary to move into positions that they may more highly prize at a different developmental stage.
Similarly, the need for ministers to continue a life-time of preparation can not be over-stressed. Lastly, ministers who learn to empower others in leadership instead of the tendency to lead everything ourselves will function more effectively throughout the many seasons of life and ministry.
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