Recently, the question was put to me: I’d like to play more at church but the worship leader seems to always be picking others over me, what can I do about this?
The truth is that this is a complex issue. I know a lot of worship leaders who really like someone personally but they aren’t a good fit for whatever reason and the WL doesn’t like conflict so they just use them as little as possible. Sometimes another person is being picked over someone for valid reasons. That other person is being raised up for long term leadership, or the worship leader has figured out that out of three players one really only has the availability because of work or school to do worship so they get a shot more than people who have the ability or time to serve elsewhere. Is that right or wrong? I don’t know, but it is a reality in many churches.
If you’re feeling overlooked or passed over or simply just want to play a little more, what should you do? Here’s some thoughts that will hopefully be helpful.
WE LIKE COFFEE
As your leader if you can buy them lunch or coffee. We like coffee.
By leader, I mean whoever would be the person in charge of choosing bands and worship leaders. In some churches it’s the worship leader, while in others there could be a band leader, music director or overseeing pastor.
By going about it this way, you are going to the source. Maybe a Worship Pastor is overseeing multiple teams and isn’t aware of any issues. Maybe there is a reason why you’re being passed over but the music director made the decision and your band leader doesn’t feel comfortable being the middle man so you won’t get a straight answer, or you’ll have to do coffee twice.
By asking them to lunch or coffee you are doing four things:
1. You are showing initiative
2. You are giving them a chance to prepare for the meeting (no blindsiding)
3. You give them a good spot for a conversation. Church or practice days don’t lend for good, productive conversations.
4. You give them the chance to talk right there and then if they want to because you’ve opened up the door for talking in a non-demanding way.
Instead of saying “Why don’t you let me play more?” which puts the responsibility on them, try something like “I don’t feel like I’m being asked to play that often, is there something I could do to improve musically or as a team member to play more?” What you’re doing here is being open and honest about how you feel, and you’re being direct with the issue. But, you are being gracious and putting the responsibility on yourself instead of the leader.
Maybe the issue is as simple as “we’ve got 8 singers and only need 2 each Sunday.” Or that the person who’s being used more is being groomed for something, like a future worship leader. However, the issue could be more complex. I’ve personally made a mistakes over the years like misreading people and assuming that they couldn’t hear the hard truths or take critique. If this is the case your situation, your coffee and questions give a chance for the leader to make a correction on their evaluation.
There is also always the possibility of answers you won’t want to hear…
BE READY FOR THE HARD ANSWERS
The original question above is hard to answer without knowing all the details. “Why am I not being used more?” Is a question I’ve heard many times from people who wouldn’t like the answers, or who would be surprised by them at the very least.
Are you ready to be told the truth? Because that’s what you’re opening yourself up to. You could be told things that are hard to hear because you can’t see them in yourself. They are called blind spots for a reason.
You could be told that you’re hard to work with. The issue could be talent level or effort put in. It could be that you’re not a team player or that you want the band to mold to your sound instead of molding to the band’s sound. Maybe there are issues you’ve been talked to about in the past that you haven’t made changes on?
Over the years, I’ve seen all of this and more. It’s never a one size fits all answer.
DON’T ASK FOR WHAT CAN’T BE GIVEN
One thing I would add, is that you need to think about what you’re asking for. Is what you want something that your leader has the power to give?
This is why I recommended going straight to the top. By going to the worship leader instead of another band member or the music director instead of a band leader you go straight to the source. Maybe coffee needs to be with both a band leader and music director, but whatever your specific situation is, if you ask for something from someone who doesn’t have the power to make that decision, don’t be surprised at the answer you get.
A common example is for a worship band leader. Let’s say your church has one main worship leader and you want to lead sometimes, they may not have the power to grant your wish even if they wanted to. A few years back I had someone that was my “Fifth Sunday” worship leader. They wanted to be in a regular rotation, ever other week or something like that. Even if I had wanted to go with that plan, it wasn’t within my power. The leadership of my church had asked me to oversee the music (Music director) and to be the primary Worship Leader. It wasn’t in my power to make change. I could choose who played in the band, and had some slight leeway on having people lead every so often or co-lead with me, but that was it. The person was making demands that I couldn’t answer. It’s possible that you’re frustrated at your Worship Ministries’ leadership over a decision that was made higher up the chain.
WHATEVER HAPPENS, IT’S UP TO YOU HOW YOU RESPOND
Are you at your church because you’re part of the family or because you’re part of the band?
I would hope the answer is the former. While I can certainly see some scenarios where the reason for you’re not playing more would be worth leaving a church, I believe these to be the exception rather than the rule.
I need to be these things in the right order: A Christian. A member of my Church Family. A Worship Leader. In that order.
If I get answer I don’t like and metaphorically “take my ball and go home” then something from the above list is out of balance, and that’s not anyone’s fault but my own.