For many of us in the worship industry, our entrance into ministry was anything but conventional. As the position has evolved over time, so has the skill set and experience we’re expected to bring to the table. Gone are the days of needing an MDiv with a musical pedagogy sidecar (yea, look that up, I had to). Today it’s more common to see churches hiring musical artists with good theology rather than theologians who fancy music. This certainly isn’t universal across churches and denominations, but in my experience, it holds true for the majority of “progressive” and non-denominational style churches, which will be our grid here.
Some time ago I noticed a lack of practical information designed to help future worship pastors land that critical first job. Maybe it’s out there; I just couldn’t find much of it. So in this series we’ll take a look at some of the ways you can begin setting yourself up for success at getting your foot in the door of ministry. Let me say upfront that this is just my perspective. It’s not the only way, and maybe not even the best way, it’s just what’s worked for me. So eat the fish and leave the bones. Disclaimers said, let’s get on with it!
#1 You actually do have to know some theology
While churches probably won’t expect you to be their top theologian, you will definitely be put in situations that require you to accurately articulate biblical concepts. Something as simple as the language of your prayer can speak volumes about your understanding of God. Not only do you need a position on key theological issues, you need to be able to support that position from scripture and clearly explain it.
If theology scares you, or you think musicians don’t need it, start by getting a book on systematic theology and brush up. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology is a good place to start. It’s big, but not terribly difficult to digest. Once you’ve established your position, you’ll need to be able to speak it clearly. A great way to learn this is by finding a group of friends who share an interest in theology and discussing it – regularly – maybe over your favorite adult beverage, if that’s your thing. This helps you develop a conversational style that, hopefully, results in a winsome and graceful approach to articulating your beliefs.
At some point in the interview process you’ll be asked for your theological beliefs, possibly in writing. Churches are fond of the “candidate questionnaire”. Take the time to present your beliefs accurately and intelligently. In today’s social climate, it’s important to establish yourself as someone who can be trusted to communicate clearly and gracefully.
I’m not a fan of over-spiritualizing. However, if you’re asked an open ended question about say, your worship philosophy, take the opportunity to work in some theology. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, but just enough to demonstrate the you’ve come to your position intelligently. Again, this helps you present yourself as someone who can skillfully interject his/her beliefs into the conversation without being preachy (just don’t be preachy!).
Having a solid grasp on my theological beliefs has been invaluable, not just professionally, but also personally. If you’re interested, take this as a challenge to grab a good book, find some friends to process with, and enjoy the process of developing a better understanding your faith.
Question: What makes you nervous about articulating your theology. Or for those already in the business, how have you been successful at establishing and communicating your beliefs? I’d love to hear your take on this issue!
In part 2 we’ll look at some nuts and bolts of music and producing.