5 Things Worship Pastors Do that Annoy Volunteers

  • Written By 
  • Josh Kluge

Okay Worship Pastors, brace yourselves because it’s your turn! You might need to grab your journal, your Passion translation of the Bible, your favorite Bethel instrumental album, and a comforting cup of coffee before you read these because they pack a punch!

Okay, seriously though, I hope you know we’re joking. This list is honestly a great reminder & contains things that as leaders we must be intentional to remember.

It’s really easy as Worship Pastors to look at our teams, see different areas that need growth, and think the reason has nothing to do with us. What I’ve learned over the years is culture and capability starts with us and how we lead our teams. Like our previous article (5 Things Volunteers Do that Annoy their Worship Pastors More than Anything) that’s the intention of this entire post: to point us towards growth!

You might look at this list and feel the inner-urge to justify your leadership choices. It’s true, maybe you do have completely valid reasons for why you lead the way you lead. But I want to challenge you to be open. 

If all we do is justify our shortcomings, then we’ll never grow.

Lastly, I know things happen and sometimes these might be unavoidable. This article isn’t for the occasional instance, but for those that have formed habits around unhealthy and inefficient leadership practices.

And with that, let’s jump in!


1) Posting the Set Last Minute

Listen, I know that the Spirit of God can only speak to you about what songs you’re to do during a set 12-seconds before you walk on stage, but maybe you could try asking Him a little sooner what songs He wants in your set?

All kidding aside, I get it. Sometimes there are moments super last-minute when you sense that the song needs to change. I’ve been there and stand behind it. But if He’s omniscient & knows the beginning from the end, then I would dare to say He’s just as capable of speaking to you about the set a few weeks in advance just as much as the night before.

We implemented this approach at our church a few years back & really beautiful testimonies kept coming forth. Stories about how much someone needed a certain song we led that was already picked weeks in advance. Even though the situation that surfaced the reason they needed that song in that specific moment had happened only a few days prior. Talk about powerful!!

Now, I know that getting the set complete weeks in advance is not always realistic. 

Sometimes there’s other factors beyond asking the Lord what songs we should do during our set. Factors like “what’s the message on?”, “what does pastor want?”, “who’s playing?”, etc. It’s real and completely valid!

For years I was a worship pastor somewhere where in the middle of soundcheck our boss would ask for the set to be changed. So I get there are other factors at play. But one thing I learned in that role is although sometimes a song would have to change last minute, only rarely did the entire set change last minute.

Avoiding picking the entire set because you’re worried about one song being changed, still causes your team to have to frantically learn a ton of songs last minute. Someone having to prepare 1 song last minute is better than 4.

Out of all the places I’ve served as a worship leader, only that one environment has ever given me a legitimate excuse for being unable to fully plan a set out in advance.

Now if it all truly boils down to you procrastinating please remember that people need more than 12-seconds to prepare. 

Just because you only need a few days to prepare doesn’t mean everyone on your team is the same way. 

Too many times I’ve watched people show up unprepared and stressed the entire set, not because they didn’t practice, but because they didn’t have enough time to adequately prepare to the point where they could confidently focus on worshipping.

Great leaders do whatever they can to help their team succeed. Adequately resourcing them so they can come prepared is a crucial part of that.


2) The Only Time You Call or Text is When You Need Something from Them

I have yet to meet a Worship Pastor that proactively chooses to value the church service & their other tasks over their volunteers, but yet over the years it’s the most consistent hurt I’ve processed with 100s of people from churches all around the world. Feeling like the entire foundation of their relationship with their leader is built upon how their leader can benefit from their gift.

Sunday mornings are stacked with so many moving parts. So taking time to build relationships with the people on your team is pretty difficult to do. But to be a Kingdom leader means you’re doing more than just withdrawing from those you lead. It means you’re adding value.

What does it look like to intentionally invest into your worship team?

Let me start off by saying, this doesn’t mean that you have to go out to dinner with everyone on your team once a week. That is completely unrealistic; especially when you have a large team. But intentionally developing relationships with everyone on your team is not impossible to achieve. It just requires intentionality.

Here are some ways you can intentionally develop relationship with everyone on your team:

  • Create intentional moments after soundcheck, between services, and at the end of the day with each person that is serving that day.
  • Set up a time to call a team member on your way home from work.
  • Invite them in on something that you’re already doing.
  • Before you go to work or on your way home from work, go on a walk with a team member.
  • Individually or group text check-in on your team.
  • Ask a team member (or even a group of team members) out for coffee or a meal.

Building relationship doesn’t require this big elaborate extravaganza every week, but it does require intentionality. 

The mark of a good leader is not your ability to get results, but the condition of everyone on your team in the process of getting to those results. If your sets are incredible, but everyone on the team isn’t being invested into – you’re missing the mark.


3) Scheduling the Team Last Minute

Scheduling the team was my least favorite part of my worship pastor responsibilities. It takes a lot of time & even when you finish, you know that a sea of “declines” are soon on their way. So I get putting it off to the last possible minute, but we have to remember people have lives outside of the church. Like posting the set last minute, scheduling people last minute also does not allow our team members to adequately prepare. 

Learning the songs is not the only thing that goes into preparing for a service

People use the weekends to run errands, do chores around the house, take their kids to their games and activities, & most importantly: REST! All of these things are considered when someone schedules out their weekend. Typically when last-minute requests come in the first thing to go is rest. 

And when I say rest I don’t just mean a nap. I mean true Sabbath that contributes to your overall health

As leaders, we need to prioritize our team’s health. Especially because, more than likely, they will serve whenever we ask them to. Regardless of how it affects their health.

Serving is something that volunteers truly love to do. So they’ll still show up and serve if they are scheduled last-minute. But as Kingdom leaders, it’s our responsibility to value & protect their time. 

Scheduling your team last-minute communicates a lack of value for their time.

On a practical note: the further out you schedule, the fewer “declines” you’ll get back because you’re getting ahead of everyone’s schedule. So if the “decline” game is exhausting and causing you to push off scheduling your team, break the vicious cycle & get ahead of it.


4) Forgetting that Volunteers are VOLUNTEERS

There are so many different things that this phrase applies to (time, availability, promptness of replies, etc.)

It is a joy and a privilege to serve the local church, but as leaders, we must intentionally remember that our volunteers’ lives don’t revolve around the church like ours might.

We must be conscious of how much we are expecting from those that serve on our teams & if those expectations are healthy and realistic. Sometimes we are so caught up in the weekly rhythm of what our role expects from us that we forget how much we are expecting from our volunteers.

Weekly services, events, small groups, and rehearsals can quickly fill up a person’s calendar. 

I’m beginning to see all of this from a new vantage point.

For the first time in a long time, I am not on staff at a church & simply a volunteer. This Sunday was my first time serving since transitioning out of my worship pastor role. After having a few months of attending a service and leaving when it was over, I quickly remembered how a long day of serving affects the rest of your day.

I’m someone who gets majorly charged by the large church gathering environment too. Serving and being surrounded by people FILLS. ME. UP. (enneagram 7 here! [some of you might lol that I just referenced the enneagram, but I use it to affirm that I’m one of those high-energy environment loving weirdos]). But even though serving this Sunday charged up my soul, I was noticeably a little drained by the end of the day. What about those that aren’t extroverted freaks like me?

Honestly, it was a great reminder that over the years, although the week someone served might have only required 5-7 hours from them that week (which after driving to and from throughout the week is literally a work day), it still affects other aspects of their week and lives.

That is just one of the different ways that this concept applies

Again, YES it is such a joy to serve and serving does add so so much to our lives. So in no way am I saying, “Hey Jerk! This is a completely depleting thing you’re asking people to do each week!” But serving does cost our volunteers something. 

Sometimes what it cost is more than what they can give. Other times we are making it cost more than it should.

As leaders of volunteers, we must be asking, “Is what I’m asking for worth what it might cost them?” and, “Am I expecting too much from those that are volunteering?”

Following that previous sentence I started to type out, “We need to have grace with our volunteers…”, but honestly I had to correct myself, because that’s such a poor understanding of what this entire section is about. 

It’s not about having grace for them as they are “learning to step up to the plate.” Maybe they need to have grace with us for expecting so much from them? That’s totally a case by case thing & CAN NOT flippantly be applied across the board, but something for us as leaders to individually consider.

We need to understand that just as God has called us to serve the local church, so has He called us to steward things outside of the church too. 

I’ve talked to so many volunteers over the years and the mass majority adore how they get to serve! Although it is truly their joy to serve the local church, we have to remember God has given all of us more than the local church to steward. 

He’s called us to steward our families, relationships, community, jobs, & ourselves. Because of that, the people on your team might not be available as much as you wish they were or able to reply as quickly as you wish they would.

Are you leading in a way that recognizes that and champions it?

Sidenote: Scheduling things out well in advance helps volunteers make time for the team they absolutely love serving on, while still being able to steward the other areas of their life. 

Lastly and I’ll just say it and move on, We need to be intentional to not ostracize those that aren’t capable of giving us much as we’d like. For whatever reason it may be.


5) Using Spiritual Language to Justify Manipulation

I tread into this statement cautiously, fully aware of how much there is to unpack, & how I am not the best person to speak on the matter. Yet, here are a few thoughts.

It’s really easy to misuse scripture or our Christian vocab words and phrases, like “excellence”, “heart for the house”, “heart to serve”, “submit to my authority”, “suffering for the sake of the ministry” and so many more, in a way that more accurately reflects the message of the world than the message of the Kingdom.

I do agree with the intention of a few of the aforementioned statements, but too many times I’ve watched them used to justify getting people to do things that are damaging and inappropriate.

Yes, the Lord is worthy of our best, but I’ve seen teams make an idol out of excellence. Caring more about things being perfect than the whole reason why we are doing this in the first place. Sure you might be able to justify it with more spiritual language, but what do you focus on more “encounter” or “excellence”? Where your heart is, there you will find your treasure.

Yes, we are called to be servant-hearted people, but we can’t use that as a way of convincing people to neglect their families & personal health for the sake of what we need done at the church.

Yes, the Lord does call us to submit to authority, but woe to the man who believes everything they think and demand from people purely reflects the heart of the Lord. Especially when it results in the person of authority getting what they want at the expense of the one “submitting” to them.

Maybe a story is popping up in your mind right now about how someone you know did or experienced something similar and how awful the inflictor is for doing it, but we must remember: manipulation is so easy to do.

It’s so easy to manipulate and usually it’s not from a disgusting place either. It’s often pure intention not realizing what it’s doing.

When a little girl goes to her Dad with that tender precious look and says, “Daddy can I please…” and knowingly melts his heart into giving her whatever she wants, that’s manipulation. An insanely adorable form of manipulation, but nonetheless manipulation. Just like that little girl, we’re often ignorant to the fact we are doing the exact same thing. 

Unlike that little girl though, when leaders use spiritual language to get what they want, they are doing it in the name of God. To misuse His name for gain is what it truly means to break the commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”


So now what?

Something that I’m starting to believe now more than ever is that 99% of people’s shortcomings are not products of malice, but ignorance. Whether it be true ignorance or things we were ignorant to and are now in-process. My hope for you in reading this is not that you walk away with your head hung low. You’ve given your life to shepherding a team that together leads a community into encounter through praise and worship. That is so beautiful!

My hope for you is that this list would push you towards stewarding who God has called you to be as a Worship Pastor. 

There is no such thing as a perfect leader. Everyone has shortcomings. Everyone has pitfalls. A healthy leader is not the leader that has it all together. A healthy leader is a leader that’s committed to discovering and growing in the areas where they don’t have it all together.

Maybe you read this list and it challenged you in an area that we didn’t mention. Great! Again, the entire agenda of this post is to push us towards discovery and growth. 

Why it matters is because your community is looking at you as an example of what it means to be a Kingdom leader. Let’s be leaders that choose people, their health, & all that God has called them to steward both inside and outside the local church.


Click here to subscribe

You may also be interested in these related posts!

Ready to give it a try?

Get instant access to instrument and vocal tutorials for over 450 of today’s top worship songs!

How to Prevent Worship Team Volunteer Burnout

Do you think it’s possible to completely prevent worship team volunteer burnout? Burnout has become a widely discussed and researched topic in the past decade or so within the church world. The problem is that the vast majority of the discussion is focused on pastors. We often neglect the people who experience it most frequently: volunteers! …

How to Prevent Worship Team Volunteer Burnout Read More »

Episode 3: Why Your Worship Guitar Tone is Incomplete without Gain Staging & Drive Stacking

Worship Guitarists! If you’re not happy with your worship guitar tone, there’s a reason why. In this video series, we’ll show you why your worship guitar tone is incomplete without gain staging and drive stacking. You’ll learn how to get the most out of your pedals and amps to create a massive sound that will fill …

Episode 3: Why Your Worship Guitar Tone is Incomplete without Gain Staging & Drive Stacking Read More »

How to Prevent Worship Team Volunteer Burnout

Do you think it’s possible to completely prevent worship team volunteer burnout? Burnout has become a widely discussed and researched topic in the past decade or so within the church world. The problem is that the vast majority of the discussion is focused on pastors. We often neglect the people who experience it most frequently: volunteers! …

How to Prevent Worship Team Volunteer Burnout Read More »

Send this to a friend