Worship Pastors: Why and How to Start Using Music Directors


I’ve been to a lot of churches that don’t have assigned music directors. It seems to mostly be smaller churches that feel they either don’t have the resources/personnel necessary for a Music Director (MD), or just generally don’t feel it’s needed. I’m here to tell you that almost any church is not only capable of introducing an MD role to their teams, but will actually be better off for it.

What exactly does a Music Director do and what should their responsibilities be? That will vary drastically based on the size of your church, worship team, sound system, scheduling practices, and so much more. But generally speaking, the MD is there simply to help guide aspects of rehearsal and performance to alleviate some of that responsibility from the worship leader.

Having an MD role is a great way to empower volunteers to step into roles of leadership. It also helps to takes some of the weekly burden off your shoulders and allows you to place your focus less on musical details and more on your team, interacting with the congregation, and crafting a worship experience.

If you’re interested in starting a weekly MD position at your church, here are some things to consider and how to accomplish it:

Decide What the MD Will Do

Before you advertise to your team that you’re introducing an MD role, first decide what that will mean for your church. Will they be putting together the Ableton session/click tracks, or just running the setup you give them? Are they going to email the band out of Planning Center in the middle of the week with set notes?

Start with lighter responsibilities to get a feel for how your team responds. As time goes on, you can make the role a little more involved. Even just assigning someone in PCO as the “MD” encourages them to step up to the plate and be more prepared and ready to act as a leader. This empowering of team members can help to instill a healthy accountability and leadership culture amongst your volunteers.

Make Expectations Clear

This ties into the last point. Basically, after you’ve decided what the MD will be responsible for, communicate that clearly to your team! They want to know exactly what they are signing up for if they volunteer to be an MD.

Make sure they are adequately trained in any tasks they would be responsible for. If they need to run Ableton, meet with them for 15-20 minutes before a rehearsal or in the middle of the week and teach them how. If they are sending a “band notes” email out of PCO, make sure they have the right permissions in the application and teach them how to do it!

Meet with the Whole Team

There are some changes that are appropriate to communicate over email, but for other bigger announcements, meeting in person is important. If you’re not already doing something with your team once a month, set up an all-team hangout. It could be at your church, at a park, or your house.

Hang out and then dive into the news that you’re introducing an MD role to weekly band rotations. Make it clear what the MD is responsible for, what would be necessary for someone to be eligible for that role, and encourage your team to support those in that role the best they can.

The MD is there to ensure band practices and run-throughs are smooth, to take care of musical details, and to lessen the burden on the worship pastor. If everyone on the team understands this and shows up prepared, it will increase the efficiency of rehearsals and help your team to work together cohesively.

Start Post-Rehearsal & Post-Service Meetings

Something that several churches do that I’ve been a part of are post-rehearsal and post-service meetings. The entire team doesn’t need to come to this, but generally speaking the sound tech, worship pastor, lighting person, media person, and music director will meet at the sound booth or in a separate room after rehearsal to talk about what went well and what needs to be adjusted. If there are specific notes for the media, tech, or music teams, the leaders for those teams will relay that feedback to everyone.

If you’re doing 2 services on the weekend, it can be especially helpful to also do a 5-minute powwow after the first service. Bring the MD with you and allow them to contribute any necessary feedback, and to relay necessary feedback to the band if needed.

Support but Don’t Micromanage

Depending on the size of the church you’re at and who is on the worship team, it’s often the case that the worship pastor is the most skilled musician and leader on the stage. For that reason, it’s super easy for them to get overinvolved and nit-picky about things the MD may miss.

I totally get it – you’re probably hearing things that they aren’t and have over a dozen things you could comment on at any point in time. But believe me, you are better off in the long-run to empower your volunteers to take up the MD role and run with the leadership. Make them feel comfortable making specific calls, ask for their feedback and perspectives, and allow them to drive the ship.

Unless something is very wrong and needs to be corrected, or your MD is asking directly for help, try to be as hands-off as possible. It’s simply going to take time for your MD’s to get more comfortable with the new role.

Chris Fleming, Author

About the Author

Chris Fleming is a professional musician from Minneapolis, MN who has played with artists such as TAYA, Big Daddy Weave, and Jason Gray. He is actively involved with the worship music scene and has contributed as a drummer, music director, song writer, and producer for various worship artists and churches locally and nationally. Chris is the Motion Designer at Motion Worship, helping to create motion background collections and countdowns for our subscribers.

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