How Not To Hire Worship Pastors


    Jake Goslin works at Church Front and is a great guy when it comes to providing good YouTube Videos on how to do things in worship.  Though I don't always agree with him (primarily on Ableton versus hardware synthesizers), he's just about the only person on YouTube who is helping people learn things for church worship, and for that he deserves our gratitude.

    However, I was watching a video of Jake interviewing a hiring pastor and some of the things the pastor said gave me pause.  So I am providing commentary.  Understand that most of my comments are towards the pastor in this video, not Jake Goslin.

First: MBTI and Enneagram

    The pastor in this video mentions that he wanted candidates to send him their Meyers Briggs personality Type Indicator and Enneagram scores to know if he is compatible with the candidate.  As someone who's trained at the master's degree level on psychological assessments, and as a Christian, I find that this is a huge red flag.  It's also not uncommon within church leadership.  I've had to take such personality instruments when applying to worship leading jobs, and without question I think it's misuse of them.

    The first reason it is misuse of these instruments is they were never designed to predict or determine how well you can lead worship.  Not at all.  They were designed for other things.  Most notably, the MBTI is a self-discovery tool that is useful in couples counseling and career field search.  But last I checked, there has been no scientific study about what personality types work best as worship leaders or worship pastors.

    I say this because I had to learn in my master's degree that personality tests, or really any psychological test, cannot be used for a purpose it was not intended.  You can look up the case of Griggs v. Duke Power Company, 1971, which went to the US Supreme Court.  In this, Chief Justice Warren Burger noted that Duke Power Company had made no attempt to determine the validity of using high school aptitude test scores as predictors of work performance.  So while I am not a lawyer, I would very strongly caution churches before using these as hiring criteria for "best fit" or whatever nebulous criteria: you could be sued.  Is it likely that you will be sued?  Perhaps not, but why would you want to engage in an illegal and/or unethical practice?  I like Vanderbloemen Search Group, because though they use many personality tests on applicants, they have a web page explaining that it is "illegal to solely disqualify someone from hire based off of a personality assessment."  However, those churches using this group likely are unaware of this.

    So first of all, if you go to the MBTI's own website, you see that it was designed "to help people understand personality differences in the general population."  There's no direct data on "fit" for jobs, and indeed while the company authorized multiple "Do What You Are" books that focused on applying the MBTI to specific jobs, each of these books I have read came with a statement in the introduction about the MBTI being unable to scientifically determine your job for you: that these were based on correlations.  As well, the MBTI was not normed against religious jobs, and generally assumed that the intuitive types would enjoy religious work.  This means that it was not normed for specific church jobs such as pastor or worship leader.  As well, each of the MBTI personality types can be a manager, another fact taught in these books, so leadership is never something that any of the 16 MBTI types cannot do.

    The purpose of the Enneagram, per its own website, is "to help you identify both the strengths and the limitations of a preferred strategy and to give you guidance on how you may develop more capacity beyond it."  Nothing about what religious job you will be good at.

    In addition, the MBTI and Enneagram do not tell you what you are.  MBTI especially is not purely scientific because people's personality preferences tend to change over time as they mature, so test-retest validity is a bit lacking, especially now that they have reduced the number of questions on their tests in an effort to pursue marketing and money.  The Enneagram is also not scientific: it cannot be tested, and the supposed applications to spirituality deal more with reaching "enlightenment", a fuzzy term, rather than how well you will do as a worship leader.

    Vanderbloemen Search Group utilizes the Insights Discovery test.  On the Insights Discovery test description, they say their test is made "to help people understand themselves, understand others, and make the most of the relationships that affect them in the workplace."  Nothing in that web page says that it will determine how good someone is at working for a church, nor in doing any church job.  So to summarize my first point, using ANY test for something other than its intended purpose is both illegal and unethical.  If your church is doing this, solely basing hiring decisions off of personality tests, you need to repent and stop doing it.  This might sound harsh, but I don't know how else to put it: it's a very basic concept.

    The second problem with using personality tests for hiring is that all Christians are being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).  It's not about who we are.  God doesn't alter our core personality, but in that we become conformed to His image through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are changing (which means putting people in boxes is wrong) and we are equipped by God for this work (which suggests the majority of church work is done in God's power, not in our personality).  Pastors are supposed to be kind and loving towards everyone, and to not be argumentative (1 Timothy 3:3).  The Bible does not say "unless your MBTI is ESTJ."

    Also, the third problem with personality tests that measure extroversion is that it does not tell you if a person can handle or not handle working in a high stress and/or high-personal-interaction job.  I'm at one of the top 20 schools in the nation for clinical mental health counseling and they never even asked what my personality type was on applications or interviews.  Not once.  Why?  Because it does not determine your success as a therapist.  Personality doesn't determine your success in any job that I am aware of.

    Then finally, using personality tests for hiring decisions doesn't work because when people take tests specifically for hiring purposes, they tend to engage in image management, i.e. essentially lying on the test to make you think they are better or more desirable than they really are.  Even the most objective person will be swayed by the thought that the test they are taking is for hiring purposes.  So for such purposes, personality tests, even the best ones, have a very limited value.

    So what can we do with personality tests?  Ironically, they can help your church understand the applicant, not determine if they are a good fit.  They can help you understand the applicant's world view and therefore how they come across to you.  And honestly, it would be bad for your church to, for example, hire only intuitive MBTI personality types.  That could hypothetically lead to a leadership group lacking in personality diversity, which could lead to a lack of wisdom and insight.  If anything, I would think putting one of each MBTI type in your church would be a better idea, but again, I would not use MBTI to determine hiring.

Second: Cult of the Rock Star (Instrumental Proficiency)

    Another thing I believe this pastor accidentally does is, while saying he does not like the rock star mentality, he buys into it when he suggests that a worship leader should be the best at whatever their primary instrument is, so that others in the worship team listen to them.

    There are all kinds of problems with this.  The first that comes to mind is that if you have people on your worship team that only listen to people who are better at their instrument than they are, they might have a pride problem.  God never tells us to be the best at any instrument.  But God does tell people to obey those appointed over them in the church (1 Thessalonians 5:12).  So it shouldn't matter if the worship leader is the worst at acoustic guitar I've ever seen: if they tell me to do something, I should do it unless it is impossible or immoral.  They are in charge.  If you have someone on your team that can't listen and is rebellious, they don't need to be on your team, for that breaks unity.  An applicant that is not good at their job could be excluded from the hiring process, but not because people won't "listen to them."  The more salient reason to exclude them is because they simply are not ready: they need to master their instrument.

    Should worship leaders who are not as good as other solo instrumentalists listen to their worship team members?  You bet.  But if the worship leader/pastor needs to make a last minute change, the worship team should obey and follow.  If they have an issue, they should bring it up with the worship leader afterwards, and they should obey.  I have seen "problem" worship team members completely wreck what the worship leader is trying to do, and in some cases even be part of the reason the worship leader moves on or is fired.  That's not what God wants us to do.  We are to seek the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3).

    Besides, a worship leader's job is to lead: vocally or otherwise.  Often they sing while playing an instrument.  Those who are truly better than all other singers and instrumentalists on your team, at the same time, are often in professional music, not leading churches (but there are exceptions).  And I doubt your church (on average) will have enough money to pay them what they deserve for their incredible proficiency.

Third: Ageism in the Church

    While not necessarily a part of this video, understand that a recent trend has been to hire young (or young-looking) worship leaders to attract people to churches.  The problem here is that the Bible does not at any point equate mere age with leadership, young or old.  Indeed, the Bible often seems to do the opposite in the New Testament, equating age with wisdom (but obviously we know age does not always correlate to wisdom).

    I would like to see this trend end.  It is unbiblical and harmful.  And honestly, let's be frank: it's illegal.  In 2009, the US Supreme Court gave the opinion on Gross v. FBL Financial Services.  It said that the applicant must prove that they were not hired because of their age.  However, that also means that if you use the applicant's age as a hiring determination, whether you say this verbally or you put it on your qualifications, you are committing a crime, and could be sued.  And indeed, any pastor or worship leader who is giving speeches saying that worship leaders must be in their 20s or 30s needs to be dealt with.  I've heard it actually said, though I can't recall who and when, and quite frankly, it's alarming, and unethical.

    Now does Bob Kauflin recommend having young worship leaders?  You bet, but only because he believes that the generations should lead worship together.  His stated reason in the book Worship Matters was to include younger generations in decision processes and get their opinions.  He never teaches that only young people should be worship leaders.  Indeed, for worship pastor (1 Timothy 3, overseer / elder) we are told not to make novices elders/overseers.  But at the same time, Bob Kauflin himself is still one of several worship leaders at his church.  So unless you have an incredibly wise young person (similar to Timothy in the Bible, I believe), age should not be part of hiring considerations for worship leaders.

Fourth: The Constant Flogging of Ableton

    I've spoken about this elsewhere, but I am not a fan of Ableton.  I know it can do great things, and for other churches and in certain situations it's great.  And I'm not disrespecting Jake Goslin here.  I'm glad he has a training for Ableton.

    But I think the abuse of Ableton is what bothers me more.  Small churches often get on the Ableton train in order to use tracks which make them sound like instruments they don't have.

    The first way this doesn't work is if I am visiting a church.  For example, if they do a Brian Doerksen song, I'm going to know that there's no oboe player on stage.  If you're running some Phil Wyckham stuff, I'm going to know that you don't have a synth player (or two) up there.

    Maybe your average church goer can't tell and just thinks it's cool.  I am not here saying the Bible forbids Ableton.

    But I think we lose some of the "we" aspect when we misuse tracks on Ableton: we lose the congregational aspect of worship when we use pre-recorded tracks.  I've been to churches like this where the live broadcast is mainly the Ableton tracks and not the actual people on the worship team.  I find that odd and inauthentic.  It's like lip-syncing: maybe the reason you can't find enough musicians for your worship team is because those interested in serving have seen your live broadcast and know that you basically throw away their service to God (i.e. their playing) to drown them out with tracks.

    I am not against tracks for small churches.  Some churches have nothing at all, so sometimes using worship tracks in church (sort of like Christian karaoke) can be helpful.  Or sometimes everyone is out on vacation.

    But I find it can quickly become disingenuous if misused.  I may be a worship pastor soon, and I've already told the hiring pastor that I'm against Ableton tracks due to the inauthenticity they bring.  I don't mind it for click and MIDI integration though.

    I am very much a fan of using Ableton as an instrument and for running clicks to help keep the band on timing.  But not in adding tracks.  I think it's more authentic to adapt or improvise a song than it is to use canned tracks, for those who listen to Christian music will also be able to tell.

    So my advice is not to abandon Ableton.  However, my advice is this: if you use it, use it well.

    My advice to churches is actually that they do not record live worship using tracks, even if they have copyright license from CCLI.  To explain why, ask yourself if you've ever seen a church website with stock photos of photogenic people.  Doesn't it seem a bit creepy?  You can usually tell when you compare their website to Google Maps and/or satellite photos, or even in person: if their website makes them look like they're a big church with money and a bunch of abnormally photogenic people, but you visit in person and they're the opposite, doesn't that feel odd?  Would you attend a church like this?  Honestly, I'd not want to do this.  Same with the live stream: if I hear tracks but see live musicians, I'm going to be very skeptical of your live stream.

    I say this as someone who has weighed in and helped design a church website: stock photos of people who don't attend your church looks creepy.  And live tracks that are overriding or replacing your actual musicians sounds and looks creepy.  If people attend and find out that you're not as cool in real life as you were on live broadcasts or your website, some may find that so odd that they don't come back.  Be who you are.

    The final caveat I have about Ableton is it's not as cheap as you think, if you go by Church Front's Toolkit Keys Rig:

Church Front
          Toolkit Keys Rig
    So with all due respect to Church Front, that's expensive, often too expensive for the average small church.  A Roland System-8 would run you half that in excellent used condition from