Do Music Ministers Need a Music Degree? And Other Questions for Worship Leaders.

By Rebekah Bell

Music ministry stands apart from most other careers in the music world. In many instances, jobs in music are about performance, or the love of the art form. While these things are a part of music ministry, they are not the basis of it. Music ministry is about worship, and guiding people in church congregations into a worship experience. In fact, because of this, many churches give their music ministers the title “Worship Leader.”

Because music ministry is different than other jobs involving music, one must ask the question whether the same musical training and preparation is necessary to become a music minister. Should a music minister be expected to have formal musical training in addition to a seminary or religious education? Should a music minister be a talented musical performer? These are questions worth asking. Below are some more questions that might be asked when one is considering becoming a music minister.

  • Do I Have to Be Talented?

I believe that any calling is an outgrowth of one’s giftedness. Does this mean that a person has to be a singing star to serve their churches music ministry? No, I do not believe so. I believe that music ministry primarily requires giftedness in leadership and an understanding of the way in which music can be uniquely used to lead congregations into the heart of worship. While a church may enjoy listening to a person who is gifted singing in the pulpit every Sunday, I believe that God looks primarily at the Spirit of the person leading. At the same time, if someone hates music and feels no connection to it, or does not feel gifted in this area, it may be worth considering whether they are truly called to lead a church in musical worship.

  • Do I Have to Have Musical Training?

I believe that a basic understanding of music and the ability to read and interpret music is necessary for leading a church musically. However, “musical training” is a loose term that casts a wide umbrella over many different kinds of training. Some churches may require formal training of their music ministers. They might seek someone with a music degree or prior experience with a career in music. Other churches might simply seek someone with a musical background in their personal lives. Perhaps they received music lessons as a child or were taught by another worship leader or mentor. When looking for a job in music ministry, it is important to read the job description to find out what type of training the church requires.

  • Do I Need to Go to Seminary?

Much like the question above, the answer to this question will vary from church to church. I believe that it is important to realize that seminary is not a magical place that creates ministers. While those who are called may go to seminary, it is God who creates the minister. For me, this means that a person who does not attend seminary still may be a wonderful worship leader. At the same time, because music ministry is a type of ministry, I do believe that any music minister can benefit from seminary training.

  • Why Do I Want to Lead Worship?

There are temptations involved with music ministry that are not necessarily present in other forms of ministry. It is tempting to become a performer or to select only music the music minister likes. A music minister must examine his or her heart, just as anyone in ministry would, and ask what drives their interest in music ministry. Is it a desire to teach others to meet God in worship, or is it to sing before a congregation every Sunday? Only the music minister can answer that question for themselves.

Vocation is a complex thing. It is a meeting place of passion and calling. I believe that music ministers should have a passion for the form of worship that they are called to lead. However, I believe that God can use different people with many different kinds of training, with many different ability levels, to accomplish what He has called them to do. At the end of the day, it is all about calling. If God has truly called you to music ministry, then by all means be obedient to Him and follow through. Just do so wisely.  

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