How important is it to have a worship leader with at least a basic knowledge of music theory?

I have been frustrated with our worship leader in many areas because he doesn't have any musical training whatsoever.  He plays guitar and has a good voice, but he cannot change keys or read any music and gets angry with me when I try to suggest another key.  He chooses keys that are easier to play, but may not be the best key to sing them in for the congregation. He also does not want me to introduce any new songs because it's easier to play the songs that are familiar to him. I believe we need to keep the music relevent and fresh.  If we are always playing the same songs it"s not different than pulling out the old hymn book every sunday. He is always mentioning that I have more skills than him and it seems to me that he is a little insecure about his ability and envious of mine.  I am aware of this and I am very careful to suggest ideas without acting like I am more skilled or better than him.  He does get angry with me quite often.

I feel that we should be doing our best in serving the Lord.  I know that it is a privilege to serve Jesus in the music ministry and I thoroughly enjoy it, but I am losing that joy because of the leader we have right now.  I feel that he is on a quest for mediocrity instead of doing his best.  He doesn't put much effort into the music ministry.

Because of all of this I am looking for another church where I can participate and regain the joy that I have lost.  I want to do my best, but I can't do that under his leadership  :(

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It's a common theme that comes up from time to time, I hope you can work it out. What are you looking to accomplish with this thread? I didn't see any requests.

Also - Durango! Love it! I'm there once a year for a week in the Weminuche.

I have a problem with anyone on the music team that cannot read music.  It is like speaking but not being able to read.

That said, I remember when Phil Keaggy could not read a note of music. (he can now)

If you are seriously considering changing congregations, I would talk to your pastor and/or elder board (depending on your style of congregational government) BEFORE finalizing that to express your concerns about the leader and your consideration of moving on. They may have a better perspective or have other options you may not have considered.

There's a balance to be had. Many guys who can't read music can still flow between keys, improvise easily and hear the changes in a song. Being able to read sheet music could be like speaking English, but it won't help much if you need to communicate with a Spaniard.

This sounds like a heart issue, rather than simple education.

Thanks to everyone for your responses. I guess what I was trying to ask is am I wrong in thinking we should try to do a better job?  I'm not saying he has to have a music degree. It would not take a lot of time and effort to learn some basic music theory.  Our music leader travels a lot for work, so I am the one filling in when he's gone. I am also having some problems with the lack of organization.  We never know who is going to be there for practice or for the service. Is it too much to ask to have a little scheduling?  I call it a controlled chaos.  

I did have a couple of meetings with the pastor and leadership about some of these issues, but since the music leader is also a major part of the leadership it went nowhere. He made it very clear in our meetings that he did not want any input from me.  My vision for the music and his are totally different so I have decided to move on in order to prevent anymore discord in our group.  I have been involved in this music group for eight years and I have played plenty of songs that I didn't care for, but I never thought that it was beneath me.  I don't think that I am better than the leader.  We have different strengths and weaknesses and we should be able to work together but he does not want to do that. It has been a very difficult decision to leave, but once I made it, I felt a great sense of relief. I guess this has been weighing on me for a long time. There are times when we need to stay and work things out, but there are also other times when we need to move on. 

Also - Durango, it is incredible!  Snow shoeing and sledding in the winter and jeeping, hiking and camping in the summer. We do a lot of jeeping on all of the old mining roads.  We always try to discover new roads and mining towns every summer. 

Yea - last time we were in Durango, we hit the area around Endlich Mesa and Lime Mesa and it was really nice. Also enjoyed Twin Lakes Basin and the 14'rs. Also Love Johnson Creek Basin. We try to do something different each year - so much fun to be had. Fish to be caught.

But back to the moment at hand - there is one hard fact that is inevitable about your situation - your leader is the leader and you are not. As poor of a job as he may be doing, and as right as your suggestions are, it sounds like the Church leadership has vested their trust in this guy. That's unfortunate and I'm sad for your church, and it sounds like you have the right ideas about what to do. I mean, these are basics - be on time, have enthusiasm, pick quality songs, sing in a good key for the congregation. 

So if you  / as you finally move on, I hope it's to a place that shares your vision. It's good that you're not wanting to sow discord. 

Thanks Stevo,

Yes, the sad fact is he is in charge and I'm not, so I don't want to cause anymore trouble. But, like I said, I do feel a weight lifted off me, so I think all of this happened to get me to finally move on.  My husband is in total agreement with me and we are both praying about what God has for us next.  Actually, I am becoming very excited about what is coming in the future.  Who knows?  Jesus does.

Let's see how many months till hiking season again? We have spent a lot of time around Ouray and Silverton.  We climbed Twin Peaks and the Upper Cascade Falls last summer.  Great hikes! There are some mine buildings left at the top of the Falls trail.  Both trails are several thousand feet above Ouray.  Also, if you find yourself in Ouray at lunch time, be sure and to hit Maggie's Kitchen.  Best burgers in town or maybe even  the entire state!

Hi Marsha,

I think you have handled the situation very well and have had the right attitude throughout.  It seems like the talents of you guys aren't put to best use, as you are clearly the best person to lead the worship.  Sometimes people don't see it or refuse to see it, and dare I say it, often a bit of jealousy of people who are good musicians, creeps in.


I wish you all the very best for the future.


God Bless.  Lorraine



Keep pressing in to God, and give Him the honour always. Remember, if you do give the situation to God, then don't take it back off Him and try your own way; that defeats the purpose of including Him in it, in the first place.

Marsha, I belong to a church of about 1700 or more people. We had about 5 worship teams. 3 of them were basicly the same team but different people took turns leading worship. They are your typical contemporary worship team, playing Hillsongs, Jesus Culture, Desperation Band, Tomlin, Redman, etc. Then we had a worship team that was led by a  black guy and his wife. They were slightly contemporary, some older Integrity music and a little bit gospel. Then we had another band with the best musicians any church could ever want. Lincoln Brewster had nothing on the guitarists of this band, and that was the reason they were together. They did'nt want to play with lower class musicians. I thought it was working fine but recently the shift was to incorporate everyone into one team of people who rotated players. Needless to say the really good musicians have stepped down, the black team have stepped down and it's just the 3 others teams that actually looked like the same team every week.

  I'm not sure what really prompted the change. Some of the other singers were not top notch singers and in a large church like that, professionalism has become the mindset now. If you're not good enough, chances are you won't be playing anymore. I can understand this with such a large church where every Sunday is a major production now. I can say though, I miss the really good players who decided to drop out rather than play with other players. Although I'm sure it's not all over with yet.

  But I have been in your predicament and can totally sympathize with you.


Hello Everyone, Marsha here.  I've been out of town and just checked what was going on with my music buddies.  Thanks for all of your comments.  I am not offended by any of them.  I do appreciate all of your input.

I know there are no perfect situations in music ministry, especially since the participants are usually all volunteers.  There is always going to be varying degrees of musical understanding and training within the group. There is no reason we can't all work together, that is, if the leader wants to work together.  He didn't.    

I started in the music ministry in this church when the pastor/music leader left and took the entire music team with him except for myself and the bass player.  I was asked to help and I was very pleased to help them. In the time I was involved in the music I was able to help them bring in more singers and musicians even though I was not technically in charge. The current music leader came in later. I also helped them introduce new music, helped plan special services for Easter, Christmas, weddings, funerals etc.  They do have a good team now with lots of good music.  My plan was always to move on at the right time because this church is a long distance to drive and I wasn't exactly thrilled with the new pastor they chose. So there is more involved than just the issue with the worship leader.

I do have to say that I was partially at fault.  I admit that. I probably did push the music leader too much to do things a little differently and he didn't like it.  He is the leader and I'm not. He made it very clear that he didn't want my input any longer. I feel that, as music leaders, we need to do our best. He is happy with just doing enough to get by. I felt like I could not submit to his leadership any longer. In order to prevent any discord in the group I felt like it was time for me to leave.

I do love the music ministry and I know God has called me to the music ministry.  I have been involved in it since I was 17.  I am quite a bit older than that now.  I can't see myself attending a church and not being involved in the music ministry at least somewhat.

My husband and I have been visiting some churches and it looks like we may have found the right one for us.  We are both very excited about it.  The preaching is great!  That is very refreshing.  It is a growing church with a lot of younger families and a mixture of different age groups.  The music ministry could definitely use some help. When the time is right I hope I can become a part of their music team. We have been praying a lot about it and we are both very excited about what God has for us in the future.

I have also been enjoying my time off for awhile.  I was due for a break.  Also, it was time to move on.  I am just saddened by how it came about.  I could have handled it a little better.   I do know there is no perfect church and no perfect music group.  The important thing is to always seek God's will in the ministry that He has for us to do.  I am trying to do that.

Thanks everyone for your comments and support!

I realize this is an old post, but after reading about the origin of the problem, I have one thing to say...When a music ministry falls apart for any reason and you are "asked to help out" as leader, think and pray about how long you're willing to take on the responsibility without the authority. Especially as  a female musician in a church, you will be taken advantage of if you don't learn to establish firm boundaries with those in leadership who usually have no idea about the skills needed to lead the team.  After years of serving in a variety of places, I really believe that a primary cause of major problems is the lack of understanding  due to our desire for a "fix"  instead of waiting on God's direction.

I totally understand the desire to stay on a worship team.  I have been called to be a worshipper for the past decade.  I served on various teams.  My family moved around a bit so alot of the changes were just because our current church was not available to us for whatever reason. in the last year and a half I left a church for a similar reason. I didn't have issue with the worship leader, he was and still is my friend.  There were other things going on in leadership.  My wife and I prayed for a long time and for a long time we werent released to go.  One day God released us and showed us the place we needed to go next. I didn't intend on jumping on to another platform but when I showed up to a worship night at the new church the associate pastor invited me up to play and I never left. 

Its not wrong to grow in a different direction and its not wrong to want excellence (see my worship rant). Keep God in it and he will show you if you are released to go and where He wants you.


Don't be too harsh on non readers.  I know tons of theory, can transpose on the spot and I am comfortable in all keys.  I can play circles around most but if you want me to stop playing throw a music staff in front of me. LOL


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