What I Wished I’d Known Before Becoming A Worship Pastor

Jenni ClayvilleWritten by Jenni Clayville

My journey in leading worship corporately began 24 years ago as a 15 year-old student volunteer. Music has always been a huge part of my life. I was classically trained on piano and voice, though what teenager didn’t love belting out a song from the most recent Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation album? This girl. So when I was asked to play and sing for our church youth worship ministry, it seemed like a no brainer. I had no idea at that time that this would become my life’s calling.

Sixteen years ago, the Youth Ministries Pastor at my church asked me to fill in as the interim Worship Director while she went on maternity leave. In those three months, my relationships with the other musicians and tech people grew immensely. And the youth worship ministry grew from 5 to 21 volunteers. When the Youth Pastor returned, they offered me a permanent position as the Worship Director. By the time I left this church years later, the worship ministry had duplicated itself to more than 55 volunteers. This began my “career” in Worship Ministry.

When I first started in this position, I was young and the only other female worship leader out here was Darlene Zschech. She is the famous Hillsong, “Shout to the Lord” genius with a darling Australian accent on the other side of this planet.

Because I was the only female in my area in Portland, Oregon, at the time, I was often left out of other church connection events and opportunities. More often than not, I was introduced in a variety of ways:

“Women’s Director” (Uh, no.)
“Children’s Director” (No way.)
“Back-up Singer” (Sort of but not really.)
“Youth Worker” (Wrong again.)

Most of the time I was asked where my husband was and if he was the Worship Pastor, to which I would respond with, “Oh no… Brian’s giftings are not in the musical realm.” One time, a (male) fellow worshiper boldly stated he didn’t feel that God would ever give a woman the important calling of leading worship from a platform.

You should have seen my 5’2” Asian self get all up in his business. Ah, don’t worry, ladies. I didn’t break his face. We talked about it, sometimes, not so calmly, over a few months. Then, I didn’t talk to him for awhile because the desire to break his face was growing exponentially bigger than my ability to control myself. But this story does end well. He did eventually contact me and apologize. He really dove into God’s Word and prayed for understanding.

Though it’s much more common now to see women in center stage roles, at that time, people seemed confused that a woman would be called as the Worship Pastor and not the Worship Pastor’s wife. This was an excruciatingly isolating and difficult journey.

Because I was young, I had EVERYTHING to prove. Though my heart was pure in my desire to help lead others to the foot of His Throne, how I went about doing that in the music and atmospherical style I preferred was immature and aggressive. I felt as if God depended on me to prove that not only could women serve His Kingdom this way, but I should also be leading the way in this epiphany.

I was an idiot.

God was going to do this with or without me. Because He is gracious, patient, and forgiving, He gave me my “bull in the china shop” season, and painfully refined me into a much more seasoned, well-mannered and intentional leader. I’d like to think I was granted some wisdom over the last 25 years as well. *wink*

My heart and desire is and has always been to help usher worshippers to the foot of His Throne. But what I love most now is helping release others into their own callings. To help others find their sweet spot. To see men and women who’ve come up through our ministries launch out to serve all over the world makes my heart swell with joy. This is duplication and “sending out” at it’s finest and really what the Bible calls us to do in expanding His Kingdom.

Jenni Clayville2For me, this journey began as a 15-year old musician. Today, I continue as the Lead Worshiper at Paseo Christian Church in El Paso, Texas. This is not the first church body I have served and probably not the last. But God has called me to serve His body.

It doesn’t matter where God has called you to serve. Sometimes, He calls you to serve during a refining season. And that doesn’t feel good. I know. But all that matters is that you are serving Him and furthering His Kingdom.

How are you doing that in your life right now? How has He called you?


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