On Worship Director Job Descriptions and the Term Paschal

Q   We’re hiring a new worship director.  Do you have any advice about how to set up a job description?

—New Jersey

A    Based on learning from a number of congregations that we have heard from at the Worship Institute, I would recommend thinking about three things that churches sometimes miss:

First, think about which pastoral virtues you hope to find in this person and articulate those in the job description. For example, you’ll probably want to find someone with

  • discernment about who is gifted to lead worship.
  • cooperativeness for working on a team of people who are involved in planning and leading worship.
  • wisdom to understand the psychological and theological issues that are involved when there is conflict about worship.
  • patience when the congregation is slow to participate fully in certain acts of worship.
  • imagination to generate ideas about which songs, scripts, prayers, and elements will engage a congregation with the power and meaning of a given scriptural theme.
  • discipline to avoid too much innovation.

Why not involve your worship committee in brainstorming about other related virtues?

Second, stress the importance of a holistic vision of ministry. Worship is closely related to ministries of education, pastoral care, prayer, evangelism, and social justice. Yet many churches end up looking for and then hiring a worship “expert” who has skills, perhaps, in music, but doesn’t have a commitment to holistic ministry. Candidates for positions in worship may not have experience in all those areas, but they should have a deep concern for how worship can ground, deepen, and support those ministries.

Third, think twice about your job title. “Worship Director” focuses on the tasks of organization and decision making. Why not stress the more pastoral side of the job? For musicians, I’d much prefer “Pastoral Musician.” For others, perhaps “Pastoral Worship Leader”? If you have other good suggestions, write us at worship@calvin.edu!

Q    I’ve been reading about Easter and have run into the term paschal. What does that mean?


A    This adjective refers to the Passover, as in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8: “For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival.” When we try to explain the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection, the Jewish Passover is a good place to start. Just as the Passover blood protected the people from death, so too Christ’s death and resurrection is the power of life for us.

In fact, in some theological traditions, the term paschal mystery is used as a summary statement of the heart of the Christian gospel. That is a beautiful phrase. Not only does it focus our attention on the cross and resurrection of Christ, it also reminds us that the logic by which a death brings life is something we can never fully comprehend.

Some writers on worship assert that you can measure the value of a worship service by how central and clear the theme of the “paschal mystery” is (even when those words are never used). We might want to add a few other criteria to that one, but even if this were the only criteria churches would use, we might witness remarkable renewal in the church!

One final note: it’s significant that you’ve run into the term paschal in conjunction with Easter. Sometimes we needlessly separate the meaning of Good Friday and Easter, implying that Good Friday is about salvation and Easter is about victory and power. This is not helpful. The events we celebrate on Good Friday and Easter together achieve salvation and teach us about ultimate victory and power. No wonder that in the early church, it was a single service—the late-Saturday, early-Sunday Easter Vigil that was called the night of the “Christian Passover.”


Rev. Dr. John D. Witvliet is director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and professor of music and worship at Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also teaches in the religion department at Calvin University.

Reformed Worship 66 © December 2002, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.