Avoid worship leader burnout

By Darby Jones

SUMMARY: Let’s face it: The average tenure of worship leaders or music directors is alarmingly brief. Lack of time and resources are the two main culprits for burnout. Often times, the pastor will take on this role and subsequently become overwhelmed as well.

Many churches today, can't afford another staff position. The solution they are finding is to start a music commitee which helps reduce the load of the voluntary worship leader and also allows for more collaboration and creativity in planning church services.

Start a music commitee.
This team will consist of the music director, pastor, associate pastors, and any lay leaders who feels called to help facilitate. Try to meet at least six to thirteen weeks prior to the service you are planning. Larger congregations with more detailed worship services may want to meet long before this guideline. You will not get the best work out of your creative people if you wait till the last minute. Give the Holy Spirit time to help you prepare.

Here are just a few things a commitee can do to relieve the burden placed on worship leaders.

Enlist multiple worship leaders to share responsibilities.
The commitee's first big task is finding other worship leaders and musicians. Look to the youth for potential worship leaders. Ask singers in the congregation to step up. Put up posters at local colleges that target musicians looking for creative outlets. If people are few, then realize that one additional worship leader can go a long way.

If the commitee can create a couple of worship teams, then you can rotate the schedule and give everybody a break. Musicians will have time to focus on God, vacation with families and learn new songs. Forming multiple worship teams opens up the opportunity for more practice and time off.

More practice will not directly enhance worship, because worship is a matter of an individual’s heart. However, if you give your best to the Lord, the Holy Spirit will reward you by creating an environment that’s hospitable toward unrestrained worship.

Scheduling
One member on the music commitee can make a monthly schedule with practice times along with everyone’s phone number and e-mail. They can share it in person or e-mail it as an attachment to all musicians.

Picking songs
Create a master song list of every title so the music commitee can pick songs and special music that complements the sermon. This means pastors will have to plan their sermon themes in advance.

Make sure to include the key of the song on the master list. Pick a few songs in the same key, so the worship leader can easily create medleys that smoothly segue from one song to the next. Done right, it can really be powerful.

Design the layout of each service.
If the sermon is about the actual act of worship, it might be a good idea to do the sermon first and then lead the congregation into musical worship afterwards. You may want to plan for special music, skits, minute for mission or personal testimony. Another great idea is to read Scripture that complements a song’s message. Adapt the service to explore all the different ways of worshiping the Lord. Keep in mind that structure can be broken as the Holy Spirit leads. The pastor can change the sermon, and the worship leader can switch songs.

Proverbs 3:9 says to honor the Lord with your first fruits. The concept of giving “first or best fruits” doesn’t just apply to wealth. It means giving God the best of everything, whether it’s your time, energy or spiritual gifts. Let us not then, present worn-out worship leaders before the body of Christ.  Reward worship leaders with the support and appreciation they deserve. Avoid worship leader burnout by planning church services collaboratively.

--Darby Jones is the eMarketing Coordinator at United Methodist Communications. Feel free to contact him at djones@umcom.org if you have any questions or comments about this article.

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Resources

General Board of Directors Worship Resources:
Job Description for the Music Committee in a United Methodist Congregation
Paying the Piper - A Consideration of Church Musicians' Salaries
Help for Musicians Applying and Interviewing for Church Positions
 
The Gifts of God from the People of God (Abingdon, 2008) - Worship Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation 2009-2012. Cokesbury offers an extensive description on how to form and lead a worship planning team. The twenty-six guidelines detail the responsibilities of the chairperson of worship ministry, how to work with music leaders, and much more.  

The Worship Workshop: Creative Ways to Design Worship Together. This is another outstanding resource detailing the worship planning team. It helps churches evaluate the state of their current worship, get more people involved in the designing process, learn the history of worship, and utilize the arts and artists in worship. 

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Hiring a Passionate Music Director
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