For many years, too many years in fact, I led worship way too often.
Starting in the Fall of 2006 when my church started a Saturday service, I was the primary worship leader for the Saturday 5:00pm service and the Sunday 11:00am service. Two services a weekend. I would get a free Sunday the weekend after Easter when our student worship team would lead, and I would take two weekends off somewhere in the summer. Three weekends off per year.
So, I was picking songs, leading rehearsal, up front, and leading worship 49 weekends a year. And since we were doing two services each weekend, that means I was leading worship 108 times a year. This doesn’t count monthly healing services, Wednesday staff meetings, and other services and events. But you get the idea. It was way too much.
It was unhealthy for me. It burns you out after leading that many times in a row. You don’t feel fresh anymore. You don’t lead fresh anymore. Everything starts to blur. You get tired of choosing songs. You get tired of leading rehearsal. You lose energy. You fall into ruts. You get predictable. You get safe. Worst of all, you start thinking that your church would fall apart if you were to leave.
It was unhealthy for my worship team. It didn’t give other worship leaders in the church a chance to lead. There might have been an occasional spot for them for a men’s or women’s ministry event, but I wasn’t giving people an opportunity to get experience leading worship in the context of a service. I was hogging 108 opportunities all for myself.
It was unhealthy for my church. Whether they realized it or not, I was fostering an unhealthy dependence on me leading worship, so that when I did rarely get a service off, it was more disruptive than it should have been. If I really did mean what I prayed – that I would decrease and God would increase – then why wouldn’t I take a very practical step toward decreasing and get myself off of the platform more often?
I have resolved to push other worship leaders in my church into at least half of the 108 yearly opportunities. I lead worship very seldom on Saturday nights now. Other worship leaders take turns, sometimes by themselves, and sometimes with a band. I lead healing services very seldom now. Other worship leaders get experience by leading those. I still lead most of the time on Sunday mornings, but this year I’m planning on taking at least 6 off.
You can’t do this if you’re insecure. If you think your church really needs you, or if you’re concerned that if someone else leads worship then your congregation might forget about you, then you’ve fallen into unhealthy thinking. You have to be secure enough to step back and push others into the spotlight, so to speak. It’s more healthy for you, for your team, and for your congregation.
And you can’t do this if you’re needy. Without realizing it, you can begin to need to be needed, and if you’re not leading worship you feel like you have no purpose. This isn’t a good thing.
I remember meeting a worship leader at a church I visited while on vacation a few years ago (during one of my two weekends off). After a brief conversation with him, I said “I hope you get a couple of weekends off this summer”. Sadness fell over his face. He said “I wish”. It turns out that he was allowed – maybe – one weekend off per year.
For your sake and your church’s sake, make sure you’re getting regular breaks from worship leading. Even if you’re not going on vacation, schedule yourself to get a break. Your substitute might not be as polished, or they might even be better!, but just do it. It will keep you from getting burned out and it will keep your congregation from getting too dependent on you too.