Taking a break really matters. It matters for worship directors so you can go worship in other churches where you are not in charge, you didn’t plan the liturgy, and you do not even have to show up on time.
I recently had the opportunity to take a four month sabbatical from my church ministry position. I serve primarily in youth and worship ministries, but am working on my MDiv part time in addition to my church position. I used this sabbatical to take a few extra courses and get a little farther along in my studies, while also taking some time for rest and replenishment.
Taking this sabbatical has brought new life and energy to my ministry work as I’ve returned this last month. My first day back was a Sunday, but I didn’t have any responsibilities. I got to sit in the pew, belt out the songs I know and love, take communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and smile really big as I looked around at all the familiar faces of people that I love. Time away from my church has reminded me how much I love my church, the people in it, and the God we serve together.
As worship leaders, and especially worship directors/staff, we are often committed to our own churches most Sunday mornings. We can forget that we love our church family, especially when the critical, complaint-filled emails come rolling in as they quite often do for worship directors and pastors. These are particularly difficult after those Sundays when you tried a new song that didn’t go so well, or you got a little extra creative in the worship service and it was just too different from what your folks are used to in the liturgy. It’s easy to forget that you love your people when the feedback is negative, or the sound techs are not on their game for three weeks in a row, or your singers aren’t always on key. It’s easy to forget that you love your people when the scheduling becomes a nightmare, or the Holy Week services become more of a burden than a blessing (who has time to plan three extra worship services for one week?!)
Taking a break really matters. It matters for worship directors so you can go worship in other churches where you are not in charge, you didn’t plan the liturgy, and you do not even have to show up on time. It matters so that you can learn new songs, new ways of ordering the liturgy, or be inspired by another church’s children’s time or prelude music. I visited a United church just down the road from where I live. They do an instrumental piece of music after the welcome, to help people enter into worship, and also as the sermon response song, to give people time to reflect on what they have just heard without being distracted by having to sing specific words . . . it was beautiful, and something I would have never considered trying until I experienced it myself.
My sabbatical also gave me the opportunity to realize that our musicians may need the same experience. One of our lead guitar players came to me as soon as I was back and asked for a break from leading worship in order to rest and not burn out. I was thrilled to be able to bless her on her way to a short sabbatical from worship leading, and even asked her (encouraged her) to visit some other churches over the next couple of months and come back with some ideas for us.
After the strain of the past few years, it’s my hope that our church councils, leadership, and congregations proactively remember their worship staff and leaders before it’s too late and the burn out sets in. Bless them to sleep in on a Sunday morning for a month, be inspired by visits to other churches for a few weeks, or to take time to read that stack of worship books on the shelf that are unread. Bless them to rest. It will be good for their soul, and good for your church.
**Natasha participated in a roundtable conversation about sabbaticals and it can be found here