It?s an awesome privilege to serve in weekend ministry. We get to do what we love, be creative, serve our God, make a real difference, and maybe even get paid to do it! So why are there so many worship leaders, tech directors, and volunteers with pain-filled stories of deeply disappointing experiences in ministry? If you don?t have your own wounds, you don?t have to look far to find someone who does.?
Actually, you don?t have to be around long at all to know that weekend ministry can be a perilous danger zone. And when you think about it, it makes sense:[quote]The demand of meeting high expectations with low resources week-after-week is a recipe for burnout.[/quote]
- The demand of meeting high expectations with low resources week-after-week is a recipe for burnout.
- The high visibility of what we do means that there?s often a high level of critique from church leadership and congregation alike. This can inflict a crushing fear of failure.
- When just a few hours each Sunday take highest emphasis, it?s easy to focus on outputting a ?product?, even if we have to adopt an ?ends justifies the means? mindset to get it.
- The high skill level needed to be effective in weekend ministry (and the scarcity of such skill) makes it easy to put value on the abilities and performance of staff and volunteers rather than on the people themselves.
- ?and the list could go on.
It?s no wonder things get a bit turned around sometimes.
I refuse to believe it has to be this way, but how do we protect our teams from the damage of these all-too-common weekend ministry realities? For the sake of the Gospel, we have to try. The world is watching, and they won?t be impressed if, behind the excellence of intelligent lights, soaring guitars, perfect vocals, and polished content, they see people being tossed to the side by the gears of ?ministry?.
We have to ask ourselves: knowing how Jesus thinks about people, would He even call this excellence at all?[quote]We have to ask ourselves: knowing how Jesus thinks about people, would He even call this excellence at all?[/quote]
Before I point toward a solution, let me just pause to say that I?m a guy in process. I?ve embodied all of these mindsets, and sometimes still struggle to fully put them behind me. Laser-focused on my personal objectives for the ministry, I?m sad to say that I?ve sometimes set people aside in the name of the ?church?.
I?ve also been on the other side of it?hurt by church ministry. I won?t stop loving it though. After all, the church is the hope of the world, so it matters that we lean into the challenges and keep trying to get it right.[quote]The church is the hope of the world, so it matters that we lean into the challenges and keep trying to get it right.[/quote]
And here?s where we should start:
Trust and invest in your team.
Should we even have to talk about this part? I would think not, except it?s something I missed for years while serving in church ministry. I realize now that I hoarded the weight of leading because I didn?t trust that those around me were also capable of being effective in ministry.
Ministry is demanding, but that?s exactly why you need to be invested fully in building up those who serve around you. Not just the systems, not just the processes? the people. Take an invitational stance in leadership, calling others up to lead with you. Rather than fixating on their inadequacies, focus on intentionally developing and equipping them to think and operate with real excellence. And don?t just stop there. Once you equip someone to minister, empower and release them to do just that. They?re not going to grow if they never get the chance.
Give them the gift of honoring their strengths and capacity.
As much as we want to focus on the people, there are some widespread mindsets that can make this almost impossible. The assumption that we should emulate what we see other churches doing is right at the top of the list. While it?s true that we can be inspired by other churches, we have to recognize that often there?s a big difference between our resources and the resources of the churches that we see online or at conferences. (Not to mention significant culture, vision, and personality differences!)
That?s not to say those differences can?t be bridged. The truth is, it might be possible to replicate what you?ve seen. But the cost of making more with less is often that people get damagingly overworked and have to function outside their strengths in the process. Your church is a community, unique and beautiful because of the people who are in it. Give your volunteers and staff the gift of letting them function within their strengths and capacity, and then grow those strengths and capacities together from there. This is the starting point for true greatness and creativity as a team.
See people differently.
From brand new volunteers, to longtime staff members, we need to make a fundamental shift in how we view everyone serving in weekend worship ministry?a shift from entitlement to gratefulness, from limiting to encouraging, and from commoditizing to cherishing. Instead of seeing people with gifts, think of people as gifts. Volunteers and staff aren?t just resources with which to accomplish ministry goals.[quote]Instead of seeing people?with?gifts, think of people?AS?gifts.[/quote]
Creativity, great music, and epic production are valuable, but they must never be acquired at the expense of caring for those serving alongside us. If that means the next big production is a little smaller, I?m in.
Each person is an awesome image-bearing creation, loved by God. As leaders, we have to be the ones with the vision to spot the image of God within them and help them put that image on display. Sometimes this requires putting our own image to the side. Sometimes it means taking the unique strengths (or weaknesses) of our teams and making something beautiful that looks unlike anything anybody?s ever done before.
Whatever it means, get the great music, the production value, and everything else out of first place. People come first. Protect the hearts, passions and health of your team, and let the rest fall into place.