Worship Ministries hosted a virtual roundtable discussion with four busy worship leaders. Katie Ritsema-Roelofs, worship pastor at the Washington D.C. CRC, led the discussion and offers this summary. Note especially the challenges, positives, and take-away points to consider. Add your thoughts to this important topic by commenting below. What challenges do you face? What have you found helpful?
I was on my way to church on a Sunday morning several months ago for a meeting with my worship visuals team to plan for the 'A word'. . . Advent. I realized that even beginning a conversation about Advent and Christmas was causing my blood pressure to rise a bit. Last Christmas my 8-year-old son called me a Grinch. It’s kind of funny but it’s also kind of horrifying at the same time given my line of work. Christmas and holidays in our profession look so different than they do for most folks.
While my Facebook feed blows up with friends obsessed with their elf on the shelf, preparations for big family Christmas dinners, and light displays in their front yard to show up all their neighbors, I admit sometimes I am a Grinch. I find it’s hard to be present in the joy and true meaning of holidays when I am so busy trying to make sure that it is a spiritually rich worship experience for everyone around me.
For us worship leaders (planners, participants) that means extra services, choir rehearsals, pre-ordering lots of candles and strings of Christmas lights. All this while trying to summon up holiday joy at home and for an entire congregation of people. If you’re like me and live far from family, it also means being unable to travel to be with family until after services are done. So how does this affect not only us personally in our worshiping souls and our seasonally appropriate joy...but also those who are close to us like our parents, our kids, our spouses and friends?
These are some of the topics we wrestled with in our worship ministries round table webinar back in early November. We asked participants to think about the following two questions in advance of our virtual time together:
Question #1: Participation in church life will automatically be different for families who have someone in the home who is deeply involved in worship leadership. What ways do you see this in your own family?
Question #2: How can we use this reality for our benefit, to foster a richer worship life at home? How can we take the more difficult parts of this reality and make conscious efforts to change?
There were six of us around the “table,” spanning from California to Washington DC, Ontario to Grand Rapids. We enjoyed an hour of conversation centered around these questions, sharing our own experiences, our struggles and some tangible suggestions for encouraging each other in our callings as worship leaders.
It was a blessing to have an intimate and safe conversation space, and for that reason the video recording will not be posted along with the other webinars. But we wanted to share with you a few notes from our time together in hopes that it will be a source of encouragement for you and give you space to contemplate and reflect ways to foster a healthy worship balance in your home and in your congregation.
Challenges We Experience
- Holidays are ‘different’, our intense focus is on how we can make our worship joyful and meaningful this Christmas for our congregations
- Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter are so busy, can be high anxiety time with extra rehearsals, services, etc.
- Families are also more involved when a parent is leading worship. They often arrive early each week, assist with set up, clean up, etc. It takes away from family time on Sundays.
- Participation is ‘mandatory’ - with the exception of vacation Sundays, the worship leader is usually there for every service.
- Being ‘deeply involved’ in worship leadership often means that it becomes a 24/7 job or responsibility. There are not healthy established boundaries in ministry.
Positives We Get to Enjoy!
- It is a privilege to be called to lead worship! Take a moment every day before you open your laptop to reflect on this and give thanks for this! God has called you and equipped you to do such an amazing thing! You are blessed!
- Family members are more comfortable being involved. They do it somewhat naturally because they are comfortable in church and comfortable with seeing leadership modeled each week.
- It’s an opportunity for family members’ gifts to be used in worship
- Flexibility - allows for flexibility in work schedule (many of us are part time) - and can work from home (a positive for some)
Take Away Points to Consider
- One of the difficult parts of the reality of being a leader in the area of worship is that it places you on the front line of the spiritual battle. We need people who pray intentionally for worship leaders/planners. What if each leader in the area of worship has at least one prayer partner/mentor?
- Recruit and rely on a friend or friends in the congregation to help, i.e., assist with children, (don’t be afraid to ask for help). It is difficult to parent young children and lead worship so ask for help!
- Set healthy boundaries - have a day off, (Monday, Saturday, Friday, etc - make it a priority and try to stick to it). We recognized this is difficult when you work part time and work from home.
- Visit other churches regularly - some churches give one Sunday off every so often (8 weeks, season, etc) - take time to attend another church with your family, maybe even in another town so you really get away.
- Book recommendation: Caring Worship by Howard Vanderwell
- Listen to music - in the car, wherever you can be filled and use quiet moments away from worship leadership to worship yourself
- Don’t make everything about your job/worship at church - protect some family time
- Don’t just give of yourself - do something to fill up your ‘tank’, take a class on worship, join a Bible study, small group, etc.
We closed our time together praying for each other, for our work and for our families. That in and of itself was valuable time well-spent. We need to continue encouraging each other in this work that God has called us to do and praying for God’s continued direction and providence. We are a blessed bunch! As we embark on 2019 and another year of worship leadership together, may this be our prayer for ourselves and each other:
Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord to thee. Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King. Take my lips and let them be filled with message from thee.
[Special thanks to those participating in this discussion: Katie Roelofs (leader), Michelle Tanis, Stephanie Van Rooyen, Melanie Huinink, Diane Dykgraaf, Laura Meyering.]