- This is the mark of a healthy leader - one who can lead without always being in charge of the moment.
- Allowing others to share the larger vision of your ministry, or of your church, enables it to spread at a rate that is greater than the work of your individual capacity.
- “I’m not the first worship pastor at this church, and if I do this right, I won’t be the last.”
I remember it clearly. My wife and I had just moved to Southern California a week before. We pulled into the church about 10 minutes before the service started, said “Hello” to some friendly greeters at the door, and were seated right before the service began. Though this may sound typical for many church attenders, this was a very novel experience for us, and especially for me. This was unique because for the prior five years I led worship every weekend at my home church except for one – our wedding. I was thankful for those years of learning and growing with our home congregation, but honestly, I was also a bit tired. And so here we were, SoCal transplants while I began to attend seminary. This service was memorable because my sole responsibility was to simply worship: to come before the Lord in worship, join in with a congregation, and be led by another leader – who I honestly at the time I didn’t even know.
While beginning the transition into vocational ministry I intentionally took several months off a platform: to learn from other leaders, other churches, and to be led into worship by others. This liberty was refreshing, and even though I was on the worship team and then on staff at one of these churches soon after, I began to wonder more about the importance of scheduling time off the platform. This regularly scheduled Sunday off the platform is something that I now encourage and implement in my own church: for myself, my volunteers, and my staff. Now if you are a worship leader at a small church, or even a larger one, this may sound like an absurd idea. And you have your reasons: everything from ‘things will fall apart’ to ‘it’s my calling and gifting’. But I believe that by regularly scheduling time off the platform, whether it be once a month, once a quarter, or somewhere in between, you will lead your team and your congregation better.
See Things Differently
By stepping off the platform and worshipping alongside of your congregation you have a chance to see and hear what they do every weekend. You will notice things about your congregation and how they worship. Or maybe you’ll have new insight about those little-to-big obstacles to worship you’ve heard about from your congregation. You also will see your team differently: areas of strength and growth. Worshipping in the seats, with your congregation, is also a display and act of humble leadership: to experience and be led into worship by your team. There is power in worshipping alongside of each other that aids in bridging the divide that sometimes can occur between worship leaders on a platform and congregations. And at the very least you are provided an opportunity to model how you desire your congregation to engage in worship – while standing next to them.
In addition, some of the best Sunday Morning conversations I’ve had with my team and congregation have been when I’m not thinking about leading the next service, or exhausted from the last. What may feel as a loss to the congregation without your leadership on the platform is made up for by spending this time being fully present with them. This personal practice frees up more mental and emotional capacity to be able to have meaningful conversations on a Sunday Morning without being preoccupied with the platform leadership you often have on Sunday Morning.
Provide Intentional Opportunities
Many of us as leaders have mentors in our lives that recognized giftings in us that we didn’t see yet. I’ve also heard it said that once a team member can complete a role “60% as good as you,” the leader, begin to give it to them and help them do it better than you. I’m not sure on the evaluative percentage, but I do agree that we should always look for opportunities to empower and share responsibilities with others. Just as Jesus taught, modeled, and then sent out the 70, we should be doing the same. If your team is healthy – they do not desire to be stagnate – they desire to grow! And sometimes, after co-leading for a period of time, you stepping off the platform and coaching another leader will help that leader and your team reach new heights. This is the mark of a healthy leader – one who can lead without always being in charge of the moment. This empowerment when your team is ready, though super uncomfortable at first, is an incredible growth marker for your team and your leadership. I’m not saying step off the platform every week – your team does need you! But by intentionally providing opportunities to team members with your presence and support is life-giving to everyone involved.
Create Space for Renewal & Learning
Jesus regularly took time away from the crowds to seek His Father. By intentionally scheduling time off the platform, it allows you even more to do the same – to provide space to listen without the creative energy and time required to prepare for a Sunday service. On these weeks, spend this newly added time in your week intentionally to rest, reflect, be with your team, and maybe even plot a plan for the upcoming weeks or months. Honestly, God desires us to be with him far more than anything we might think we are doing for him. As leaders in the church, we need to beware we don’t switch the two! In addition, taking a weekend off the platform regularly allows you as a leader time to learn from other areas churches or conferences that then enrich you and your church. By taking this time it allows you to stay sharp and at your best when you are on the platform.
I’ve heard it said from a fellow Christian leader that there are three different maturities of leaders. The lower stage is when everything hinges on their own personal performance. If your immediate thought about taking a weekend off is “But things will fall apart”, you are operating in this level. Leaders that operate here often feel overwhelmed, are more apt to burn out, and also constrict their teams. Most high performing staff and volunteers do not want to (and will not) work in an environment where everything hinges on the performance or decision of the primary leader. Even if you are the Senior Pastor of a small church, (who is also the worship pastor, kids pastor, and youth pastor) this stage of leadership is not an environment that thrives over time. Instead, you will lead better when you are regularly giving responsibilities to others that are partnering with you. Allowing others to share the larger vision of your ministry, or of your church, enables it to spread at a rate that is greater than the work of your individual capacity.
Set The Stage for Success Without You
We’ve all been reminded over the past several years how quickly life can change in a moment. Think for a moment right now – if you got sick or had an injury would your team, and your church be ready to worship without you. I tell my team half-jokingly “I’m not the first worship pastor at this church, and if I do this right, I won’t be the last.” I say this because it’s true – my hope is that as a leader, that when my time comes to move on to whatever God might have next, my church and team is ready to thrive. Enabling your team to thrive and letting them share in the larger vision and responsibility under your leadership prepares them, and your church, to sustain healthy ministry beyond your tenure.
Lastly, all the above is only possible through finding and developing fellow leaders in and around your congregation. This takes intentional time and work, but will provide you with greater capacity, focus, and joy in the ministry. As you start this practice, your congregation might come up to you and say, “We missed you this morning.” Receive the compliment, but also use this moment to shepherd and share the intentional vision of raising up leaders within your church, so that God can increase His power and influence in the ministry of your church.
So go ahead – cast the vision and let others share it. Empower your team to thrive under and beyond your leadership. Experience the richness of worshipping alongside of your congregation and intentionally spending added time letting God enrich your spirit. Expand your leadership by scheduling time off the platform.
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Jason Harris has been a worship leader and pastor for 20+ years, serving as Senior Director of Worship and Production at Browncroft Community Church in Rochester, NY since 2010. He enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, his team, and his running crew. Jason is also the founder of a summer internship program equipping young adults for a future of healthy ministry and is a member of the Worship Leader Magazine Mentor Team.