Tensions in Leadership: Sunday vs. the Big Picture

Leading a worship ministry often feels like wading out into the ocean. I know what direction I’m trying to go, but like another wave, Sunday rolls around. Getting things ready for Sunday can consume my time, much like a fresh wave erasing the progress that I made wading toward deeper water. If that sounds like a depressing metaphor, it’s not at all. After all, a lot of people have the most fun playing in the waves. It’s just that we don’t get anywhere, and we can eventually tire out. So how do we break that cycle?

I divide my time in ministry into two fronts: Sunday and Big Picture. Sunday is still going to get the larger share of my weekly attention, because Sunday is indeed coming, and there are people to lead and a service to plan. However, the remainder of my time must be spent in development of the big picture to prevent the ministry from treading water toward burnout, plus there’s a long term payoff (more on this later).

Covering all the positions

Since Sunday is coming, we all have certain things in worship ministry that must be attended to. Volunteers, charts, tech, facilities… making sure there are spare batteries on hand so there’s no Sunday morning freak-out. Neglecting these tasks for a few weeks can put us behind the eight-ball and result in a few bad weeks while we struggle to catch up. It’s important to stay organized, have a schedule and a checklist to make sure that everything gets done from a logistical standpoint.

But then there are those lingering things that are still weekly, but are more affected by the big picture. Recruiting enough players to fill the band, writing or introducing new music, upgrading and repairing equipment can all be things that affect how things go during the worship service, but don’t really fall under a normal checklist.

Big picture time

Every week I commit to spend 10 percent of my office time (I’m bi-vocational, so that’s really about one to two hours) on improving the big picture. Sometimes it’s a big deal like a software upgrade or cabling under the stage. Sometimes it’s spent in music research or reading up on improving skills/equipment. Typically I know what is most irritating on Sundays, and I seek to fix that. Recently, it was as simple as replacing the guitar stands on the stage with hangers on the wall. We have a somewhat crowded stage and it cleaned up the space and made it easier for people to get on and off. That sounds small, but the band really liked it. All of this big picture time is ultimately in service of the weekly grind.

I’m trying to create a space and a ministry that I would want to volunteer in.

This improves my odds at recruiting and helps retain team members. I’m also trying to lessen the number of small tasks that recur every week so that I can focus on team development and the Sunday worship experience.

Big picture makes Sunday easier

Putting priority into making small, but lasting changes to the overall infrastructure of our worship ministry has taken some pressure off of the weekly grind. In making a ministry where I would want to volunteer, I have few retention problems, and can ask for help from a position of security rather than desperately asking for favors. And since I’m not spending time scaring up volunteers, I’m able to spend time with the ones that I currently have, building the relationship and developing their abilities. It’s a snowball effect that has very positive results for both the exectution and the morale of a team.

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