There’s something about a new beginning—on a calendar or otherwise—that inspires us. We are invigorated by an opportunity to “do better this time around.” We all know, of course, that January 1 rarely ends up being the watershed moment we had envisioned, but making New Year’s resolutions continues to seem like a reasonable idea. We realize that there are at least two or three simple things we could do every day—exercise, chip away at that long-term project, read the Scriptures—that would drastically change our lives. So, what happens between January 1 and our failure by the end of February (or, more likely, January 4)?
The reality is that even the most important and least time-consuming activities are impossible in a life that is already too full. As you look at your worship ministry, I would suggest that you consider the following items:
1. Give yourself and your worship team several weeks of extravaganza-free worship gatherings. The Advent and Christmas seasons are generally the busiest in the church year. With special events and all the additional work that goes into seasonal worship services, December is hardly a vacation month for church leaders and musicians. With little time for restful renewal, your leadership team is probably exhausted. The ecology of a worship ministry cannot sustain the effort required in high liturgical seasons. Enjoy a few weeks of simplicity as a matter of ecological ethics and justice. In the process, you might just discover things you can permanently remove.
2. Set aside at least one Sabbath morning to simply participate in your congregation’s worship gathering with no leadership responsibilities. If the intrinsic value of restorative rest is not reason enough to take a break, view this as an essential learning exercise as well. Those of us who are always leading from the platform need to be reminded of what worship is like for participants in the pew. And more importantly, we need to practice a truth that is obvious but sometimes overlooked: Worship is an encounter with God, not with us. Worship ministry is important, but we are not necessary mediators of God’s gracious presence. God wants to use all of us, but Jesus is the true worship leader who draws people to Himself (John 12:32). As we take time to rest in the sufficiency of God’s work, we can relearn the true, intrinsic value of what it means to be human—to be beloved daughters and sons of God. Sometimes we have to set aside our “to do” lists to recognize the magnitude of what we already have.
Not only will this intentional inaction create space in your personal life, it will help you prioritize in your ministry as well.
Nicholas Zork is a doctoral student and part-time pastor at Advent Hope in Manhattan, New York, USA. This article first appeared in Best Practice, December 30, 2012.