Leading Worship, Burning Out

We are honored to welcome musician, songwriter, and writer Jamie Kocur as a guest blogger. Today’s post comes from the inside of burnout. The very place we are called to minister.

I am a recovering worship leader.

I never thought it was possible to burn out on worship, butI’ve become burnt out on the concept of “musical worship.” Hoping to regain some of the passion I used to have, I’ve stepped away from worship leading.

I wonder what the point of it all is. I can’t even begin to see Jesus in the fog and fancy lights. Worship is not a performance, but it feels so much like one that it’s hard to avoid that mindset. Bright lights in your eyes, microphones and in-ear monitors, an audience in front of you; it’s hard not to get swept up in that. I lost my focus, taking my gaze off the audience of One, and became focused on the congregation in front of me.

I got too focused on pleasing the congregation.

A lot of people stand out in the congregation, arms crossed, looking bored. Their body language screams, “Impress me.” So I think: “They don’t like me. They hate this song.”My attitude should be that of one who only wants to please her God. I tried to ignore the audience in front of me, but that is a difficult task. Worship leaders need to be responsible for their own actions and emotions, but the church can still be supportive and helpful. The first bit of advice I would offer is simple.

Worship is not about you.

I forget this simple point. I get caught up in the fact that I didn’t get warm fuzzies during worship. I’ve had to remind myself time and time again: it’s not about you. If a worship leader does a song you don’t like, remember that it’s not about your musical preference. This is supposed to be for God, not you.

The second-bit of advice I would offer is to encourage.

Encouragement is a beautiful thing. However, I would urge you to be careful with how you word your encouragement. God gifted me with a voice. I try my hardest to remain humble and offer my gift back to God as best as I can. People tell me they love my voice.

I am thankful for the kind words, and I know that manypeople are simply acknowledging the gift God has given me. But some people take it a bit too far. I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with people who tell me over and overhowthey love my voice.

After leading worship, I hear, “I just LOVE your voice! Thanks for singing for us!”My heart sinks as I think, “They totally missed the point.” Rather than encourage me, these compliments make me sad. I’m not up there to sing for you. I’m up there to help you connect with your Savior. When all your encouragement does is bring attention to the performance aspect of what a worship leader does, it can either discourage them or give them a swelled head.

Either one is not a good outcome.

One day, someone stopped me and said, “Thank you for leading us in worship.”That was the bestencouragement I could hear. Church, remember worship is not about you, encourage and support your worship leaders, and realize that they are as susceptible to burnout as your pastor. I still can’t fathom walking onto that stage and leading worship, at least not yet. It’s still too tender.

As I heal and recover, I’m reminding myself to seek times of worship in quiet, more intimate ways.I’m finding that God is always there to meet me.

Jamie Kocur: I am a musician, songwriter, and writer. I struggle with what worship has turned into in today’s church, and write about my struggle at my blog http://rebootingworship.com. I’ve been a “part time” worship leader for several years, leading worship for services like Celebrate Recovery.