Overcoming Ministerial Burnout

   Worship music leaders, are “blue Mondays” becoming more frequent in your experience?  Is your favorite time of the week Sunday night as you complete the day’s activities and brush your brow, just grateful that it will be seven days before you have to face another Sunday?  Have you lost your enthusiasm for rehearsals, long-term ministry programming and planning, special seasonal music presentations, worship preparation, and/or leading your congregation in weekly worship?  Have you given up on fostering musical and spiritual growth in children and youth of your church?


All of these questions have a negative, even depressing sense about them.  I know because it seems to me that in the last few months I feel like I am running into these issues more and more frequently among our worship and music ministers and other musicians in the church.  I have heard it from people who have been serving for many years, but I have also heard it from a few who are still young and have not been in ministry all that long.  Some people have told me they are just worn out.  Recently I have become personally aware of several worship music ministers who have been relieved of their position, have stepped down for personal reasons, or have been placed on notice by their pastor or personnel committee to find another place of service with time parameters attached to the “request.”  I have the unique luxury of processing these issues while driving from appointment to appointment, while engaged in my own time of private prayer and meditation, or in counsel with other ministers in whom I have confidence.  As I have been reading the Bible thru again this year, I have found myself keenly alert to passages that might apply to individual situations in which our worship pastors find themselves.  My prayer is often, “Lord, you called them, you gifted and equipped them.  They have been faithful in their ministry.  Please help them through this time, and help me know how You might use me to encourage their spirit.”


It seems to me most worship music ministers face limited options when experiencing this ministerial burnout, regardless of the source of that condition.  I presume that any decision path would be undertaken in a prayerful and thoughtful manner.  We will look at ways of the minister staying in his/her current situation in the next paragraphs.  Meanwhile, one option is to consider other church fields.  A common question I hear is, “Do you think the Lord is through with me where I am?” or “Are there places where the atmosphere is different and my abilities and personality would be a better fit?”  This option in today’s environment seems particular tough for worship pastors who are in their 50’s or above, and for those who have limited experience or education.  Another option is to consider another career field or ministry avenue.  Music ministers with degrees in Church Music or theology usually find it difficult to break in to secular fields and even when they do so often find such work unsatisfying given the special nature of their training.  I would say that those who have found other ministry paths have been more successful in sustaining their service, since the core fundamentals and motivation for their work is still rooted in a love for Christ and His church.


The “staying put” option is the one I have perhaps spent the most time praying over and doing what I call “mulling.”  I have mulled over reasons that such an emotionally charged role as music minister would find its ministers burning out.  After all, I have responsibility to the music minister and to the church and hope to see the best for both.  Most music ministers I know started with charged enthusiasm and spirited determination.  Where did the enthusiasm go?  In praying and observing I have known that profound effect (positive or negative) on a music leader can come through their pastor, other staff members,  groups of people, church dynamics, and other variables .  Rather than dwell on the “why’s” I want to redirect our attention to ways music ministers can be transformed and discover renewed vitality in their work.


One avenue toward transformation may include the minister of music “reinventing himself/herself.”  If you know me at all, you know I am not talking about spiking hair and taking up rock guitar.  Rather, I am talking about a rediscovery of core values, updated assessment of abilities, honing of communication skills, and exposure to different ways of reflecting theological and spiritual foundations.  The TBC has some helps in these areas.  Another means of rejuvenation for those worship pastors who have lengthy experience is to revisit the hard but gratifying work of training up the next generation of worship leaders.  I know of worship pastors who do this very well.  While some may have the financial means to hire young assistants and mentor them in that manner, others are having profound effect through established programs like youth and college choirs and ensembles, or through a mentoring program.  Some seasoned music ministers have participated in Tennessee Mens Chorale and have purposed to connect with a younger minister as a means of investing in upcoming generations.  I know folks who are giving themselves away to a college student and finding great joy in observation of what is happening in that young man or woman’s life of ministry development.  I believe nothing can inspire your own love for ministry like sharing that love with someone you know is watching you.  One way to enhance your own effectiveness is to multiply yourself into next generations of leaders.  You don’t become younger, but your influence becomes felt more strongly in those younger age groups.  It can be first hand observation of the Lord “making all things new.”


I am convinced that the Lord knows where you are in your journey and He cares.  As tough as the work may become there is hope in the One Who called us to it.  It is a blessing to share your journey and to seek to facilitate networks of inspiration.  Part of my own calling is to stand with you.


“Til the church is built and the earth is filled with His glory,”




Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Music Ministry, Shared Ministry, Worship Leader Relationships, Worship Leaders

2 Comments on “Overcoming Ministerial Burnout”

  1. David Manner Says:


    As usual, your words are timely and profound. I especially appreciate your next to the last paragraph. Reinventing ourselves is crucial. What many of us were originally trained for no longer exists. If lifelong learning is not intentional we may be left behind with skills no longer necessary or appropriate. I recently had a 75 year old man come into my office asking for some guitar charts for some of that “new worship music.” I was impressed that at 75 he was willing to learn new songs. His response to my next statement impressed me even more. I said, “Good for you, I didn’t realize you even played the guitar.” He responded, “I really don’t but I am just starting to take lessons and want to use some of these new songs to help me learn.” He gets it!

  2. Paul Clark Jr Says:

    Thanks, David. I especially love your anecdote. God bless that gentleman. May his tribe (and his spirit) increase.

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