Transition is inevitable. No matter who you are or where you serve, there will come a time when either God will call you to a different place in ministry or that position will end—whether it's by a shutdown or by someone's decision to end your position for you—and force you into a transitional period.
With the current state of our country and world, I imagine that almost every person has experienced great shifts in one area of life or another over the past several months. How we handle these changes will greatly impact and determine the steps we take in the future.
Worship on the Back Burner
For the sake of this article, I want to zero in on how those in worship ministry can handle a change in position or service area, and come out on the other side ready to step into whatever it is that God has next.
If you're like me, you have had many times when there has been a changeover in your position or location, causing a shift of focus in ministry and other areas of life. Some people are blessed to go from one position to the next without so much as a short break to rest and gear up for the next assignment. But that's not the most common scenario.
So what does a worship leader do when worship ministry gets put on the back burner? If you have not experienced it yet, I can guarantee that there will be a season in your life when this will happen. Maybe it's for a few years to focus on your family and kids. Maybe you get a different job and the hours don't allow you to serve in the same capacity. How about seasons of burnout after years of pouring out of yourself week in and week out without a break, and you feel as though you have nothing left to give?
No matter what the reason, transitional times will come—and when they do, you need to be equipped and ready to handle it and to find a way to worship right on through the transition. Then you can come out on the other side ready and able to pick back up what you laid down for that season, with the presence and anointing of God moving just as powerfully.
Here's a few ways that I have found to help me through these trying times:
1. Worship with other worshippers. When in a state of burnout, it's easy to sequester yourself away and sometimes not even want to go to a church service or worship night. And if you've moved to a new area, you might be timid to go to a place you've not been to before to worship with strangers. For those whose lives have become really full, it's easy to go days without even listening to worship music. Here is where we have to determine not to let the transition get the best of us.
"And let us consider how to spur one another to love and to good works. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching" (Heb.10:24-25).
My husband and I recently moved from New York to the east coast of Florida, which has been a long-awaited transition for us, one we have anticipated for at least five years. As I stepped down from the worship team in New York and still don't have a church home in Florida yet, we have enjoyed going to local churches and worshipping with other believers. (Yes, many of Florida's churches in our location are open and meeting in person with the precautions of taking temperatures as each person shows up, wearing masks and social distancing in place.) I have also participated in a spontaneous worship night that I was invited to lead at. And every day I have worship music and videos playing that feed my spirit. Some days, these have been like a lifeline for me!
2. Sing or play whenever you can. Just because you're not on a platform, doesn't mean you can't worship! My greatest moments of worship lately have come while riding my bike and singing as loudly as I could with worship playing in my earbuds. Or while I'm driving by myself in the car, or in the shower (we all agree that everyone sings better in the shower, right?).
The most beautiful thing about living the Christian life is that we can live it fully devoted to Him—no matter what it is that we are doing. Paul explains it like this:
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Col. 3:17).
Sometimes it's about making the most of every opportunity. Right now my husband and I are new empty-nesters, having dropped our kids off at a Christian college the same day that we headed south. We both work from home, so there are not too many moments when I have the house to myself (hence why I sing in the car and when riding my bike). I would rather play my keyboard and really worship when nobody else is around, so in those rare moments when I am home by myself, the first thing I do is go straight to my keyboard and worship.
Find those moments that work for you to spend some good time in worship. Whether you sing or play an instrument, you don't want to lose any ground during your time of transition. It may not be convenient, but finding the time to keep your voice or skill level at its best will pay off later—both naturally and spiritually.
3. Don't allow transition to break you. Sometimes God brings us through very long seasons of transition. There was a time when I didn't step on a platform to sing or play for years. That was very difficult for me and something that I struggled with a lot. I know that my main purpose is wrapped up in worship ministry—and when you go years without doing what you were created to do, it can be discouraging.
Maybe you're in that spot today—don't lose heart. If God has called you to worship ministry, rest in the fact that you will be doing it again one day. The key is to not allow your gift to decay and crumble away while you are in the waiting period.
"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies" (2 Cor. 4:8-10, NLT).
Just because we are not on a platform, it doesn't mean that we don't have a ministry. For years I stopped writing music because I didn't know what I would do with it. I had no outlet, and I didn't have the funds to put out yet another CD, especially if I wasn't traveling to sell them! Sometimes I think back and wonder what songs God would have given me during those times if I had just dared to get past my discouragement to pick up the pen and write.
So if you are in a transitional period right now, I challenge you to sing! I challenge you to play! Don't allow this time to set you back.
The most important thing you can do is to be ready for the next thing that God has for you with worship ministry—whenever or wherever that may be. What a testimony it is to the world when we keep worshipping in spite of the shifts and changes that life brings our way!
"Praise the Lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle" (Psalm 144:1).
Cathy Sanders has been involved with music for over 28 years. She is an anointed worship leader and psalmist. She has produced three albums, and her music was played on the radio for over six years in the northeast. She is also a prolific writer who has authored/co-authored five books. Cathy carries master's and doctorate degrees in Christian education, graduating with honors. Cathy and her husband, Andy, have two grown children and reside in Northeastern Florida.
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