How to Prevent Worship Team Volunteer Burnout

  • Written By 
  • Jonathan Swindal

Do you think it’s possible to completely prevent worship team volunteer burnout?

Burnout has become a widely discussed and researched topic in the past decade or so within the church world. The problem is that the vast majority of the discussion is focused on pastors. We often neglect the people who experience it most frequently: volunteers!

Volunteers make up the vast majority of any church’s work force and, as long as they keep signing up and showing up, it’s easy to assume they’re okay.

But precisely because they’re volunteers it is our responsibility to be vigilant in caring for them.

As pastors and worship leaders, we must not forget that the people who volunteer in our churches are ministers, not community service volunteers.

Running visuals, mixing audio, singing background vocals, and playing the bass are all facilitating ministry to God and the congregation and our language should reflect that. They are holy people and they’re doing holy work. But just because they’re volunteering to do good holy work doesn’t mean they’re exempt from experiencing burnout.

It would be presumptuous to assume that we can “prevent burnout” in another human being. Of course we can’t!

We’re not that powerful. But we can change the culture within our ministries (and maybe even our churches at large!) to make it harder to fall into burnout and easier to identify it as it encroaches.

Here are 3 things that you can do to help prevent worship team volunteer burnout.

1. Show genuine appreciation for their work

This is one of those things that’s so basic it’s often overlooked. Words of appreciation matter. Thank them regularly for specific things. For a few years I tried to send the whole team a long (only positive!) text on Sunday afternoon with specific things they had done well that day. Make it a point to hand-write “thank you” cards at least once a year and make them personal to the individual.

If you know they’ve made considerable sacrifices or put in extra work, note that and thank them for it.

Remind them of why it’s meaningful both to you and your congregation. If you have the budget, give them gift cards that are specific to their likings.

A few years ago, a lady in our church offered to contribute 5-10 hours a week in the office for a season. The first thing I asked her to do was create a survey that we sent out to every volunteer in the ministry to learn about their passions, hobbies, and places that they enjoy. When we received the results we input them in the notes on their PCO profile. At the end of the year we were able to appreciate them personally. There’s nothing wrong with Amazon gift cards, but when you go out of your way to purchase gift cards from a hole-in-the-wall restaurant to their favorite genre of cuisine it shows thoughtfulness and intentionality.

When their service is appreciated it’s more likely that they will experience serving as a life-giving activity than a life-draining one.

2. Hold them with open hands

It’s easy to treat team members well when they’re on-time, prepared, super talented, and helping your ministry function well. But what about when they’re in a season of needing you to really be their pastor? Or what about when you need more from them than they’re able to give?

If you’re the one responsible for putting on worship every week in your congregation it’s easy to subtly begin thinking of your volunteers like cogs in a machine (though that is what PCO scheduling certainly can feel like).

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve received the unfortunate news of someone getting sick on a Saturday afternoon who now needs to be replaced. The ripple effect is quite large, but every time I would get one of those texts I would try and pause before responding. I knew that in the moment my first concern would be the urgency of the situation, not how I could care for them as a human being. After waiting a few minutes I would be in a better place to ask how they were and if they needed anything. Then I would get to work patching the hole.

Remember, your team members do not belong to you.

Your responsibility to them is, first, to pastor and care for them, then to lead them as a music team. They’re serving on top of everything else going on in their lives. They don’t owe you anything and you should, ultimately, want what’s best for them even if it means a little more work for you. Hold the people who serve in your ministry with open hands.

This will be tested when people need a break or want to step away from the ministry for a season.

Of course it’s difficult for you and the team members who will now be asked to do more! But how you respond when someone steps away tends to speak the loudest to them and the remaining team members. Thank and bless them for all they’ve given over the years and check in with them periodically in the ensuing months – and not just when you need to ask them if they can fill in. Treat them with dignity as disciples of Jesus and hold them with open hands. Your team culture will feel the difference.

3. Schedule with healthy boundaries

It’s safe to say that we will tend to utilize people as often as they’re available and will allow us. I’ve worked with some people who will say “yes” to a last-minute invite 9 times out of 10. And as I’ve matured I’ve learned to not make them the first ones I ask. Sometimes people have trouble saying “no” and establishing their own boundaries. Which is why it’s important that you have guidelines and parameters with which you manage the ministry. This can be tricky because some people will want to be involved as much as possible.

Even when you want to make an exception to the rule, do your best not to.

About two years ago we had a drummer come to our church who had recently become an empty-nester and wanted to play as frequently as I could schedule him because it helped him get acclimated to the community in our congregation (and it was a season that I really needed him!). For six months I scheduled him more than I normally would have because I thought it was mutually beneficial, but in the long-term I knew it wouldn’t be healthy so we revisited the topic and agreed to lessen his frequency.

In order to do this right you’ll have to recruit and develop a deeper bench of singers and musicians.

You might have to invest in training some people who aren’t yet ready to serve on Sundays. Being over reliant on specific individuals can’t always be avoided, but think ahead, recruit regularly, and check in with your team often.

Make training and development an integral part of your worship ministry.

Most people like to feel like they’re learning, growing, and being challenged. Make room for the people God might be wanting to add to your ministry. And make it a place where everyone can thrive. Some people will find so much life serving on the worship team that they want to do it every week, but I humbly suggest that you shy away from that and establish boundaries. This is how you shepherd them and protect them from experiencing worship team volunteer burnout.

Guarding people in your care from burnout is tricky because each person is different and every ministry has different needs.

But here’s what I can tell you with certainty: when you prioritize caring for people above the production of the ministry you will get more scheduling headaches, but you’ll also have a far healthier ministry 5 years from now. That’s the goal: to sustain over a long period of time. Not just have something great for a blip of time. By leading with caring for your people in the forefront of your mind, you too will have a thriving healthy team, void of worship team volunteer burnout.

Click here to subscribe


You may also be interested in these related posts!

Ready to give it a try?

Get instant access to instrument and vocal tutorials for over 450 of today’s top worship songs!

How to Prevent Worship Team Volunteer Burnout

Do you think it’s possible to completely prevent worship team volunteer burnout? Burnout has become a widely discussed and researched topic in the past decade or so within the church world. The problem is that the vast majority of the discussion is focused on pastors. We often neglect the people who experience it most frequently: volunteers! …

How to Prevent Worship Team Volunteer Burnout Read More »

Episode 3: Why Your Worship Guitar Tone is Incomplete without Gain Staging & Drive Stacking

Worship Guitarists! If you’re not happy with your worship guitar tone, there’s a reason why. In this video series, we’ll show you why your worship guitar tone is incomplete without gain staging and drive stacking. You’ll learn how to get the most out of your pedals and amps to create a massive sound that will fill …

Episode 3: Why Your Worship Guitar Tone is Incomplete without Gain Staging & Drive Stacking Read More »

How to Prevent Worship Team Volunteer Burnout

Do you think it’s possible to completely prevent worship team volunteer burnout? Burnout has become a widely discussed and researched topic in the past decade or so within the church world. The problem is that the vast majority of the discussion is focused on pastors. We often neglect the people who experience it most frequently: volunteers! …

How to Prevent Worship Team Volunteer Burnout Read More »

Send this to a friend