Better Leadership Through R&R

"You Saved My Life!"

I was just about to start warm ups at the first rehearsal of a choir retreat. I had done all the planning. Everyone who was there had safely completed a 4 hour drive, avoiding Friday night traffic problems. We’d had a wonderful meal at the conference center. The librarian had organized the music into rehearsal packets according to each session. I was focused. This was going to be a great experience for everyone. So when the college-aged alto came bouncing up to me, I thought, uh-oh. Then her words sunk in, and I gave her my complete attention.

It turns out that she had read the assigned devotional book–Becoming a Complete Worshiper by Tom Kraeuter. I had spent considerable time choosing the “perfect” reading material, finally, after talking directly with Tom, settling on this book because of the worship teaching therein, and the continued need for this (or any) choir (in my opinion) to stay clear on their true role–worship leadership, not performance.

I’ll paraphrase the rest of the conversation: she had significant doubts about faith, and it was manifesting itself in an unhappiness at her life. Through the book, and the Holy Spirit, she came to accept Jesus as her savior, thus I had “saved” her life.

One of the remarkable aspects of music and worship leadership in the church is that as much as we concentrate on the “technical” details and demand excellence from those who share our ministry, God still works wonders. This is not the first time I have been reminded that it is not all about me, or the choir, or the “perfect” anthem. I’m sure I’m not alone in being reminded that there is a bigger picture here.

Lest you think I am patting myself on the back for my brilliant choice of reading material, this is about getting away... away from our day-to-day responsibilities, away from our everyday geography, and away to focus on (in the case of a choir retreat) being in community with those with whom you do ministry.

There are repeated Scriptural references to Jesus “withdrawing” from his responsibilities to be alone and to pray. I’m sure it is not new news that He had a monumental task to accomplish. He needed “R&R” (that’s reflection and refocus in this context). My experience with choir retreats in three denominations and two countries prove their worth for providing R&R before the not insignificant task of worship leadership over the span of a season, or a year. The point is to, like Jesus, get “away” from this world, and refill your tank.

My choir cabinet that year was awesome! They did all of the logistical and administrative work, leaving me to concentrate on “content.” That was our third retreat together, and we had never left town. It was the only requirement I gave them: we needed to be far enough away, that people could not “go home” for the night, or to feed the dog, or to get in a quick trip to the store between retreat sessions. There was some resistance on the part of several members of the choir (“Why does it have to be so far away?” “It’s more expensive to stay overnight.” “Why are we away on Sunday morning...can’t we come back early?”), but, for those who went, and who assisted in worship leadership “away”–in another denominational setting, at that, they came home changed.

Perhaps it is my stage in life, but I have learned that if I don’t “schedule” my R&R, my SCHEDULE begins to rule my life. All together now:
I’m too busy
I don’t have time
I can’t get a minute to myself

In the words of one of my favorite anthems: Take Some Time to be with your Savior...just to walk, and talk with Him. But don’t stop there...

Plan a family retreat.

Plan a choir (or orchestra) (or worship team) (or staff) retreat. The time you spend will come back to you many times over. You might even have the honor of saving a life.

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