Leading Worship & Fatigue

Those of you who know me know that I pour myself into worship and
preaching.  Worship truly does get at my emotions, from the way I
deliver my sermon to the enthusiastic (and quite audible) "Awesome!" that
came out of my mouth after the bell choir played Sunday morning, to the awe I experience at declaring, "the body of Christ is given for you."  For better or for worse my passion, personality, and energy come out in my preaching and worship leadership (I wrote questioningly on this topic about a year ago in this post: Wearin’ My Madonna Microphone).

Well, there’s a problem to pouring myself into the tasks of worship leadership and preaching.  Every time I preach and lead worship at two morning services, inevitably I am "on" for the first service but am a bit flat and faded at the second service.  I’m talking here about how I hold myself, about my affect.  I simply put so much of myself into the first service that the well is a bit drier by 11am.

At the first service the cadence and timing of my sermon is usually good, my voice is strong and crisp, I hit the notes on the kyrie, and I am attentive to the various worship assistants – lay reader, communion servers, acolyte.  However, at the second service about 90 minutes later, fatigue has set in.  My face and speech are less crisp, my cadence and timing has slowed, I invariably flub part of the (rather easy and routine) kyrie, and I am less attentive to cuing the worship assistants, if necessary.  I’m not a train wreck at the second service, but compared to the first service I am a bit more labored and less spirited.

None of this has to do with the content of worship, with those decisions that are made prior to Sunday morning – the manuscript of the sermon, the arrangement of the liturgy, the announcements to be made, the prayers to be said, etc. etc..  The "stuff" of these two services is the same, but my delivery and demeanor are quite distinct at each service.

Does this happen to you?  What do you do?  What should I do (apart from seek a first call that has only one service)?

Published by Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Veteran. Jedi. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

8 thoughts on “Leading Worship & Fatigue

  1. How do you add Add to del.icio.us to your blog postings. When I try the code I keep getting an error stating that it’s a broken URL. Help!

  2. Two suggestions:
    1) Pace yourself! You’re a runner–you should know about this… 😉
    2) Use their energy instead of spending your own. I found that second services always went better for me because second services are inevitably higher energy. When preaching, I tend to rely on their energy and only use mine if theirs isn’t there. In contrast to you, I have a hard time preaching at an 8 AM service when I stand up and feel nothing coming back towards me…

  3. A variation of this happens to me as well. At my last call, we had three services back to back to back. Between service 1 and 2, there was only about a 5 minute break AND a change in format. Between 2 and 3 there was a 15 minute break, but that was usually filled with making sure that everyone needed for the liturgy was present.
    By the end of the day, I was always exhausted. Being an INTJ, the very public face of ministry combined with the frenetic pace just wore me out.
    My sermons and leadership style shifted a bit with each service. At first I found this disconcerting, but soon learned to embrace it and use it to my advantage. I think we make a major mistake as worship leaders when we think of Sunday morning as a single event rather multiple events. For the person in the pew that attends service, that one service is “church” for them for the week, so it is imperative to work with energy we have to provide them a meaningful space.
    What I did was to adapt my sermon and worship leadership a bit for each service. The early service was what I would call a frozen chosen service. These were people who went to church who were uncomfortable with any sort of novelty in the sermon or liturgy. Instead of fighting that, I embraced it. It was a decidedly low-church cassock and surplice basic LBW service with no frills. I tended to stay in the pulpit and kept my sermon on target.
    The next service was contemporary, using a homegrown liturgy. I am not real big on this sort of service, and was most uncomfortable here. However, what I found most helpful was just to embrace the ethos of the service. No pulpit (lots of roaming and a wireless mic), dialogical/interactive sermons (basically the same one from the previous service with a few questions added in), and a more casual approach. At one time we didn’t wear vestments for this one, but later reintroduced the vestments, which were well received.
    Final service was a choral Eucharist. It was the most attended of the day (the money service). Lots of different pieties represented. Here I went with leadership that was most “me”. Full vestments (including chasuble and such), high, sung liturgy with assistance of choir and cantor, and a mixed approach to preaching (Would start in the pulpit, but never really stayed anchored there. At the same time, I didn’t roam quite like at contemporary).
    Sorry to have taken up so much space. I guess the advice I would give to you is to put yourself in the mindset of the types of people who attend that service. What modes of communication work best to reach them? If you can discern that I think you can tailor some of what you are doing to your demographics in a way that is faithful. I know I feed off the energy in the room, so if good energy is being exchanged, the more confident I am in my role as preacher and presider. The side benefit of this should be a better mental state for you from one worship to the next.
    Hope this helps.

  4. Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are still adjusting. Some pastors never project energy.
    Obviously I’m not speaking from experience, but several pastors, who have been friends, have said that they are so tired on Sundays that they don’t care for social invitations for Sunday afternoons.

  5. Relax. If you are there to proclaim the Gospel the Holy Spirit will do the rest. From my own experience I have never met a senior/primary pastor who did anything social on Sunday after services etc.

  6. Pacing yourself is important. Doing something between services to get a little lift is important. For your personality, I would suggest standing on the front porch of the church for five minutes. Get yourself revved by being the first person to greet the second service folks. Do it in your alb!
    I wouldn’t ignore the issue, that won’t help. I would however, not let it be a major stresser. Rely on the energy of the people. Deliver the liturgy as worship not something you read. It can energize you. Remind yourself that although you’ve heard it all at the first service, it’s new to them. Practice your sermon in the space before anyone else is there. Sometimes you can establish a style for the thing that can lend itself to multiple services.
    Or look for a first call with only one service. 😉

  7. The same thing would happen to me during my internship. I posted about it here.
    The quiet time for prayer came as a blessing and also became a regular part of my Sunday morning worship.

  8. This sounds like a great issue to address with your internship committee. Try out different things like extra time centering yourself with prayer (if you can carve out the time), another cup of coffee, lowering the energy in the first service, or whatever might work for you. Clue them in to watch for subtle changes and give them “starter questions” to gather feedback from others in the congregation. I found that people were willing to give more direct feedback when committee members asked than when I was.
    That is a great thing about internship–you can try things out. I pray that your congregation sees you as a leader and a learner, and therefore sees themselves as teachers or formers of your leadership.

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