What to Do When You're Out of Ideas

What do you do as a worship leader when you’re all of ideas? Particularly when picking songs for yet another service seems to be next to impossible? Here are some suggestions:

Take a vacation.
One sign of burnout is mental fatigue. Take a break. Take one or two Sundays off in a row. Do whatever you have to do to get away. Visit a good church. Or (gasp) sleep in.

Buy a bunch of new worship CDs.
Have you listened to Matt Redman’s Your Grace Finds Me, or The Gospel Coalition’s Songs From the Book of Luke, or Keith and Kristyn Getty’s new live album, or Dustin Kensrue’s The Water and the Blood, or Sovereign Grace’s Grace Has Come, or Indelible Grace’s Joy Beyond the Sorrow (from last year), or Paul Baloche’s The Same Love? Even if you listen to all of these and only take away two songs you could teach your congregation, you’ll still have a lot of new arrangement ideas and melodies floating around in your head that help you feel more fresh.

Find time for personal worship.
When I’m feeling all out of ideas, many times that means I need to sit down with my guitar or at a piano and just begin to play music and articulate praise to God. Your public ministry has to be an overflow from your private life or else you’ll be operating on fumes.

See/hear/ask what other churches are doing.
If you know other worship leaders at different churches, send them a note and ask them what they’ve done recently (songs, or other ideas) that’s really clicked with their congregations. Maybe it’s a terrible idea. But maybe it’s a good one. And you shouldn’t be ashamed to use it and adapt it in your setting.

Stretch your brain.
Go to a conference, read a theological book or take a seminary class (there are a bunch of options online if you don’t live near a good one). Ask if your church will pay for this out of their continuing education budget. They should! You being out of ideas is an invitation to fill your brain and your heart with a new supply of concepts, techniques, history, terminology and Bible.

Lean on your team.
Invite your worship team over to your house for a half-day retreat on a Saturday. Feed them breakfast and then come together for a couple of hours before adjourning at lunch. Laugh, worship and pray together, and then put some huge white paper up on the walls. Have a group conversation about where your worship ministry has been, where it is now, where it’s going and what God is saying. You’ll get some tangents and some random comments, but you’ll also get a lot of good insight from people who are a bit more able to look at things from a 50,000 foot view than you.

Take a deep breath.
An awful lot of worship leaders feel a pressure to perform, to be super creative, to be edgy, to be relevant, to be hipster, to be up on all the new stuff, to be musically inventive and to get results on Sunday mornings. It’s not that being any of those is bad, or that hoping for fruitful worship leading is wrong, but when we allow the pursuit of creativity or ingenuity to have power over us, then we’ve gone too far. Focus on being faithful to Jesus, faithful to the proclamation of the Gospel, and faithful to your congregation. Sometimes when you think you’re out of ideas, all you actually need to do is keep drawing from the same well again and again and again.  

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Jamie was born and raised in Florida as a preacher’s kid. Since age 14, he has been leading worship pretty much every Sunday of his life, experiencing all of the joys and trials of church ministry. For over 10 years, Jamie has been writing at his blog, Worthily Magnify, in the hopes of helping worship leaders lead better. In 2006, Jamie married Catherine, and they now have four wonderful kids: Megan, Emma, Callie, and Jacob, who keep them busy, laughing, praying, and very grateful to God.