There are times in your worship ministry when things can get stressed and chaotic.
Rehearsals and sound checks are often on a schedule, at times with the looming deadline of the service beginning very soon.
Add in the many variables in the worship team setting, such as tech components, personalities, logistics, styles, music selections, last-minute changes and more, and you have a recipe for some stress and drama.
When pressure arises, one of the best gifts the worship leader can give is to remain calm.
The truth is, one crazy mishap during worship service isn’t going to make or break your church. We don’t want to live in chaos all the time, which is why advance planning is so important, but when something does arise, we have no choice but to roll with it.
A calm worship leader can calm the crazy moments for the team members, too.
Over the years, I have been told that I have a calming presence. I know that’s part of my personality and also due in part to my style of ministry. Of course, I’m not writing these blog posts to make you feel like you need to become someone else, but to be aware of the moments when you need to bring calm.
I tried to think of some of the ways I help make things calmer in these common situations:
At any given service, tech issues can arise. Whether is a small battery or cable issue or something major, like a power surge or internet outage, you can help bring calm by trusting your team. You don’t need ten people to work on tech issues, usually. Allow your team to problem-solve. If it’s during rehearsal, use your time to talk through things, explain the issue in to the mic so everyone knows what you’re waiting on, and maybe even just let the keyboard player (or whoever is having the issue) know that you’re going to jump in and they can catch up once the issue is resolved. Communication is good during tech problems. And when the tech team gets it rolling again, you celebrate. Our worship team will often give a round of applause for the tech when they pull something off in the heat of the moment just before worship begins. Another way I try to keep calm during tech issues to say, “hey, if we need to purchase this or that to make things easier, send me a link!” And then the last thing I do is let people know, “hey we’re working on this and if all goes awry, we will just be simple acoustic today and create a memory maker.” It’s true that often in tech crunches like power outages, strings breaking, or other things, people almost seem to respond more that day! I’m always reminded of the verse, “in our weakness, he is strong…” Of course, if there are teamwork issues with your tech team, you must address them. The tech team needs to be prepared for the band to arrive, rehearse and lead. If arrival time needs to be adjusted or other structural issue needs to be addressed, do so! The “on top of things” tech team will lessen the burden and stress for everyone. A lagging tech team will add heartburn to the situation each week. Offer your clear expectations, training opportunities, resources, and support to your tech team and leaders.
I’ve had my fair share of times when we thought the music was worked out, but then it just didn’t click. There have been times when the lead vocal for a song couldn’t make it that morning due to illness and we had to adjust on the fly. Other times, the harmony we had worked out perfectly during rehearsal doesn’t seem to jive on Sunday morning. And maybe this example falls into the tech department, but sometimes we just can’t seem to line up with the backing track or get our monitor packs adjusted correctly. Everything was fine on rehearsal night, then the gremlins came in and it seemingly falls apart. When musical issues arise, we take a step back and talk through it. Let’s go through the vocals again just to see if we can get it. And if it’s not working, drop back and go simply. Sing in unison on a part. Double up on harmonies if that’s what is needed. Stop for a moment and let the lead guitar remember the lick or timing from rehearsal night. And I’ve also learned that if I, as a leader, will ask the team things like, “how did that line go again?” it helps build a culture of teachability. Musical snags can be very frustrating, especially just before the service, but remaining calm and encouraging people to do their best will go a long way to bringing peace. We’re there to help the congregation sing. We can make that happen in lots of ways. Again, if there is someone who consistently doesn’t learn the songs or their parts probably needs to be challenged. And if a person isn’t able to pull the vocal or the part just before service, just calmly and plainly state, “for whatever reason, this isn’t blending this morning, so for the sake of the congregation and removing all barriers, why don’t you step back from the mic for this part, and just model worship and singing without a mic.”
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Missing Team Members
When a team member can’t make it, we have to take it in stride. During the pandemic, this became commonplace. If someone was feeling even a bit sick, they were encouraged to stay home. There’s no way around last-minute changes due to unforeseeable circumstances. The first way a leader can remain calm is to answer the text or phone call with a kind word. Care more for the team member than the situation. Say something like, “oh no, take care of yourself and I hope you get better soon! We will miss you, but we will hold down the fort, don’t worry at all!” From there, take a moment to pray and see what step should be taken. Here are some questions I ask myself in those last-minute changes: 1) Can someone else take their part/role? 2) Is there someone I can text to come at the last minute? 3) Can we drop that song/segment/component? 4) How can this situation bring glory to God anyway? Remember the story of Gideon (Judges 6)? He started with 32,000 men, then down to 10,000 in his army, and then finally down to 300 and they won the battle. God wanted to make sure that when they won the battle everyone would know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was the Lord more than their strength in numbers. I always think of this scripture passage when people cancel out at the last minute. God always seems to make it work out, often bringing solutions to situations that we would never have thought of and becoming helpful parts of our ministry in the future!
But like the other headings in this post, don’t let your team make a habit of it. It’s one thing to miss here and there but needs to be addressed if it happens more than a couple times. There may be something deeper going on.
Something Goes Wrong During the Worship Service
When something goes wrong during worship, you have to roll with it. It’s often the humble spoken word when things go wrong during worship. The video didn’t start, the keyboard player begins the song in the wrong key (most often forgetting to transpose back or something like that) or something else didn’t work right. You as the worship leader can interject a statement, a story or a quick line acknowledging the fact that things didn’t go as planned, but God is good. This is more of an art than a science since every situation is unique, but acknowledgment is the best practice if it’s highly noticeable. Otherwise, let the little things slide. Don’t blame. Don’t throw anyone under the bus. Just praise the Lord and move on. I’d rather have a group take risks and fail here and there than a group become stale because they do the same thing over and over.
Bonus: Do Your Best To Prevent Chaos
The best way is to keep things calm is to do your best to prevent issues to begin with. Advance planning and scheduling, correct chord charts and prepared sound and tech all help to keep surprises to a minimum. Do all you can before Sunday because Sunday will always have a few little things to overcome and you don’t want the stress of compounded issues. Much like your car needs preventive maintence so you don’t break down, worship leaders develop the systems needed to get things in order throughout the week.