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11 Tips For Confronting Poor Preparation On Your Worship Team

11 Tips For Confronting Poor Preparation On Your Worship Team

By Jon Nicol on May 20, 2014

Call team members out on their poor behavior.

85% of you (who hate conflict) just began to question whether you applied your antiperspirant this morning. The other 15% think Christmas just came early: finally, someone's vindicating you for what comes so naturally. But don't get too excited, Mr. or Ms. Thrive-On-Conflict. You may not like some of what follows.

Before we dive into the tips for making this key work, we need to understand something: this key is only possible when some of the other keys are in place. Three of the twelve keys that directly connect with this key are...

  • Communicating a clear, compelling vision of where we're going and why a culture of preparation is needed to get there. People need to know why they're practicing & rehearsing.

  • Well-communicated and documented expectations and policies for preparation. People need to know what's expected of them.

  • And the foundation of being able to offer constructive criticism is a relationship built on trust and respect. People need to know you love them.

Confronting poor behavior doesn't come naturally for most of us. We just aren’t wired for it. Or we had our wiring messed up earlier in life, which made us even more conflict-averse. But if we take the time to introduce all twelve of the keys that I spell out in this course and fail to do this one, forget it. Your team will never be preparing like they should.

How do I know this? Because I've worked really hard on 11 out of 12 of these keys. But the moment I've let poor preparation go unchecked, I've essentially told my team that these other 11 keys aren't truly important.

While I still have a ways to go, I've gotten better. Here are some things I've learned along the way:

1. Praise in public; critique in private.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. One subtle area to be aware of: many of us leaders who like to joke with our team will give veiled criticisms via joking with our team members during rehearsals. Besides the tactic being a tad passive-aggressive, it's simply poor leadership.

2. Do it ASAP.

The longer you wait, the tougher it becomes, and often, you lose the window of effectiveness.

3. Never before a worship service, unless it’s that crucial.

If you've ever taken criticism before a worship service (and what worship leader hasn't?), you know what that does to your ability to lead. It messes with your mojo. So I try to never do it to a team member. The one exception I can recall was a vocalists who showed up on a Sunday morning in a far-too-revealing outfit. (Thankfully, I was exempt from that tough conversation because of my Y chromosome. One of my female leaders had to handle that.)

4. Do it in person.

Or over the phone if necessary. NEVER in email. The tone of your voice is left up to interpretation in email. You don't want people reading anger or other unintended emotions into your words.

5. Know the person.

Different people require different approaches. For some people, you’ll likely need to sandwich criticism in the middle of some praise. But some people just prefer constructive criticism straight up—don't beat around the bush with them.

6. Be specific.

Point towards specific events. Avoid vague generalizations. Try this: "Tonight as we were practicing 'Mighty to Save' it seemed like you were off time in the bridge.” Instead of, “You don’t play in time with the team very well.”

7. Separate the offense from the person.

“It seems you’re speeding up the tempo.”


“You’ve got a lousy sense of time.” Hear the difference?

8. State how the behavior affects the team.

“The team is often unsure of who to follow when you stray from the tempo. It makes it tough to play tight when we’re not all in time.” We need to remind people that their poor preparation doesn't just affect them, but the whole team.

9. Use questions.

“Did you notice that you were speeding up?”

“Do you practice with a metronome at home?”

“Is there something that we can change in your monitor?”

10. Suggest solutions

“Would it help to turn the click up in your monitor?”

“Are you able to take time and practice with a metronome between now and Sunday? I think that will be helpful.”

11. Always give a reason WHY it’s a problem, not just that it IS a problem.

When people know why, they will accept constructive feedback. But if all they get told that they're doing it wrong, people will eventually check out or lash out.

These 11 tips can really be used in any situation where constructive feedback is needed. But if you're team is like mine, this is one of the big areas you need to give some corrective guidance.

For discussion: What are some ways (good or bad) that you've handled poor preparation from team members? And what was the outcome?

(This article was originally posted on WorshipTeamCoach.com. Used by permission.)

Image provided courtesy of ShiftWorship.com

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Jon Nicol

Jon Nicol (Guest Writer)

Jon Nicol is a worship pastor, coach, blogger and author of "The SongCycle: How to Simplify Worship Planning and Re-Engage Your Church." You can learn more about him and his many free resources at WorshipTeamCoach.com.