Don’t Overcorrect

It’s a terrifying feeling when you’re driving a car and something unexpected happens.

Someone starts to swerve into your lane.

A tire blows out.

You begin to hydroplane in the rain or snow.

But however the terrifying situations differ, one of the most basic pieces of driving advice remains the same: don’t overcorrect. Overcorrecting most often makes things worse.

The same principle applies to worship leading.

You can tell a song is bombing.

Your drummer is playing in 6/8 instead of 4/4.

You’re singing one verse and the screens are projecting another.

The possibilities are endless. So many things can go wrong on a Sunday morning, and since you’re not expecting them, you could instinctively overcorrect. But overcorrecting most often makes things worse.

To overcorrect in a car usually means to steer the car wildly in one direction, then realizing one’s mistake, and steering wildly in the other direction, by which point your car might be rolling over or hitting a tree.

To overcorrect in worship leading usually means to make a similarly wild direction change. You abruptly stop a song. You decide to preach a mini-sermon. You decide to sing a 4 minute spontaneous song (I did this when I was fourteen in a little Episcopal church and it did NOT go well!).

You get the idea. And you’ve experienced what I’m talking about. You can feel yourself starting to lose control and so you’re tempted to do something drastic.

Now of course you never say never. It’s not that it’s never a good idea during worship to do something drastic. Sometimes that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit is saying to you. But, in my experience, most of the time your response to the unexpected things in worship should be to keep your car in your lane, keep it moving ahead, and make sure you get to your destination.

I would much rather get through a worship set alive, and review the snot out of it later, then decide to risk everything on making it work for goodness sake! No one single worship set is worth you causing a ton of commotion. Slow and steady wins the race. You’ll get to lead worship again next Sunday. Let a day go by, and when you’ve calmed down, look back at what went wrong. This will be safer for your congregation, for you, and yes, for your job.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Overcorrect”

  1. Recently found your blog and have appreciated the insight and experience! My question about this post–and mainly because you specifically called out “abruptly stop a song”–is what examples you think that might be the appropriate action?

    I’ve only ever done it once or twice, but it was in cases where the guitarist starting the song capo’d on the wrong fret or something, so when the band came in, an immediate and unavoidable train wreck ensued. If there’s a good rapport with the congregation, just dealing quickly and making light of the situation seemed appropriate and then restart the song. People might have a quick chuckle and then get on with things. Obviously it breaks the flow, but it was pretty broken as soon as everyone was playing in two keys!

    My pastor has always told me not to avoid the elephant in the room… meaning that sometimes if there’s an obvious problem, simply addressing it and moving on can go a long way in relieving everyone’s tension around it. But like you said, we all know it can go south pretty fast. 🙂

    Anyway, just curious your thoughts about that a bit more. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Jon,

      Your pastor is absolutely right. Don’t avoid the elephant in the room! If something happens that’s so obvious (like the team being in two keys at the same time), or a medical emergency when you need to ask for a doctor and for people to please make room, then stopping the song really is the best option. In the first case, it breaks the tension and makes people laugh and then you keep on keeping on. In the second example, it could save someone’s life.

      What I was referring to was not abruptly stopping a song because people aren’t into it or you feel like it isn’t going well. When I was a senior in high school and leading worship for my church’s youth group, I was very often tempted to just stop a song when half the room wasn’t singing, or the whole back row of guys were just goofing off, and attempt to give a guilt-ridden sermonette to bash them into worshipping more. That would have been an overcorrection (and I’m pretty sure I did that a few times)!


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