One of the truest truths of worship leading is that you never know what’s going to happen on a Sunday morning. You can prepare, plan, rehearse, and practice until you’re blue in the face, but when Sunday morning comes, literally anything could happen. Off the top of my head, here are some of the unanticipated Sunday moments that stand out to me over the last 10-15 years:
- The time one of my instrumentalists went on a profanity-laced tirade just minutes before our service was supposed to start, in front of the whole worship team
- The time our computer than ran our projected lyrics completely failed, thus causing me to change the entire song list at the last minute to exclusively songs out of the hymnal
- The time I was walking up on stage and a matriarch of the congregation stopped me to angrily demand I stop repeating the choruses so often
- The multiple times someone has had a medical emergency in the middle of the service
- The Easter when 2 of our 3 services had to be significantly delayed because of crowding and parking issues
- The time I had an extended meeting in-between services with a group of significantly disgruntled church members
- The time a well-intentioned gentleman decided to present me with a document detailing why contemporary music is satanic – again, just moments before the service started
- The time I was leading worship for a conference with all new musicians, and was told I (and the sound crew) would have all day to set up and rehearse, but at the last minute was told that the venue would not be free until 15 minutes before the opening set was supposed to start
- The countless times I could tell we’re not quite ready for that new song, or that new arrangement, but we have to start the service anyways!
I could list more examples of unplanned and unforeseen events before or during a service, and I’m sure that you have your own list as well! You never what’s going to happen on a Sunday morning, what surprises are in store, what people might decide to say unhelpful things to you at just the wrong time, or what technical issues might arise and cause you to jump to plan B without much warning.
It’s hard not to get completely sidetracked, distracted, worked up, and even a little bit angry or annoyed when the unexpected happens, and throws your planning (or maybe just your peacefulness) into disarray. We’re human, we’re not perfect, and we’re trying to balance multiple demands at any given moment.
But I’ve found that the best way to grow in becoming more unflappable on Sundays is simply to put your money where your theology is, and in those high-pressure hours on a Sunday when you’re “on”:
- Hold firm to a high view of the sovereignty of God. God is not caught off guard by anything. So the computer dies that’s supposed to run your lyrics? Don’t be so quick to blame a bad hard drive. God might have a different direction for the service in mind.
- Remain humbly mindful of your own limitations and neediness. You’re going to mess up, you’re not going to be able to control everything, and that’s OK.
- Resist, resist, resist the lie that everything is riding on one service, or one Sunday. Amazingly, Sundays come around once a week. If something goes wrong one week, don’t over react and freak out like your life is over. You (and your church) will be fine.
The reality of worship leading is far messier and crazier than the polished images we see portrayed on worship albums or conferences might let on. Embrace (and expect) the kind of real-life issues that will arise with real people, buggy technology, and maybe just some miscommunication from time to time.
God is in control, and you are not God, and the best thing we can do as worship leaders is to be OK with those truths as quickly as possible. Then we’ll grow in our unflappability, and enjoy ourselves and our congregations a lot more while we’re at it.