It would be impossible to go back and make corrections to many of those leadership and relationship failures. We do, however, have the opportunity for another chance to get it right this Sunday. One way to learn from the past in order to influence the future is to anticipate mistakes before they are made.
Evaluating our leadership and relationships at the end of each Sunday serves as a postmortem of what has already occurred. By definition, a postmortem is implemented only after death or after the damage has already been done. Postmortem evaluators say, “I’ll learn from the damage and do it better next time.”
What if we also implemented a process of premortems? A premortem applies prospective hindsight before an event occurs. Prospective hindsight considers what mistakes might occur by envisioning the future outcome as a result of those mistakes. Premortem evaluators say, “I want to get it right this time.”
Considering the following 10 mistakes and others before Sunday could minimize the need to autopsy our leadership and relationships on Monday.
- Trying to fix relationships with music
Leading music doesn’t necessarily equate to leading people. We’ll never be able to teach enough new songs to make up for leadership and relationship failures. What will our congregations remember most about our worship leadership… how we led them musically while on the platform or how we ministered to them on the way to and from the platform? Musical talent and platform presence may help us secure a worship pastor position but developing leadership and relationship skills will help us keep it.
- Flying Solo
Most of us have enough musical talent to succeed alone for a while. The time will come, however, when the inherent risks of trying to do it alone will cause us to fail…also alone. So if we try to receive all the credit when something works, we’ll also receive all the credit when something doesn’t. If we never involve our congregants as more than casual bystanders while we read, speak, sing, play, pray, testify, lead, mediate, commune, baptize, confess, thank, petition and exhort, then how can we expect them to transform from passive spectators to active participators.
- Singing too much
Music is an expression given to us so that we might offer it to God in worship. But it is not the only expression or even the primary expression. Considering Scripture, Prayer and the Lord’s Supper as foundational instead of supplemental worship elements could alleviate the pressure on music to serve as the primary driver of worship renewal and consequently diminish its solitary blame for worship conflict.
- Trying to be the bride
Ushers play a key role in the wedding ceremony, but they must have enough humility to acknowledge they aren’t and won’t ever be the bride. Like ushers, worship leaders must be willing to take a secondary role in order to help others find their place in the service without coercion or force but instead by humbly encouraging participants to accompany them.
- Inviting God to show up
Worship isn’t our attempt to be with the Father, it is our response to having been with the Father. We often take credit for instigating God’s presence by what we sing or how we sing it. But He started the conversation, was present long before we arrived, and has been waiting patiently for us to acknowledge Him. So worship doesn’t invite God’s presence…it acknowledges it.
- Leading by comparison
The potential for worship leading envy is high since we don’t have to look very far to find other leaders who are younger, play guitar better, sing with more passion or have a better platform presence. Contentment is leading the ministry God has given you. Comparison is envying the ministry you wish He had given you. It is tempting to look to the left or right to see how we measure up. Instead, we must run this race by keeping our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).
- Talking too much
Worship service elements and song sets often require meaningful verbal transitions and yet, we rarely prepare for or even think about those transitions until it is time to make them. The result is often a long-winded holding pattern of circular discourse including clichés, detours and verbosity. Successful worship verbal communicators know the flight plan and how to land the plane before leaving the runway.
- Confusing calling and convenience
If we are leading worship every Sunday just because we love to play and sing, because we need to supplement our income, because we enjoy being up-front or because we are not trained to do anything else, then our worship leading compulsion might be out of convenience instead of calling. A calling is a personal invitation from God to carry out a unique task. And it is not always convenient. Convenience says, “This is what I was trained to do.” Calling says, “This is what I was created to do.”
- Segregating grandparents and grandchildren
We often divide our congregations along age and affinity lines in an effort to appease multiple generations and minimize conflict. Except in rare cases, it appears that the worshiping community suffers and all generations lose. It is beneficial for all generations when grandparents and grandchildren get to worship together. But it’s only possible when battle lines are drawn over who can offer or give the most instead of who deserves or demands the most.
10. Leading worship as an event
If our worship leadership conveys that worship starts when we start it and ends when we end it; if we expend all resources and energy preparing for and leading a single hour on Sunday and have nothing left to encourage worship the other hours of the week; if we aren’t exhorting our congregations and modeling for them how to worship not only when we gather but also when we disperse; then we are leading worship as an event. Worship is a daily process, not a weekly event. What occurs on Sunday should be an overflow of what has already occurred during the week with the added benefit of getting to share it with others.
Dr. David Manner is the Associate Executive Director for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. His convention responsibilities include worship consultation and leadership development. Before joining the convention staff in 2000, David served for 20 years in music/worship ministry with congregations in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. David writes for various online and print publications and can be followed on Twitter @dwmanner or on his Worship Evaluation Blog: http://kncsb.org/blogs/dmanner.