My first day as the worship pastor at my church someone on my team said something that truly shocked me.
Week 1, I hosted a vision breakfast for the entire team as a “get to know me/here’s where we’re going” type event. Everything went super well and we had a phenomenal time of worshiping together, encountering the heart of the Lord.
At the end of the gathering I had someone on the team walk up to me, with tears in her eyes, and say, “what you said during the meeting portion literally made me start crying…”
I kinda perked up and thought to myself, “I wonder which of my brilliant tweet-able statements she’s referring to”. So I leaned in a little more to hear what she was going to say.
She continued. “…when you said, that you were going to be posting the songs 2 weeks before the set. I came today with the intention of letting you know that I was going to step down from the team. I just don’t have enough time to prepare between when the songs get posted and when the service is. Normally it’s like 2-3 days and I don’t have enough time to prepare and always leave the services feeling embarrassed. But having more time to prepare is going to change everything for me.”
And it did. She went on to continue to serve for the rest of my time at the church.
No matter how inspiring or talented of a leader you may be, nothing attracts people and causes them to stick around more than leaders that have quality, reliable systems in place that allow for their team members to come adequately prepared.
We have to remember, those that serve on our teams aren’t like us and have different needs than we do. The schedule availability of a married person with 3 kids and a full-time job is much different than of a single college student. But this goes far beyond just availability. Everyone is at a different skill level and some people need more time to prepare than others.
Quality, reliable systems that adequately prepare people eats charm and talent for breakfast 10 out of 10 times!
What I’ve seen proven over & over again is people might initially be attracted to talent and gear, but if the organization is chaotic and unreliable they won’t stick around very long.
As a leader you have to prioritize organization. You can’t afford to get this wrong either. Why?
Chaos increases stress, stress exhausts people.
Organization & Preparation brings predictability and peace & communicates intentionality, love, and care.
It’s all about having a team worth staying on.
There are 3 areas of your worship ministry that you must be intentional with.
Heads up, more than likely these will not blow your mind or be brand new concepts. That’s usually our problem though! Often we think there’s going to be some mind-blowing concept or program that will change everything for us. But typically the answer isn’t finding something new, it’s taking serious what you already know to do. And those three things are…
1) Schedule people to serve 1-2 months in advance.
People have lives, people have schedules, and we have to remember that they are not our employees. They are volunteers.
There’s something even more important to remember though…
Your people love to serve and more than likely will say yes to whatever you ask of them, whenever you ask. Good leaders don’t take advantage of that.
Constantly asking people to serve last minute is constantly asking them to make sacrifices. Healthy team cultures aren’t ones where people are expected to unnecessarily make sacrifices every week.
Especially when the only reason you’re asking people last minute is because you’re lazy and procrastinate.
It actually proves that you don’t love & value them and their time.
Not only does scheduling in advance communicate value for and eliminate stress on your team, but it saves you from a ton of stress too!
The months that you schedule last minute are always the months that a flood of declined requests to serve come in. No one likes the feeling of spending hours on the PCO matrix, playing scheduling Tetris, ultimately for it to crumble to the ground. But if you can get out far in advance, most of the time you’re getting on people’s calendars before anything else is.
2) Post songs 2-3 weeks in advance.
In the same breathe, not everyone is incredible at music and can effortlessly learn a song the night before a service. Most people need time to prepare. And with the busy schedules that most people have, it’s quite rude to ask them to create time within their busy schedules to show up prepared.
Here’s a sobering reality…
No one in the congregation can see when you scheduled the songs, but they can see how unprepared people on the team are. When someone in the congregation sees someone mess up or look uncomfortable on stage, they never think “I wonder when the songs were scheduled.” or “I wonder if their leader set them up for success.” All of their thoughts typically surround the person who made the mistake or looks uncomfortable and those thoughts are shaping their perception of the people on your team.
Often the response is, we have legitimate reasons why we can’t schedule that far in advance.
And I fully get it! I’ve served in those spaces too. But! Often when sets do change they don’t change entirely. It’s typically only by 1 or 2 songs.
Learning 1 song last minute is way easier than having to learn an entire set last minute.
Let’s set our people up for success, so that they can show up confident in what they’re playing. That way during the set they’re able to fully focus their attention on worshipping the Lord; not holding on for dear life, praying they don’t have a royal mess up.
3) Build relationships with those on your team
The final thing that I’ve seen cause high quality people to leave a worship teams is feeling isolated and not having a sense of connection to their leader and the team.
There’s a 2Pac lyric that has stuck with me for a long long time. He shares how he was a part of a group of people that probably weren’t doing good things, but what caused him to stay connected to that group of people was the fact that they called him family.
His found sense of belonging caused him to devote his life to a group of people.
We’re the same way as 2Pac. The shine and sparkle of a cool big stage will eventually ware off. The only thing that will keep you around is the felt sense of belonging and family.
When you know you’re family, you don’t mind going the extra mile because you know that you matter to the community outside of your gift.
Like I said, these aren’t mind-blowing concepts. But they are 3 things that I’ve seen cause volunteers to leave places quickly.
Obviously there are many other things that contribute to people continuing to serve, like culture and such but by and large these are the things I’ve watched play a major role in volunteer longevity. So prioritize these things! Great leaders set people up for success and invest in them as people. If you can do that well, there will be so much grace for every other growth opportunity you may have.
You may also be interested in these related posts!
- What Senior Pastors Really Want from their Worship Leaders
- Should We Sing Songs that We Know aren’t *Technically* True?
- Is Your Church Service Format the Reason Your Church is Apathetic?
- Why Should Worship Leaders Even Care About Theology?
- 5 Things Volunteers Do that Annoy their Worship Pastors More than Anything
- Grow Your Worship Team with these 6 Proven Recruitment Strategies (Post-Quarantine)