4 Tactics to Tackle Tardiness
By Jon Nicol
We all have them. Shoot, some of us are them: latecomers, slackers, tardy worship team members, stragglers, the “unprompt.”
Whatever word we use for them, they haven’t arrived yet to hear it. And besides the chronically late person, many worship team members who are prompt for other events in their lives think nothing of showing up late for worship team rehearsal. Why is that?
It’s a team culture thing.
I’ve been working for a while to change the culture of lateness in my team. I can’t say we’ve arrived, but we are light-years ahead of where we once were. Here are four simple tactics, or practices, that I’ve used. While these tactics are simple, they aren’t easy or quick fixes.
When it comes to changing a culture of lateness, it takes a lot of time and intentionality. The good news is, you can begin implementing these practices this week:
1. Start on time.
Begin rehearsal at the posted start time. Period. End of sentence. Many times, we allow the latecomers to dictate our start time. This makes it worse: eventually, people who would normally be on time begin coming later. Why? By not starting on time, you’ve essentially given them permission to be late, too.
Whatever you need to do to make rehearsal begin on time, do it—even if only half the team is there. Will it be awkward? Yep. Will it accomplish much in the way of practicing music? Probably not.
But if you do it every week, you will send a clear message to those who are late. And you can bet that those who are prompt will appreciate that you’re respecting their time.
2. Change your language.
I refer to our “Start Time” to “Ready-to-Play Time.” I’ve communicated to my team verbally and on the schedule that we need to be ready to rehearse at our posted start time: instruments on, music pulled, guitars tuned, sound tech ready to check.
I used to post a start time that was 15 minutes before I really wanted to begin. I thought I was sly. Forget it. My tardy team members figure that out and arrived even later. And again, what was I saying to those who showed up early so they’d be ready to play? “Thanks, but your time isn’t important.”
3. Assume the best.
Sooner or later, you’ll have to have a conversation with your late-arriver. But it doesn’t need to be a big, hairy confrontation. This is a brother in Christ, so assume the best. Approach him with something like, “Hey Phil, I’ve noticed you’ve been coming in late to rehearsals. Is everything OK? Is there something I can do to help?”
You’re kindness will help quell the defensive excuses that would normally emerge if you had just “gotten in his face” about it.
4. Apply social pressure.
Have you ever been out to eat with a group and noticed that the last appetizer from the sampler platter lingers alone for a while, sometimes never to be eaten? Yeah, that’s social pressure. No one wants to be that guy who takes the last buffalo wing.
Social pressure isn’t a bad thing to leverage on your team. We’re not talking about an all-out Amish-shunning here. Sometimes just the act of walking into a rehearsal already in progress is enough for some people to reverse their tardiness.
But you’ll have others that will need to be confronted. Besides assuming the best and coming from a place of wanting to help, apply a little social pressure. It can be effective to gently point out that he’s not just showing up late for a rehearsal, but he’s disrespecting the other team members and actually robbing their time.
You might even consider asking one of your team members to join you in the conversation. Sometimes hearing the hard truth from a peer can be more effective than when it comes from a leader.
Eventually, if you have a habitual offender who shows no sign of changing, you’ll probably need to ask him to step down from the team for a while. It could hurt musically to lose him. But the morale and relational health of your team is at stake here.
As you start implementing these ideas, don’t get discourage if nothing seems to change. The ingrained behavior of a team can take some time to change. Remember, these are not quick fixes. But over time these practices will help you change the culture of lateness in your worship team.
Jon Nicol (@jonnicol) is a worship pastor in Lexington, OH where he lives with his wife, Shannon, and their four kids. He created WorshipTeamCoach.com to help worship leaders build great teams. His latest free resource is a video series called 5 Barriers That Block Great Worship.