Question: I have two volunteers on my worship team who are always late for rehearsal and pre-service soundcheck. Every week I send emails reminding everyone about the call time, yet these two routinely walk in 10 to 15 minutes late and act like it’s no big deal. To further complicate matters, these two latecomers are pretty good musicians. They rarely mess up during the service, or if they do, very few in the congregation even notice. However, every rehearsal I’m sitting on pins and needles waiting for them to show up. During the service, I’m a wreck, anxiously hoping we don’t mess up. I love these two musicians, but it’s extremely frustrating to work with them.

Answer: If punctuality is important to you, make sure you’ve communicated that to everyone. I used to get mad every time volunteers showed up late until I realized that I had never strongly voiced my expectation. Remind team members often that punctuality is an important team value.

Also, be sure to tell them why it’s important to show up on time for rehearsals and events. Punctuality is a basic human courtesy. It demonstrates respect and consideration for others. When someone is chronically late, it sends a subtle message that other people’s time is not as important as his or her personal schedule.

It’s also demoralizing for those who worked especially hard to be on time. I’ve seen volunteers skip dinner, cancel conflicting appointments, or ask a spouse to come home early from work to watch the kids so they could make rehearsal on time. To work hard to be prompt, and then have to sit and wait for latecomers to arrive can be very discouraging. No matter how talented people are, it eventually wears thin if their lack of punctuality becomes a habit.

Punctuality is a sign of commitment, the mark of a true servant. After all, people tend to arrive on time for that which is important to them. Newcomers learn very quickly about a team’s values simply by observing. If they witness others being punctual, they’ll conclude that rehearsal is vital preparation for leading others in worship, and is to be taken seriously.

Being punctual also makes for a better rehearsal, which in turn produces a better worship service. Top-notch musicians need to be reminded that even though they may not think they need rehearsal, the team as a whole needs their participation in order to adequately rehearse. It’s difficult for the band, the singers, and the sound engineer to do their jobs well if someone is missing. The way I see it, if an individual is two minutes late, that’s two minutes less rehearsal. That may not sound like much at first. However, two minutes is half a song. How often do we get to the end of a soundcheck and wish we could go through a certain chorus, verse, or transition one more time? Sometimes two minutes of rehearsal is all that’s needed to alleviate performance anxiety and avoid a mishap during the service. I’d rather have the worship team relaxed as they head into a service, focused on song lyrics and the Lord, instead of worrying about messing up.

Since you’re the leader, I would encourage you to clearly define punctuality for your team. To me, if rehearsal begins at 7:00 that means we’re in our seats ready to go at 7:00, not pulling into the church parking lot or setting up the drum kit at that time. Also, make sure you start rehearsal promptly, run it efficiently, and end on time. I tell volunteers that if they show up on time, I promise to end on time.

No matter how adamant you are about punctuality, you still might have a few people who think they can get away with being late. Don’t let them. Lovingly confront any Johnny-come-latelies privately every time they break the rules. You don’t have to read them the riot act. Simply ask, “Are you okay? Is there a reason you were late? Were you aware of our call time?” If you make a big deal about punctuality but fail to hold people accountable, they’ll conclude you really don’t mean it.

What about you? How do you make sure your team shows up on time? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Find out more about Rory Noland, here.

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