What are the reasons why your team doesn’t practice? The number one excuse you and I hear from our team members is this: I’m just so busy. That’s hands-down the biggest one. But what are some other excuses?
I don’t need to …
This person feels like they’re good enough to wing it. They might be hitting the notes that fit in the key, but you and I both know they’re not really playing what they should be playing.
I didn’t know …
This excuse comes from a person who somehow didn’t know what songs were planned for Sunday or couldn’t find the charts/recordings for the song.
I don’t care …
This one is rarely directly verbalized. But it’s demonstrated by the actions of the person who shows up unprepared and doesn’t even bother to offer an excuse.
So with these excuses, it’s easy to assume you have a bunch of uncommitted, arrogant, ignorant slackers on your team, right? You might be thinking, Whoa, I wouldn’t go that far. You might not. But I did.
I used to assume that my team just didn’t care and weren’t committed (or worse). But then I learned there was a bigger reason why they didn’t practice enough: It was me and my leadership.
A Critical Leadership Lesson
One of the most critical leadership lessons I’ve ever learned is this: Every people problem can be traced to a system problem. (By the way, thanks, Andy Stanley.)
What do I mean by that? Here’s an example:
If I have some meathead electric guitarist who Metal Zone-shreds through EVERY song, he’s not truly the problem.
Part of the problem is the qualification process that allowed him on the team. And my musician development system that helps people understand their roles and responsibilities is clearly not working well. And my system for offering feedback or doing formal reviews for my team members also isn’t helping this situation.
Do you see the difference? It’s fantastically freeing. When I have people problems I’m stuck as a leader. I have little or no control over the situation (other than to remove people from the team or endure their behavior).
But if I change the lens and view people problems as system problems, I flip the switch from stuck victim to empowered leader. I can do something about it. So, back to the non-practicing issue. It’s easy to see the people problems: busy, uncommitted, arrogant, ignorant, etc. But what are the systems that are allowing that behavior? Here are a few.
6 Systems That Can Promote Great Practice Habits
- Qualification Process
Does your system for qualifying new team members communicate upfront that there’s an expectation of practice? Does it require potential musicians to prepare for their audition?
- Clear Expectations and Accountability
Do you have a team handbook, covenant or some other document that clearly defines preparation expectations? If our standards aren’t clear, we can’t hold people to them.
Do you run your rehearsals in such a way that encourages practice ahead of time and discourages people from showing up unprepared? One way to use your rehearsal to promote personal practice is by moving along at a pace that requires people to have learned the song before they arrived.
If someone realizes they’re not as prepared as the rest of the team, that’s a good thing. A little healthy social pressure isn’t bad. Because as a team, we’re all affected by each other’s behaviors and attitudes.
Now, there will be times when the ideal pace of rehearsal needs to give way to the current state of the team. But those situations can be redeemed as become teachable moments.
- Music Planning and Distribution
Your system for planning and distributing music is crucial to your team’s personal practice. If your rehearsal is Thursday and they don’t get the music until Tuesday, that’s not giving them ample prep time.
- Active Song Rotation
Do you create your Sunday worship sets from a giant list of songs? If every set contains multiple songs that your team hasn’t played in six months or a year, they’ll be bogged down in relearning, rather than reviewing and refreshing.
(And bonus: if you rotate fewer songs more often, your church will know and sing out more, too.)
The last system I want to touch on is training. One of the mistakes I made as a leader was to assume my musicians knew how to practice or even why it was important. So we need to have a system that trains our team members on why personal preparation is crucial for leading worship and how to get songs ready for rehearsal and Sunday. If you’d like a tool to help teach your team why practice matters along with some tips on how to practice, go to getpracticing.com and you can get free access to Get Practicing: Team Member Training Kit. It includes a video training, tip sheets and a discussion guide to help you get your team to prepare better.
The bottom line for this is that we need to assume the best of our team members—even when they act like slackers. The next time a person shows up unprepared, step back and ask, What system problem is allowing this people problem?
Jon Nicol is a worship pastor in Lexington, Ohio and is the founder of WorshipTeamCoach.com, a resource that helps worship leaders develop strong teams and lead engaging worship. He likes having spontaneous dance parties with his wife and four kids during the end credits of whatever movie they’ve just been watching.