This article was originally published in Worship Leader magazine (Nov/Dec 2010). For more great articles like this one, subscribe today.
Question: We have some serious attitude problems on our worship team. It’s become all too common for our guitar player to make a face, roll his eyes, and mumble something under his breath whenever he’s asked to turn down. One of our singers is openly and constantly critical of my leadership, the worship ministry, and the church. And that’s just a sampling. Honestly, at times the attitudes are so bad I want to quit. What do I do?
Answer: Bad attitudes are the nemesis of every ministry. As you’ve unfortunately discovered, people with attitude problems can be rude, negative, critical, insubordinate, and adversarial. If left unchecked, such behavior can eventually destroy unity, undermine morale, and inhibit the overall effectiveness of your team. So attitude problems should never be ignored or swept under the rug. Even though you’re tempted to quit, I implore you not to let a few negative people ruin ministry for everyone else. Instead, stand up to the bad attitudes and deal with them. For what it’s worth, I have a few suggestions to offer from my own experience leading artists.
Set the Example
First of all, make sure that you, as the leader, consistently model a positive, godly attitude. Those under your leadership are always watching how you respond to stress and adversity. When your pastor requests last minute changes or someone criticizes you or there’s tension during rehearsal, choose to respond with grace. Never speak badly of your pastor, another leader, or your church. When it comes to attitude, set the kind of example you want your team to emulate.
Confront Negative Attitudes
A wise leader lovingly confronts attitude problems before they become toxic. In your case, I highly recommend that you meet with your guitar player and vocalist to talk through their issues.
Instead of going into the conversation with guns ablaze, I suggest you take a low-key approach. Begin with probing questions. In a non-combative, non-accusatory tone of voice, ask, “Are you and I okay? Are you upset or unhappy? Have I offended you in any way?” Then be direct. Ask your guitar player why he rolls his eyes and mutters under his breath whenever you ask him to turn down. Ask your singer why she makes negative comments. Does she really feel that way and does she realize how her comments affect those around her?
I would always avoid accusing someone outright of having “an attitude problem.” Such an indictment can send the conversation running in circles. After all, a bad attitude is easy to deny and difficult to prove because you’re not inside the person’s head; you can’t read minds or know someone else’s thoughts or motives. However, bad attitudes always leak out as bad behavior. So when confronting attitude problems, focus on specific, observable behavior—what you actually saw the person do (make a face, roll the eyes) or heard him or her say (negative comments). Going after questionable comments and actions will enable you to get at the real issues below the surface.
Champion Character Growth
Attitude problems signify a lack of character and spiritual maturity. Therefore, leaders should aggressively champion godly character in the lives of their artists. People sometimes ask me what I would do if I had to choose between a musician who was deeply spiritual, but not very talented or one who was greatly talented, but not very spiritual. My answer is: I want both! There’s an artist in the Old Testament named Bezalel, who is described as being filled “with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship” (Ex 35:31). In other words, Bezalel was a man of godly character as well as an accomplished artist. That’s the biblical standard for artists. So make sure your ministry is not merely about the music. Lift up spiritual transformation as one of the core values of your team. Share what the Bible says about godly character and integrity. Encourage your artists to have regular devotions, join a small group, and read good Christian books. Schedule a spiritual retreat or a special night of prayer and worship.
I can’t guarantee that you’ll never face another bad attitude in ministry ever again. However, I have noticed that ministries that make godly character a high priority tend to encounter far less attitude problems among team members.
Find out more about Rory Noland, here.