Stacking the Subs

This morning, just as soon as your feet hit the floor, the pain hit your brain! “I’m sick! I’ll never get to church today. I can’t go! But what about the worship team? Who’s gonna cover my part?”

This scenario is all too familiar. And yet, with tongues hanging out, and sweat beads on our faces, many of us are determined to get there anyway. Tooth-chattering chills and aches and pains from head to toe won’t stop us! Our commitment exceeds our discomfort.

We all appreciate anyone this tough and focused, but perhaps we could find ways to serve without having to offer ourselves on the altar of Sunday-service-misery. How about we look at some other possibilities?


You’re the worship leader. You just received a dream text: “I have a conflict this weekend.” (Oh, no!) “I won’t be able to serve on the worship team.” (Please, no!) “But I have already contacted my own substitute.” (Your own sub’? Really?) “Yes. He’s in my ‘sub-stack,’ and he’ll be there Wednesday for rehearsal. Look for him again on Sunday morning at 7:20 sharp, ready to prep for services and play my parts.” The team is covered! This is a dream, and not a nightmare.

What a relief when the system works that well. If we think ahead, our planning, prep, and strategy won’t allow us to be caught off guard. When those attendance-glitches come our way, we’ll be ready.

If we think ahead, our planning, prep, and strategy won’t allow us to be caught
off guard.


Begin by setting the bar high. Make sure that expectations concerning individual availability, attendance, and punctuality are clearly communicated to the team. Develop a team-wide culture of personal ownership of position, each member being responsible to either be there, or secure their own substitute to cover their absence. We’re blessed to serve the Lord with our gifts. As His worship ministers, service is our sacred trust!


The smoothest functioning worship teams I’ve ever seen are the ones who stack their subs. Stacking is a simple system which eliminates the middle-man (the worship leader) from the process of finding someone to take the place of an absent team member.

Let’s just say that you are bass player number one. You are going on vacation two weeks from today, and will not be available to minister for one Sunday. Rather than contacting the worship leader with this absentee information, you go directly to bass player number two (or three, or four) and arrange for your own substitute. When rehearsal time comes around, surprise! Bass player number two (or three, or four) shows up to take your place, and all is well in Worshipville!


Starfish grow new arms. Deer replace their antlers. The Mexican axolotl salamander even regenerates parts of it’s brain, heart, and jaw. So why can’t we, as a team, regenerate a member when necessary?

Hypothetical: Your worship team consists of five musicians, each contributing about twenty percent to the overall worship-presentation. Sunday morning comes. Five minutes before the meeting, one of the members calls: “Kids are sick.” “Car broke down.” “Just got called to work.”

With a moment’s notice, you must grow a new worship-appendage. No, I don’t mean two new hands, capable of playing the missing part. I’m referring to a new mind-set which says, “Instead of each member contributing twenty percent this morning, they’ll contribute twenty-five.”

We’ve just regenerated the missing part. We remembered that the fewer pieces of a pie there are, the greater percentage each piece supplies. Based on this principle, we innovated, asking each member to invest that extra five percent. Like the chameleon, shocked to find he’s just saved his own life at the expense of his tail, we might occasionally have to regenerate in order to preserve our own worship experience. In a sense, we grow a new one.


Finally, have you ever thought about raising up your own substitutes? Mentoring, coaching, and teaching fit nicely into the personal ownership of position category. These are noble ways to invest in those who are coming up the worship-road right behind you. Let me challenge you, with intentionality, to look for those who play the same instrument or sing the same part as you. Begin to instruct them in the ways of worship. Soon they’ll be stacking their own sub’s. You’ll end with a win-win!

Subbed out, Sandy

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