BAD: It’s the beginning of rehearsal, the band and vocalists are ready to go and—“Whoa! Wait, where’s _________?”

Whichever person it is—drummer, guitarist, sound tech, alto—it doesn’t matter. The team isn’t ready. That’s bad. But it could be worse.

WORSE: You scan the platform at the start of rehearsal only to find half the team NOT there, and the other half are still setting up. But it gets worse than this.

WORST: You, the leader, fly in late and attempt to jumpstart a rehearsal to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, you find the team is following your lead. (See the “Worse” scenario.)

Late. Tardy. Unpunctual. Not prompt. Whatever we call it, it’s hurting our worship teams more than we think. We’re going to look at eight ways that lateness is damaging our ministries. Then, we’ll dig in to a few practical steps that leaders can do to change this culture-corroding issue.

Eight Late Losses

Loss #1: Loss of rehearsal time.

This loss means rehearsal goes longer or some of the preparation gets pushed to Sunday morning.

Loss #2: Loss of soundcheck/warm-up time.

Unlike a midweek rehearsal, the Sunday morning soundcheck is NOT open-ended. So whatever time the late person wasted is now gone.

Loss #3: Loss of respect among other team members.

People may, on the surface, seem to excuse or tolerate a chronically late team member. But deep down, resentment and frustration grow over time: “This person is wasting our time. AGAIN.”

Loss #4: Loss of focus for the team member.

It takes a while for the team member to settle in and focus when they’ve just blown in from something else. The loss goes beyond just the time they were absent.

Loss #5: Loss of focus for the leader.

Late people can throw a worship leader off her game. A well-planned rehearsal can become a piecemeal practice session. Just one tardy team member may not knock the whole rehearsal askew. But add another issue, like a random tech glitch to the rehearsal, and the late person is compounding the frustration level of the leader.

Loss #6: Loss of time and energy outside rehearsal.

When a leader has to confront a chronically late person, he/she is likely to experience confrontation anxiety. So now an in-rehearsal issue is requiring time and emotional energy outside of rehearsal.

Loss #7: Loss of accountability.

When tardy team members go unchecked, it gives permission for others to ignore the start time. And when the leader is the chronically late person, it screams, “Be late!” to the whole team.

Loss #8: Loss of foundational values.

Showing up on time should be a foundational behavior for any worship team. If a team loses the expectation of that behavior, other values start slipping. Five minutes here or there will not cause widespread bedlam and anarchy, but it will begin to erode the standards of your team.

Seven Steps To Late-Proof Your Team

What can you do to begin to late-proof your worship team? Here are seven tips to change the culture of lateness on your team.

  1. NEVER move rehearsal time to accommodate the late. If you want to start rehearsal at 6:45, don’t move rehearsal time to 6:30. That penalizes the prompt.
  2. Talk with your team about why promptness matters. Those “Late Losses” above are an easy place to start.
  3. As the leader, be early (AND the most prepared person in the room). When you’re on top of your game, you can roll with issues better. And, most importantly, you’re setting the example.
  4. Change your language. For my team, I changed our “start” time to “ready to play” time. It communicates that on-time ≠ arrival time. And with that…
  5. Start on time. Every time. Yes, even if you’re missing half your band. Most people walking into a rehearsal already in progress should feel a healthy dose of social pressure to not let that happen again.

But there’s always that one guy (or girl). So…

  1. Confront the chronically late person. Show grace AND speak truth. Lead with questions that show concern for them, not accusations that condemn.
  2. Run a fun, but efficient rehearsal. Late team members will try to justify their tardiness with, “But we waste so much time at the beginning anyway….” Take away those excuses.

Again, promptness and lateness are both foundational habits for your worship ministry. On one, you can build a culture of high standards and respect among the team members. The other keeps the bar perpetually low and sows disunity within the team.

And with that, I’ll wrap. I’m about to be late for rehearsal….

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