Dealing With Uncomfortable Situations

Featuring Tom Kraeuter Posted on February 6, 2010

During my years of leading worship, the most uncomfortable situations I have encountered have been either a technical problem (sound system, broken guitar string, etc.) or someone in the congregation playing an instrument. I have a degree in church music ministry, but these things were never discussed.

Let’s look at these one at a time. What should you do when the microphones or sound system isn’t working or when a guitar string breaks? These are common but difficult problems. First, do all you can to try to fix the problem, but do not take too much time for this. Try not to let it become a distraction for you. As best you can, continue to worship the Lord and keep your eyes on Him.

Practically speaking, you should consider having a back-up plan for such situations. Your sound engineer should be able to handle the P.A. problems (i.e. switching microphone wires, switching to a different microphone, etc.). A back-up guitar might be in order for a primary worship leader who is a guitarist. (Yes, I am speaking from experience here.) If a back-up guitar is unavailable, practice playing your guitar with a string missing. This will make you feel much less awkward if one breaks during a service. Often, these types of problems can be handled simply with a little pre-planning.

Now let’s tackle the congregational-members-playing-musical-instruments problem.

Many churches tell those in the congregation who want to play any type of musical instrument during worship that they must audition for the music ministry. This keeps the instruments together for better interaction with one another.

In churches where this is not an absolute, the most common problem is percussion instruments (tambourines, etc.) being played (not very well) by people in the congregation. For best results, all percussion instruments should be played by people who are (1) rhythmically able to keep time and (2) positioned close to the drummer. A person who cannot keep time should not be allowed to continue to hinder the worship of others around them. If they are willing to pursue training and improve their ability, then work with them. If in the final analysis they just do not seem to have the necessary rhythm, pray and channel them into another area of service in the church.

(As a side note, one minister of music told me he will allow anyone in the church to play a tambourine as long as he can have it for five minutes prior to the service. He has a big roll of duct tape handy...Hey a little creative planning ahead of time can be helpful!)

Secondly, because of sound delay and sound reflection, percussion players should be positioned in close proximity to the drummer (i.e., front row or close to the platform). This helps maintain a tight rhythmical unit. Someone sitting far away will be keeping time to a slightly delayed rhythm. Therefore they will be sending an even more delayed rhythm back toward the platform with their tambourine. (This effect can be magnified by the acoustics of the room.) Here again, it is vital to let the congregation know what is acceptable. This can be shared in written form (perhaps as part of a new members packet) or from the pulpit. The important thing is to communicate in some form. People won’t know if no one tells them.

If there is still a problem after this, it should be dealt with, preferably in private. Discuss with your pastor how it should be handled, but by all means, take care of the problem before it has a chance to grow and multiply.




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