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Lessons from the Locker Room

Recently, I had the privilege of being selected honorary coach for the Cedarville University Lady Jacket’s basketball team. It was a great experience–getting to cheer on the team and watch what happens “behind the scenes”.

While it was just fun to be a part of the whole process, what was most valuable to me was to watch other’s leadership styles. I was very impressed with our coaching staff. They led in a variety of ways from encouraging to yelling to prompting. The “take aways” of leadership for me were the following:

1. Goals – On the locker room white board were written ten objectives for the game. They were scoring goals and percentages, defensive goals, scouting reports and strategies for how the game was to be played. It was clear that a great deal of thought and preparation went into these goals.

2. Individual Goals – Before the game, the coach asked every player to formulate an personal goal in their mind. Then, one by one, the players were required to verbalize their goals before the whole team. Not only did they have to have their own goal, but by sharing their goals, they were now accountable to the whole team.

3. Calls for individual leadership – The coaches pointed out that there was a lack of leadership within the team in a previous game, and that certain people needed to step up. No names were called, but it was clear that some players needed to help exercise their natural leadership ability to help the team succeed.

4. Specialized assignments to leverage individual strengths – At half time, the coaches reminded the team that there were certain players that didn’t need to bring the ball down the court. Some were better at handling the ball than others. Others needed to not take shots, but get the ball in the hands of people who were shooting well.

5. Very little focus on individual achievement – Even though each player was to have their own personal goal, the focus was on the team. The only real individual recognition by the coach was one of the players who during the game became the 21st player to score over 1,000 points in her career. It was almost parenthetical, as the focus was on the team effort.

So – what does this have to do with worship? In many ways, I have more questions than specific answers. Perhaps in wrestling with these questions, we will examine what we do and improve our own “game”.

Maybe some of these principles should apply to worship leaders. What about setting goals? What about goals for an individual service? How about ministry goals? If we do set goals, are we good about communicating them? The amount of preparation for this game gave me pause to think about how much time I spend in preparation for a service.

What about challenging the members of our teams to set their own personal goals? How do we encourage our mediocre players who need help get better? How do we help our good players to be the best that they can be? Wouldn’t doing this make our groups be more effective?

How do we develop and empower leadership within our groups? We have to be careful about empowering people who will be positive leaders, but wouldn’t this help with giving people ownership of the ministry? Wouldn’t it help people exercise their spiritual giftedness? This leads us to point 4: how do we leverage people’s individual strengths? Some of our singers might be great at harmonizing, but shouldn’t sing a solo. Some might be great at strumming an acoustic guitar, but shouldn’t play lead on the electric.

Lastly, we need to make sure that we focus on the effort of the whole team, rather than focus on individual effort. Sometimes when we have a strong player on our team, they can dominate the musical mix or even our attention, when perhaps it is the weaker players who also need our attention and need to develop so that the whole is stronger.

Wouldn’t it also be great if we could call a time out in worship? Perhaps have a team huddle? We could make adjustments in the dynamics and tempos. We could also bench people who were having an off day. ☺

10 comments to Lessons from the Locker Room

  • Jacob Tudor

    There are some very great thoughts and questions presented here. What kept running through my mind was the difficultly of balancing individual leadership with little influence on individual achievement within a team. These, and the other take aways, are absolutely important. Yet it’s so easy to emphasize the importance and fail to incorporate into practice- often because it is much easier said than done! From what I have observed in my own context, there are often people who sometimes display a “diva” attitude in one way or another, and it makes balancing individual leadership and achievement incredibly difficult, especially within the context of worship through music on a platform. Clearly this is a matter that stems from the heart, and perhaps it wouldn’t be the best idea to allow someone whose heart is not coming from the right direction to lead worship. Some people have been given such amazing gifts and talents that it almost makes benching not appear as an option! Boy do I wish we could call a time out to have a team huddle in worship! These are such incredibly difficult things to work with, and can often be very sensitive to touch base on. I guess this all invariably leads to more questions! How do we empower leadership without bringing attention to individual achievement. (Perhaps in the instance of one person being featured prominently, say with a vocal or guitar solo.) And how can we encourage people struggling with this to worship with a God honoring heart?

  • Peter Hamblen

    Great insights on leading a team effectivly. What stood out to me in the “take aways” was the point of making goals, both personal and corperate. The corperate goals helped bring the team together in common purpose and focus. The personal goals challenged each individual team member to become better at their position. I think setting these goals like these in a worship setting, specifically in music ministry, will unite a praise band in focus and pupose and help each member grow in their skill of music. I think a praise band will experience great growth together as a band, and as lead worshipers, if the praise band leader takes the time to establish and communicate corperate goals to their team as well as challenge them to set and encourage them meet their own personal goals.

  • Jordan Redfield

    I like the idea of thinking about our ministry from the perspective of a sports team a lot! Interestingly enough, though, I tend to think of the body of Christ from the perspective of a sports team. I think that’s kinda the underlying theme here; we as the church are called to be the living presence of Christ during this time on earth. Therefore, I think that the same principles that we think of when discussing the Body (and a sports team) are applicable to a particular worship ministry: We need goals and objectives that are in God’s will. We need to do everything in LOVE or it is worthless (1 Cor. 13). We need to submit to authorities, who need to be submitting to the true head of the church, Christ. We need the work of the Holy Spirit to be tangibly evident throughout our ministry. We need to have real discipleship and accountability. (now more obviously sports minded) We need to PRACTICE. We need COMMUNICATION. We need LEADERS. We need to be FLEXIBLE and prepared for anything.
    These are just a few thoughts. My main point is that I really think all three of these ideas (the body of Christ, a sports team, and worship ministry) are closely related, and that ultimately what we need to see present in our ministries are the same things that ought to be evident through the church.

    If we’re living by the Spirit and bearing It’s fruits (Gal. 5), effective ministry should result.

  • Eric M. Stigall

    It is great viewing these points as points to apply to our own worship services and careers. I think it is so important to set goals for ourselves but, also use these goals to motivate us and our teams to set individual goals of there own and strive to do the work of God in a christ centered way. The aspect of focusing on the whole team instead of just individual aspects is fundamental overall, although it is important to help people achieve there goals it would be detrimental to the team to just focus on one persons goals. Enjoyed reading this thought provoking article.

  • Jason Carnegis

    I think that these examples of leadership can definitely be translated into being used at a church. Setting goals are always a great way to create growth in a church and on a worship team. I think that setting goals for what a worship leader wishes the congregation to do can be very helpful. Especially if the worship leader is at a church where the congregation doesn’t participate very much, having certain goals that can be “baby steps” for the church to become more active in the worship service. I think it is wise to set goals if there are certain changes that the worship pastor wants to introduce to the church such as instituting dramas, dance, or other arts that would add to the worship service. When setting goals, there is a plan for the church to grow and for the church to become a more welcoming church. Setting goals for those on your worship team is a great idea as well so they will be challenged to become better musicians and better worship leaders too. This will have a good vision for where the worship leader wants his worship teams want to work for in the future and will definitely help toward growth of the bands as musicians but also as a team of musicians as well.

  • Rocky Taylor

    I think it’s great to have individual and team goals. It’s great to have individual goals, as it displaces the responsibility of the team to the individuals. I think one way to help inspire mediocre players to improve is to show them where they could be. For example, let’s say you have a drummer on your worship team that could have some room to improve. I think as the leaders, we could show them videos of incredible drummers to help them envision what they could become. We could encourage them to learn a variety of worship songs on drums and/or take lessons from a practical standpoint.

    Also, I think it is important for the leaders to instill a value of excellence in the culture of the ministry. In John C. Maxwell’s recent blog post, he states that excellence is a sure route to influence. He defines excellence in four points, which are the following: consistency, improvement, creativity, and going the extra mile. I think as leaders, excellence begins with us. As our team members see us going the extra mile, constantly improving, trying creative ideas, and consistently performing at high levels that our members will follow us. This could help encourage any mediocre player to improve.

    However, it is great to have team goals as the major emphasis because worship leading is a team effort. I think it is crucial to have team goals, because it helps unify us as a group, and helps us focus on what is important. I believe that Andy Stanley said that it takes an organization about 20 times of listening and thinking about an organization’s goals, purposes, visions, etc. until the team members finally internalize these ideas. In light of this, I think it would be good to remind our team of our goals or at least part of these goals on a regular basis (most practices, Sunday morning). When we have these goals in place, and accomplish them, it is through that experience that we can unify as a team as well.

    • Roger O'Neel

      @Rocky – Great stuff from Maxwell. I also heard a quote from Derrick Johnson, who coaches teams for Disney, say that Excellence=precision + passion. I think that is a great equation.

      Also love the quote from Staley about 20 times to internalize the ideas. Gonna work on this!

  • Dani

    Great thoughts! Definitely have considered many of these thoughts and questions before. I think that in a lot of ways, we can use similar techniques and ideas for worship leading as used for athletics. A lot of ideals pertaining to goals are usable in many different scenarios.
    I love the idea of accountability within a worship team. I think accountability really pushes us forward. Goals are vital, in my opinion within a worship team. Without goals there is no vision. Without a vision there is no passion or intentionality. And without intentionality it is too easy to loose focus. Individual goals are awesome to have as well, in order to better the team as a whole.
    I think empowering leadership is also a vital piece to a worship team. I know for our team, all the juniors on my team have a specific leadership role. We have broken down different roles for different people, pertaining to their strengths. I love this, because everyone feels apart/ responsible in some way or another to lead. We are also accountable to one another, making sure we are doing our part. In the same way, a worship team can be made up of different leaders, allowing team members to feel they have an important role on the team. This allows people to be more engaged, and more active, feeling they contribute in an important way.

    Good thoughts!

  • Roger O'Neel

    Great comments – thanks guys!