There is a huge hesitation in me in even posting this. Partly because I know that even in services that don’t go as planned, God will use it and it can still have a positive impact on people. Talking about it later can appear to undermine that. I don’t think that has to be true. You should be able to be objective about something and it still be meaningful.
Probably the biggest reason I hesitate to write it is simply pride. It’s hard to swallow that something you put a lot of work and prayer into didn’t meet your expectations in front of a room full of people. There isn’t a handbook on how to deal with a message that totally bombs (at least in your own mind.)
We plan and pray. We work to craft an hour experience that will have impact and meaning for people. There are many moving parts and 90% of the time the result is good, actually better than good. I know that church is not an hour long service. I know that what we do and who we are outside that hour is more important. But that should not be an excuse to not out your best effort into that hour.
This past Sunday’s first service was rough. We started late which is a huge no-no for us. Not a huge deal by itself but is wouldn’t be by itself. We took an extra five minutes in the back praying because we all sorta felt haggard and unfocused. Unfortunately. those feelings crept into the service. Things sorta snowballed from there. The missions moment went long and rambled. Not a huge deal by itself… but it wasn’t by itself. Offering was out of order and awkward. Not a big deal by itself…but it wasn’t by itself.
I got up to teach and it was about 11 minutes later than where we wanted to be. Then I wasn’t focused and as sharp as usual. I didn’t stay close to my notes and I felt like I was ‘preaching in the mud.’ It just felt slow and sluggish. I was supposed to be wrapped up and leading us into the music with about 20/25 minutes left in service. I left Rick with only 10. That put him in scramble mode and he cut two songs – the thing I hate to do the most.
The Creative Team meets every week. It includes members from the tech side, music, art, and staff. We critique every service, every week. When you have that kind of relational equity and trust with each other, it makes it possible to do what we did next.
We pulled the whole team together after first service and just started talking about what to change for next service. No fireworks, no drama. No personality clashes or walking on eggshells. Just honest evaluations on what needed to change for 2nd service. Me included.
Side note to senior leaders and pastors – you set the tone for this. If you can’t take criticism or aren’t self-critical, you will never get better. If you aren’t willing to hear and change from others – don’t expect others to hear and be willing to change from you. This is what a real team looks like – give and take, push and pull, messy but loving. /end of sidenote
We just went thru the service. Tech team suggested we drop a video and they would make sure we started on time. Mission Moment crew told us they would compress and make sure offering was taken before they talked.
I was up next. I’m cutting this and this out. Condensing this part but expanding here. Another person said – no, don’t condense that – just drop it and spend more time on the closing. ‘that’s what had an impact on me and what I wanted more of.’ It made sense and resonated with me.
The meeting maybe lasted 10 minutes. And the second service was good. Very good.
Did anybody notice? Was it worth it? Were we being a bit picky? Why even write this? Why subject myself and the team to someone ‘not getting’ what I am trying to say here?
I am sure that most people that were in the 1st service got something out of it regardless of my perspective on the service. Not because we are that good, but God is that awesome. He’ll often take our weakness and use it to minister to others.
But we noticed. We meaning the worship and creative team. It mattered to us. We are not performers. We are worshippers and that alone demands we give out best. And when we fall short of our best – we want to fix that. Not because we are trying to impress a room full of people but because what we are doing in that hour is our worship. It doesn’t matter if anybody else noticed.