One of the things that’s not often talked about for worship leaders is time management. We are given leadership over a large time portion of our church’s meeting. It’s also often the start of the meeting, so what we do with the time affects everything that follows.
START ON TIME, END ON TIME
Whatever time your leadership wants you to start, whether it’s right on time or 5 minutes late, try to make that your go time. I understand that some Sundays “just go weird” and stuff happens, but as a general rule don’t let “right on time” become five minutes late or “five minutes late” become 10 minutes late.
But you can start on time and still mess up the rest of the schedule if you don’t end on time. If you are asked to end at a certain time, then make sure you get done. A lot of this happens in our planning beforehand. You don’t have to be a worship leader that long to learn how many songs you need to fill the space. I can look at a set list and know by song title whether it’s too long or too short. Generally the first thing I look at is the number of songs, but you can have two different set lists, both six songs each and one would be too short and the other too long because of song length. Another factor is unique to ourselves as worship leaders. I know leaders who could take the “too short” set list and make it go overtime by stretching songs out, having long prayers between songs, etc. That’s why ultimately it’s up to us to keep our eyes on the clock.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE CLOCK
We have a nice big clock in the back of our sanctuary. I keep my eye on it as the service goes on. Maybe I’ve camped out on a song in the middle of the set and I need to cut one of the last songs, or only do the chorus or something else to get things back on track. Maybe something is really working and I look up to see we’ve got some extra time so I know I can just sort of pause in this moment without the restraint of a time concern.
Worship times aren’t static. The set list is a guide more than a hard and fast rule. It’s possible that God the Spirit will move in a certain song which means that I need to cut part or all of another song. Part of being an effective worship leader and a good part of your church’s ministry team is developing good clock management in your worship leading. It might feel forced or awkward at first, but over time it becomes natural and seamless.
YOURE NOT THE ONLY THING GOING ON
I can predict certain objections to this post. They’ll most likely be from two camps. The first is our sisters and brothers from the more Charismatic or Pentecostal parts of the church. They’ll read something like this post and say “you’re quenching the Spirit’s work” or “what if I’m led to do this thing or that thing”, I can’t be controlled by the clock. Well, I know this, 1 Corinthians 14:32-33 says “and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,” so some who says that they couldn’t control themselves hasn’t read their Bible. I’m personally charismatic in my theology. I believe the gifts are for today, I speak in tongues for my personal edification and I have both been given and received prophetic words. I believe that God the Spirit is at work in the church leading and leading worship leaders in how to worship Jesus. But if I believe that the same Holy Spirit that’s leading me is also leading the leaders of my church then why would God the Spirit lead us into confusion and division? The answer is that he wouldn’t and won’t and that I need to be submitted to the schedule my church’s leadership has laid out as unto the Lord.
The second camp to object to what I’ve written is the “laid back” camp. They’re everywhere. They can be Pentecostals or Baptists, it doesn’t matter. They’ll usually not care about time management and just want to go with the flow. Here’s the thing, if your church doesn’t care about it’s schedule, then none of this applies to you. If you’re in a laid back church that doesn’t care when you start or stop or if you’re led to stretch the worship time out an extra 10 minutes then more power to you. But many more of us aren’t in that situation. The laid back worship leaders will start and stop with no regard to the rest of the service’s schedule.
Here’s the main point with all this talk of time management: we aren’t the only thing going on. There are prayers that need to be prayed, announcements that need to be made, communion to be taken and Bible Studies to be taught. All of these things are important and my part of the service isn’t the only thing going on. I’ve lead services as a pastor where the worship leader started late and went long, followed by announcements going longer than they should’ve and by the time you get to the Bible study, I’m having to cut huge chunks of my notes because I know that once we get passed a certain point on the clock the people will start to check out.
Having good time management as a worship leader is honoring to the Lord as you honor and respect the leadership God has placed in your church. You also honor the other people serving in different parts of the church, especially the children’s workers who get the raw deal if service goes long. You also build up trust with the other leaders of your church in that they know you’re a team player and are out for the greater work and not just your own agenda.
Agree? Disagree? Lets talk about it in the comments.