When the Music Fades…

Despite the title, this post actually has nothing to do with Matt Redman’s famous song.

Today, I want to write about what worship teams often do at the end of the service: the debrief session. I’m naturally a critical, um, I mean analytical sort of person so I like to evaluate things. But a debrief session can be beneficial as well as completely unhelpful depending on how you run it.

What is useful is for team members to evaluate how each person carried out their function and for there to be some input on how things can be done better. For example, as a worship leader, it’s good for me to know whether the songs I chose were appropriate; whether the transitions were handled well; whether the song endings were strong enough. It’s good for musicians to get feedback on how they played and what they can do to play better; whether singers could do certain things to blend better etc.

The feedback session should never be used to address personal issues. For example, if you believe that one of your team members didn’t practise enough, or has an issue with being punctual, tell them gently one-on-one, not in front of the rest of the group. Public correction only brings public embarrassment and in some cases, breeds resentment in the person being corrected.

So, properly focussed on the technical aspects, I think debriefing is an entirely constructive tool that will help your team minister better.

But I have also been in debriefings where people have tried to gauge the spiritual outcome of the service. I find this enquiry extremely unhelpful, and that’s coming from a worship leader who is in a sense entrusted with the spiritual reins of the worship part of the service. Questions such as “where did we peak spiritually?” are not only near on impossible to answer, but they also look amusing when put to paper.

The truth is, the spiritual side of the worship can only be accessed and experienced by faith. One time, someone told me that they felt that as I led worship and changed a particular song, I had changed the spiritual direction of the meeting. Now, that certainly wasn’t my intention at that point in time, and I certainly didn’t feel that I had done so. On the other hand, I think what I did was to try to sense what God was doing and then to take a step of faith in obedience to the Spirit’s prompting to change songs or repeat songs or to exhort or to pray. That’s really all that can be required of a worship leader: to act in faith and trust that the Holy Spirit will have his way in the midst of the worship.

Martin Smith observes in his book Delirious:

You can’t always trust your own emotions – I might come offstage and think it had been amazing, whereas Stu might feel blank. Next time, I might come off feeling like I’d not connected, like everything I’d said was rubbish, but Jon might say ‘No way! I was watching this kid all night, and he was crying and God was obviously moving in his life – what a great night!’

You learn quickly that you can’t trust your own emotions; you can’t adjudicate it, because you’re not the one to judge how it went.

How true! We can never really judge how it went. Who is to know what the Holy Spirit is doing in the unseen? At the end, we can only trust that as we have responded faithfully to God, the rest of it is in His hands.

When we approach leading like this, it is extremely liberating. One of my old worship pastors used to say “if you can’t claim the credit for the worship, you shouldn’t take the blame”.

So I encourage you to have constructive debriefing sessions: analyse the technical aspects so your team can improve, but also celebrate good things and the wonderful work God did during the service!

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