The Multiplying Power of Teamwork

As I reflect on this morning’s worship service, one thought which comes to mind is how much I love my music team. I feel so invigorated each time we serve together. It’s not that we always get the music and arrangements right. But it’s in knowing that it’s not so much about the results – it’s about the journey we share together.

I often tell my team that we aren’t the best musicians in the church. We have really good musicians, no doubt. But what I love about our guys is that we understand what it means to be a team, to bring together our individual talents and efforts and know that, when combined together, we become a lot better than what we could have been individually!

Today’s worship session was a great example of how our team works well together:

  • I’m not musical, but I reckon I’m pretty good at constructing a worship set and to make sure it flows and tells a story. So I communicate my vision to my music director, and he interprets my vision into something which our musicians can understand and follow.
  • My music director is brilliant. Like me, he goes by feel. So what he does is that he goes hunting on youtube for different links and points out to each muso what parts of different arrangements they can play and emulate.
  • Our musos then go off and learn their own parts before we have a rehearsal. I really value this. The preparation means that when we actually gather for our rehearsal, we keep momentum going and rehearsals are fun!
  • Our sound guy pulls it all together and makes us sound great! When the sound sparkles, our own confidence in our playing increases!
  • And our AV person rehearses with us on Sunday morning to make sure that the lyrics follow with the flow of the songs.

This week, we tried pushing the envelope a little by trying a pretty tricky version of “Trading my Sorrows” by Israel Houghton. We don’t normally play gospel. But our bassist spent hours learning to slap the bass; the drummer followed the gospel rhythms; one keyboardist had a computer program which allowed him to capture the youtube recording, change the key on the recording and slow it down so he could play the piano part exactly right; another keyboardist wrote her own charts! Our singers blended well together in three-part harmonies. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by how much ownership we all had of the worship set!

In his book Beyond Talent, John Maxwell says that teamwork multiplies talent! He sets out the following principles:

  • Teamwork divides the effort and multiplies the effect
  • Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships
  • Teamwork is not about you. Maxwell quotes C Gene Wilkes who observed: “Team leaders genuinely believe that they do not have all the answers – so they do not insist on providing them. They believe they do not need to make all the key decisions – so they do not do so. They believe they cannot succeed without the combined contributions of all the other members of the team to a common end – so they avoid any action that might constrain inputs or intimidate anyone in the team. Ego is not their predominant concern.”
  • Great teams create community.
  • Adding value to others adds value to you.

It also so happened that Joe Wee Chuah ended up in my team this week! I’ve got a goal of training and releasing as many worship leaders as I possibly can! I tell people that I am trying to work my way out of the job by training others to replace me. Joe Wee is a great worship leader in the making. So I was really privileged when he agreed to lead half of today’s songs. (I’m actually harbouring 3 other worship leaders in my team!)

Here’s the recording of today’s worship (unfortunately, we missed recording the awesome introduction).

I’m really proud of what our team did today, and I’m generally proud of our team. I know that I can’t do much without each and everyone of them. But together, we can raise the watermark of worship in our church! So, here’s to more culture-defining gigs for 2014!

From the Archives: Sometimes Bossanova Just Happens – Lessons from Your Worst Nightmare

Today, I thought I’d share one of my favourite posts so far…

I love this clip of Martin Smith leading worship, because it goes to show that no worship leader is immune from the silliest of mistakes:

I remember one time when I was leading worship and we had just transitioned into the song “At the Cross”. As we started singing, it was clear to me that something or someone was clearly out of tune. So I looked down at the keyboardist and gave him a real dirty look. I was sure it was him. As we were singing through the first verse, I was thinking to myself “come on, mate, we’ve rehearsed this. We’re meant to go up to the key of A. When we do the debrief later, we’re going to have some words!”

And then I began to ask: why is the bassist off as well? Am I the only one who is going by what we rehearsed? Why can’t anyone else seem to hear properly? And then, towards the end of the chorus, I looked down and realised, to my horror, that it was me! I had forgotten to capo my acoustic guitar and was playing (and singing) in the key of G whilst else was in A as we had planned. I nearly died…

At that moment, I was humbled.

I take comfort in the fact that something similar happened to Martin Smith! I also take comfort in the fact that Martin Smith also thought it was everyone else before he realised he had turned on the bossanova on his keyboard!

We are never immune from mistakes, no matter how hard we prepare. Making mistakes is part of life, but the important thing is to learn from them.

So, here are some lessons I’ve learnt from episodes like these:

Firstly, humility comes before honour. (Actually I stole this phrase from Faith Community Church’s Statement of Ministry Culture, but I like it, so I’m replicating it here). It’s very easy to look around at others’ mistakes, particularly when you are working in a team. It’s much harder to see your own shortcomings. Sometimes, God graces us with bossanova moments so that it is entirely clear with whom the mistake lies. After you look around to the drummer, or the bassist, or stare evils at the sound guy, you have to conclude that no one else was to blame but your fat finger touching the wrong button.

Secondly, we should put in place protocols to avoid repeats of the mistake. I was talking to my former music director Addie Choon recently and he said that bossanova moments happen way too often to keyboardists. So what he does is that he has his finger ready on the volume slide to bring the sound right down if any hint of bossanova appears. Or some keyboardists start with the volume on zero to gently slide it up. Especially during ministry times.

Thirdly, sometimes it’s good to “bite the bullet” and not take yourself so seriously. In my younger days, if I started singing in the wrong key, or if the song was pitched too high, I would keep pressing on like it was all part of the plan, even though the strain in my voice made it utterly clear that it definitely wasn’t part of the plan. Now, I’m quite happy to say, “oops, sorry guys, let’s just start again”. You’d be surprised how forgiving the congregation is. In fact, that moment usually results in the congregation throwing their support behind you as they cheer and clap to encourage you; their eyes are opened to the fact that the worship isn’t a superstar. Suddenly you don’t have to try so hard to lead them into worship because you are one of them!

Lastly, I wonder whether the Spirit of God is more robust and less prone to offence than we think. Often, we act like the Holy Spirit only works and moves in the quiet times when strings are playing solemnly and thickly in the background. But the Spirit of God also brings joy, even in the midst of our greatest embarrassments.

Have you, as a worship leader, had a bossanova moment? Share it with us below.