encouraging a unified worship experience

How to Mess-Up Well

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Esther Simpson via Compfight

In our success driven world, we are taught how to succeed. However, while most want to succeed, there are also times in our lives when we need to know how to mess-up. One of these times in particular is when we are standing in front of others.

As a worship pastor, I have seen (and committed) more mistakes than I care to count. Years ago in a small rural church where I served a gentleman forgot the lyrics a to a song he was singing so he yelled out "high kick", which he proceeded to do! He then did a little jig until the lyrics came to his memory. This is probably not the best way to handle mistakes!

Many times these mistakes can be as simple as forgetting a specific cue or lyric. Sometimes these mistakes are the result of technical equipment. Someone once said that when the devil goes to church he winds up in the sound equipment. This might well be true!

I served in a county seat church where we displayed a large singing Christmas tree each year. For those who have never seen this spectacle, it consists of a 30 ft tall metal structure in the shape of a Christmas tree. This is covered in chicken wire with greenery, lights attached and finally loaded with a choir of singers. It is quite a beautiful sight. However, on our first year with this tree, we inadvertently plugged one of the lighting strands in and captured a piece of the chicken wire inside the plug. Thus the entire tree was electrified! Not good! No one noticed this as everyone was standing in the tree with their feet on a wooden riser....until we introduced a wired microphone into the picture! As the gentleman singing touched the wire and the microphone, the circuit was completed. The poor guy who was holding the mic was getting a surge of electricity through him and couldn't let go! Fortunately he was fine and the program continued, but from that year on, we used wireless mics!

These are just a few of the examples I could give in my 20 years of worship leading. While these are funny and laughable, many times mistakes would go unnoticed if we would simply train ourselves on how to mess-up well. Here are four ways to mess-up well:

-Plan ahead. The old adage "prior planning prevents poor performance"definitely applies here. Thinking through the service step by step and anticipating what could go wrong will enable issues to be caught before the audience sees them. Often times, this simply means everyone being on the same page. Instrumentalists, vocalists, sound techs, lighting techs and speakers need to have we clear vision of what is expected and where they are supposed to be during the service. This can be done by an outline given to each participant or can be structured by a producer who gives cues to those involved.

-Always Have a Back Up. While most of us know the songs we will be singing very well, there are still times our brains just don't function. Putting every song sung (including anthems and solos) on a rear screen or stage prompters will give a safety net should this happen. Once I was singing a song I had sung all my life and forgot the lyrics. I paused while the music continued and picked up once I got the lyrics back. An older lady in that congregation told me that I really blessed her as I became so emotional over the song and had to stop singing! I didn't have the heart to tell her that I really forgot the words! This can also apply to those speaking in the service. Most presentation programs will allow scripture and even sermon points to be inserted. This can be a blessing for speakers. If you don't have a stage prompter, ProPresenter software now has the ability to send text to an iPad or iPhone which can be used as a stage prompter.

-Don't give it away! Most of our mistakes would go unnoticed if we didn't let the audience know. When we forget a line to a song or a cue to a drama, a pause can work wonders. Simply close your mouth and don't allow your face to show you have forgotten. Too many times I see people chuckle, give eye movements or facial expressions that says "oops, I just blew it" when in many cases if they didn't reveal their mistakes, most would have never known. Tapping on or blowing into a mic is unacceptable. If the mic is not on when you get ready to use it, simply pause (if possible) or continue with your part until it is working. How many times has the mood of a service been interrupted by someone banging on a mic or giggling because they missed a cue? Keep your tell tale signs as non-obvious as possible.

-Review Consistently. I have a practice of sitting down with our producer each Monday and going through the service. We share what worked, and what didn't. We review any mistakes that were made and how these mistakes can be corrected the next week. Many times, one of us will see something that the other one missed. This is one reason it is advantageous to have more than one perspective. During this time of review, we can fix mistakes and prevent them from reoccurring at a future date.

Mistakes are inevitable, but it is how we react to them that makes the difference.


Please share below some mistakes that you have seen in ministry/church life.

These are my thoughts, what are yours?