How to Handle a Slacker on Your Worship Team

Dear worship team musician,

When you first started on the team, you couldn’t wait to be at rehearsal. You came early and stayed late. And holy cow—did you practice! You’d come in with your part learned for every song every week. You loved it.

So what’s changed?

Don’t get me wrong, you’re still getting the job done, mostly. And I know, everyone cools a little bit. But something deeper than that’s going on. You don’t seem to be enjoying this anymore.

If you arrive on time, it’s just in time. And then we still wait for you to get your equipment set up.

And then, it seems like you’re using the rehearsal as your own personal practice time. You’re still figuring out the songs as we’re rehearsing them. And it seems like every week there’s at least one song you aren’t even sure how it goes.

The thing is, you’re good enough to pull it off. By Sunday, you’re holding your own. But what kind of message is it sending to the other team members?

Maybe you’re burned out. Maybe you’ve lost the passion to play on the team. Maybe you’ve just gotten complacent. But whatever the reason, the result is the same: you’re coasting.

I hope you feel safe enough to open up to me about what’s going on. You are more important to me than the role you play on the team. If it means letting you take a few weeks or months off, we can work this out. If it’s helping you find a different ministry area to work in, I’ll do it, even though I don’t want to lose you from the team.

Let’s grab coffee this week and talk,

Your Worship Leader


Committed To Coasting

If you’ve been a worship leader for more than a few years, you’ve seen it: your once excited, hard-working, committed musician becomes a complacent, coasting team member. There are a number of reasons for this, but let me just throw out a few possibilities:

  • Burnout
  • Lost sight of the vision
  • Life circumstances


It’s easy for worship team members, especially our talented, go-to players to get over-scheduled and under-fed. They are in a constant state of outflow with no significant inflow.

Much of that’s on them. But as their shepherd/pastor/leader, am I vigilant for this? And do my scheduling practices contribute towards this burnout?

Losing Sight Of Vision

Worship teams are often microcosms of the church they serve in. It’s easy for a church to become inward-focused and “me-driven”, and the worship team can fall into that same trap.

Team members can view the ministry as a tool to fulfill their needs. Ego and entitlement issues creep in. And with those issues come the slacker behavior we see in once committed team members.

We have to constantly remind and reinforce the vision of the priestly nature of worship leading: we are here to help create a space for God and man to meet. We serve and sacrifice to help others experience God.

Life Circumstances

When stuff at home or work goes sideways, it’s easy to get distracted and overwhelmed. The team member is often still “committed” to the team, but there’s not enough bandwidth left in their life (emotionally, physically and/or spiritually) to be prepared and fully engaged.

You probably have a few people on your team that air ALL their issues. They walk in and vomit their week on you and the other players. But the vast majority of our team members won’t. They are don’t want to bother others, or they’re just very private.

So we as leaders need to stay connected with our team members and keep a finger on the pulse of their lives. When we see subpar preparation and performance, it might just be a sign pointing to tough life circumstances.

So how should we respond to a team member whose engagement and preparation has gone south? Unfortunately, here are three typical responses for us worship leaders:

  • Ignore it
  • Assume the worst
  • Focus only on the symptoms

Ignore It

Let’s face it, this is the easy and often default mode most of us operate in. We recognize the issues, we will even mention it to others. But we don’t do anything about it, often until it’s too late.

As life-giving leaders, we need to move towards the messes and the tough conversations.

Assume The Worst

It’s also easy to look at the issues of team member and assume the worst:

  • She doesn’t care about this team.
  • He’s a slacker and doesn’t want to do the work.
  • She doesn’t respect my leadership.
  • He wants to quit.

But the truth is often less severe than we perceive it. 99.99% of the people on our teams are good people with good intentions. We need to assume the best in them: that their hearts are good and they want the best for this team, but something has gotten in the way.

And when we do that, dealing with their poor behavior becomes less about confrontation and more about restoration.

Symptom Focused

In the fall of 2013, I had a discectomy on two discs and a spinal fusion for three vertebrae in my lower neck (C5, C6, & C7).

The symptoms had been going on for years, and I was just treating them. Advil, ice, heat, massage, physical therapy, etc. But the real issue was that I had degenerated discs that were bulging out and spooning with my spinal cord.

(When my legs started giving out randomly, I decided it might be serious.)

As leaders, we have to understand that poor behavior isn’t the “real” issue. The behavior is a symptom of something deeper: Burnout, stress, hidden sin, woundings, unforgiveness, etc. Often it’s layers and layers deep.

Now, we can’t be the therapist for our team members. But we can shepherd them to places and people where they can get help. To do that, we need to discuss with them the surface issue, while digging deeper to help them realize there’s a root issue needs to be dealt with.

Loving Them More Than Their Instrument

As leaders, we need to love our team member more than their instrument. That is, we have to get to that place where we love each person more than the contribution they make to the team. If a team member is simply a “resource” or an “asset” to me, I will value him less and less as his level of contribution slips.

Loving our team members beyond their instrument is tough. In some cases, it means allowing them take a sabbatical from the team – no matter how much it hurts each Sunday. Or requiring them to take a break.

In almost every situation, loving them more than their instrument demands that we wade into the mess of tough conversations. Whether it’s over coffee at Starbucks, between services in the green room, or in the parking lot after rehearsal, it’s one of the most important things you and I can do as worship leaders.

For Discussion Below: How do you care for your team members when you see engagement and preparation slipping? Or, what holds you back from the tough conversations?

Jon Nicol