We’ve all been there.
You plan all week for Sunday’s service to be an incredible experience. Your worship team rehearses their songs. Your pastor writes a carefully thought-out message. Your media team prepares lyrics, backgrounds, and sermon slides.
But what happens when, despite all of this preparation, your Sunday service doesn’t go as planned? What do you do when mistakes happen? What do you do when your service goes south?
On Sunday, I faced this head on. While each of our teams had done their homework during the week, something just wasn’t clicking for us. Several production volunteers called out sick last minute. We had a few issues with our sound equipment. The computer running our click track acted buggy throughout the entire worship set. Despite going through two proofreaders, we had a major typo in our sermon slides. (And yes, it was displayed on the screen for all of our audience to see.)
And, in what might be added to the list of most horrifying theater church stories, the audio from the movie previews started playing……mid-sermon.
As you can imagine, at the conclusion of service, I was feeling extremely discouraged.
It was a bad day. Except…I found out that it really wasn’t.
Shortly after service, a first time guest left this message on our church’s Facebook:
I have to say, for the first time in my life I actually heard God speak to me today. I needed that more than anything. Thank you for your wonderful message today!
Only a few moments later, I received word that five people had marked on their connect card that they had made decisions for Christ in that service.
It was then that I was reminded that we play only a small part in peoples’ lives being changed on Sundays. While we seek to create experiences that point people towards God, it’s still ultimately Him who touches hearts.
I walked away from this experience being confident in five things. Not only will I remember them the next time Sunday doesn’t go quite as planned, but I encourage you to do the same.
1. It’s Never As Bad As You Imagine
While you know and understand all of the intricate details of your service, most of your congregation doesn’t. You may walk away with a list of ten mistakes, while your audience only really noticed one or two.
2. It Happens To Everyone
Everyone has bad days. Everyone. I’ve visited some of the largest, fastest growing churches in America and witnessed major fumbles. Mistakes are a part of life. You’re in good company.
3. You’re Better Than You Feel Right Now
When we make mistakes, we tend to start thinking irrationally. We immediately feel embarrassed and our insecurities begin to kick in. It’s important to remember that you’re still awesome at what you do. Just because you have a bad Sunday doesn’t mean you have a bad team. Or church. Or life.
4. Great Things Can Still Happen
Despite our many fumbles, amazing things still happened in that service. People connected with God in a big way. That’s what’s important. What positives can you find in your service that didn’t go exactly as planned? Were lives impacted? Did people hear about Jesus? Was there still life-giving community?
5. Next Sunday Is Coming
When you have a service that goes south, you have two options. You can wallow in your failure and stay where you’re at OR you can pick yourself up and try again. Use each of your mistakes as a tangible way to make improvement. Next Sunday, your audience will be back. Will you make the same mistakes again?
Thanks so much for this timely encouragement! I just came from a a meeting with my pastor where I needed to apologize for a mishap in media that wrecked havoc (or so I thought!) during the sermon. My pastor was so kind and supportive and I came away with the realization that you wrote in #1! It didn’t even faze him as he moved through his sermon. We are so attuned to the details, we often forget the big picture.
Needed to see this today! The last couple of weeks we’ve had some technical glitches that leave me, the perfectionist, feeling like I’m doing a horrible job. This is a great reminder to sit back, breathe and realize it’s not the end of the world. Next week is new and nobody will remember last week’s mistakes.
A common phrase overheard at my church is “the people don’t notice the mistakes” or “we’re volunteers”. I lose my mind when I hear those sentiments. Our almighty God deserves our absolute best and we honor him through our diligent work/worship.
I’ve found that it’s almost impossible to spend too much time in pre-production. Mistakes are either caught, and the volunteer team becomes so prepared to deal with the in-service situations that cannot be avoided.
We have to remember that all our planning and effort is flawed human endeavour and frankly, no matter how hard we strive, only His work is perfect.
I also believe that sometimes the last minutes or unexpected outcomes are Gods work at hand. Maybe the carefully crafted message needed changes we knew nothing about! Or the click track issues changed the worship mood or set list that day – and hey, that’s what God wanted.
Don’t be afraid to leave the Planning Centre plan!
I really appreciated this piece as I had a BAD Sunday a week ago – felt like leaving immediately because I knew if I was the service producer I would not found what I did acceptable (but forgivable). At one church I have done tech at it likely would have had me removed from the team that day or within 24 hours – no question. What did I do?? While resting an elbow on the lip of the lighting board, it slipped & hit the ‘Go’ button, taking the house to black.
This was me this past Sunday. I felt like I completely bombed our worship set. I thought I was off key most of the time, and trying to lead people into the presence of God that I didn’t personally feel at that point, was super disheartening – so much so that I began questioning my role as a worship leader. (I know, this screams “overly emotionally unstable creative type,” – but seriously, I was convinced it was *that* bad.)
Days later, I come to find out that others thought that, experientially, it was some of the best worship we’ve had. I was absolutely dumbfounded. But I realise this is such a textbook church experience, and I was relieved that it impacted people.