Question? how do you deal with a brilliant but irresponsible musician? The absurdity!

Musicians are always on time, always responsible. They?re never forgetful and never indulge in the tempting things of life. Never. Right? Well?

Often with brilliant artistry comes weakness in other areas. It might be time management, might be pride or ego, or might be addiction of some sort. The most important thing to remember is that nothing trumps the health of the person.

In some instances it might require a break from the team. In other instances it might just require a moment of failure that wakes them up.[quote]Often with brilliant artistry comes weakness in other areas.[/quote]

Situation 1: Irresponsible Me

There are always consequences that come with irresponsibility. A few years ago I was asked to sing this beautiful Bifrost Arts arrangement of ?Jesus, Savior Pilot Me.? So much work went into the staging and lighting of the piece. The words came up bold and slow behind me. I had gotten really good at learning songs last minute and performing with well. ?So again, I thought I wouldn?t need much time to memorize the song, and waited way late into the week to start working on it. It turned out to have some crazy, hard-to-memorize lines like?

?though the sea be smooth and bright,
sparkling with the stars of night,
and my ship?s path be ablaze,
with the light of halcyon days.?

Yup. Crazy words. Low and behold I had waited far too late to memorize the four verses of this vintage song. So there I was on Saturday afternoon, in front of our worship team, tech team and producer and pastor, running through the song, totally unprepared. The strings began to play, the light focused in on me, and I thought I was going to faint. My eyes were glued to the confidence monitor in the back of the room that slowly, (way too slowly) brought the words up. I was a mess internally, fearing for my job, realizing I was completely failing everyone in the room.

I have never been so scared. It was just the kick in the pants I needed to never put myself in that position again. My irresponsibility left me shaking in my boots and I have humbly learned my lesson to prepare well ahead of time.[quote]My irresponsibility left me shaking in my boots and I have humbly learned my lesson to prepare well ahead of time.[/quote]

Situation 2: Irresponsible Him

We have this genius bass player. He is wildly creative, with a mind of an engineer. He sees things way differently than many of us, and that in part makes him a brilliant musician. He has the right touch and tones that you want, but he is always late. He would come in 45 minutes late to sound check and be blaming his car or work. Then he would have messed with the wiring on his pedal board, and was on the floor trying to fix it for another half hour. He would fully blame the equipment, and never take responsibility. We would be well into the run through and he still didn?t have his gear together.

It was tough, but quickly people stopped calling him to play. We all loved his playing, but he had some serious issues with responsibility.

For him, taking a hiatus from playing was what helped him become more responsible. We had conversation with him explaining why he was not going to be asked to play. It took about a year before we started asking him again. And this time, he made sure to be the first person there, tuned up, dialed in, and prepared. It was tough love because we loved the guy and loved his playing. But he couldn?t function well in his irresponsibility.

Situation 3: Unhealthy Irresponsibility

Being on stage as part of the worship team is a leadership position. It is a high calling which requires that a person be living a life above reproach, not acting in a way that may cause someone else to stumble (Romans 14:13-23).[quote]Being on stage as part of the worship team is a leadership position.[/quote]

If a member of your team is struggling with an addiction or making a series of unhealthy choices, the best way to love this person might be to take him or her off of the serving schedule until they can receive counsel and discipleship. People first, gifts second.[quote]People first, gifts second.[/quote]

You may have an incredibly gifted musician, but if the person?s life is spiraling down, it is more important for that person to be healthy and whole than serving from an empty and unhealthy place. It is our job as leaders to pastor our team members. Being a worship leader, director, or pastor is a calling, not just a job. We are called to shepherd our people, and sometimes that means making hard calls. It requires speaking the truth with grace.

Have you ever been in a position of dealing with an irresponsible team member?
Have you been the irresponsible team member?
Please join the conversation.

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2 replies on “Dealing with Irresponsibility”

What if the musician in situation 2 doesn’t change his behaviour? What can a worship leader or an elder do to motivate a musician? In my church the keyboard player is awesome, but he always gets late. After we told him that he couldn’t continue like that, he didn’t play anymore and he hasn’t changed his timing issue. Seven months have gone by already.

Hey Exequiel,
I’m sorry to hear about the issue with your keyboardist. It can be extremely frustrating when we want to give opportunities to musicians to continue on the team, but they are not abiding by simple requests, such as showing up on time. We ultimately cannot change a person’s behavior. If he or she cares too little to make sure they are on time, then there are consequences, like not being asked to play. It is wise for us as leaders to communicate our baseline expectations to all of our volunteers so that they know what they are entering into, and what is expected of them.
Best of luck in your situation!
Becky

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