by Tom Kraeuter
I realize this article will be read by people in many areas of the country. Therefore, what I’m about to say might not be popular with everyone, but hear me out. I am a serious St. Louis Cardinals fan. I listen to their games on the radio whenever I can, and even enjoy occasionally going to a game in person to cheer them on. But I might be a bit different than the average fan because I not only like the team, but also the management. Over the years, I have noticed that the ownership seemingly always endeavors to make sure that they have not only good quality players, but also players who will be able to work together. They don’t just want talent. They look to see if the person is a good fit for the Cardinals. I’ve even seen them spend more money to get someone of equal talent who seems like they would be better suited to the team’s style of play. I like that.
Okay, truth be told, probably most professional athletic organizations do this to some degree. They would be silly not to. If they have the choice between two athletes who have similar talent, they should always take the one who seems like the better fit for their team.
High school athletic coaches, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury. All of my kids have played sports at the high school level. The coaches have to work with whatever they get. They can’t be overly picky. Of course they may be able to have tryouts and make cuts. Unlike the pros, however, they can’t pay a few dollars more and get the guy (or girl) who would be a better fit for the team’s style of play. They have to play the hand that is dealt to them. And though it can be frustrating, I think it may take more thought and effort to coach like that than it does to hand-pick the ideal team that will complement the style of play the coach wants to employ. That high school coach, after all, has to endeavor to meld all those players—those who are extremely talented and those who are less talented, those who are a perfect fit for the team’s style of play and those who are not as well suited, and even those who may not fit well with the others—into a team. That’s an arduous job. It takes plenty of flexibility. And patience. Did I mention lots of patience?
The truth is that most worship leaders are like high school coaches. They have to work with the people they have available. They can’t ask the front office to find them a new bass player just because the one they have has an abrasive personality that doesn’t fit well with the rest of the team. They can’t trade their alto singer for a future draft pick. (Although I’ve met a few worship leaders who would have enjoyed having that option.) No, just like the high school coach they have to somehow make a team out of those varied personalities and skill levels. It’s not easy.
To make matters worse, a high school coach only has to put up with those abrasive personalities and mediocre players for a maximum of four years. Usually less. Worship leaders, on the other hand, may have some of those folks for much, much longer. Did I mention the part about patience?
So, if you’re a worship leader, what do you do? Well, if you’re looking for easy answers here, you’re about to be disappointed. There are no easy answers. Working with people is almost never easy. Often it is extremely difficult. However, investing love and kindness into people is worth it. Seeing lives changed and altered over time because of the Lord working in and through your words and actions is amazing. God being honored as a result of you demonstrating patience and compassion to others is worth the time and effort.
Truthfully, some of those people may go to their grave still cantankerous and musically mediocre. But through your ongoing interaction with them, the Lord will produce jewels in your heart—jewels of peace and love and kindness and did I mention patience?—that have eternal value.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
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