Mid-Service Surprises: How to Deal with Them
- Sunday, April 03, 2011
On Friday, I emailed three scriptures to the person in charge of powerpoint. I typed out the verses exactly as I wanted them on the screen. (Since there are so many Bible versions, it's important for the preacher to select which one he prefers.)
I arrived at the church in plenty of time to check on matters. But that's where I dropped the ball. I sat on the front row and listened to the musicians rehearse, I greeted a few people, and then I drew a half-dozen youngsters. At no point did it occur to me to check on what would be projected onto the screen.
When preaching time came, I stepped up and made the typical introductory remarks. Then I called attention to the sermon text. When it came up on the screen, it was a different version from the one I had memorized and was prepared to recite from memory. Furthermore, the last verse was missing. Bear in mind, I'm finding this out as my mouth is uttering the words on the screen. Not good.
Now, what a preacher says in a moment like this and how he says it tells far more about his character than a dozen sermons.
So, what did I say? Nothing bad. And nothing embarrassing to my friend the powerpoint operator, I trust. I did ask and he signaled that, no, the final verse would not be thrown onto the screen. I think I told the congregation that I had meant for the scriptures to come from the New American Standard Version.
Not a major thing. But--and this is what bothered me--it wasn't sharp. I had been caught unexpectedly by the little foulup and had not reacted as appropriately as I wished I had.
The next morning--this morning--the powerpoint guy and I exchanged notes. He had received my email only at the last minute and hardly had time to type it up. And I apologized for assuming that all was well and for not checking.
As one who still has a way to go regarding handling disruptions, here is my five-point checklist:
1. Figure on the unexpected happening. It will.
The less you anticipate disruptions happening, the more they will throw you for a loop when they do occur. So, expect the unexpected.
2. As much as you are able, plan for ways of handling such surprises.
This is where a great ministerial staff comes in. Discuss these matters with them, and get their input on how to prevent meltdowns the next time there is an eruption of some kind. And, if you do respond poorly to an emergency situation, at the next staff meeting, lay it out there before your team. Get input on how it could have been avoided and what to do next time.
3. Pray for the Father's presence and guidance in responding to interruptions.
This will be your best resource. Nothing will assure you that your response will be in order and gracious like the Holy Spirit working within you.
4. Cut yourself some slack. No one is 100 percent all the time.
Sometimes you will blow it. That's not all bad. I've even known a preacher to react in the way most of us dread the most, with a curseword. After the congregation recovered from the shock, some members actually gave the pastor points for being human.
5. Don't be afraid to publicly apologize.
If you blew it and know it and everyone else watched you humiliate yourself (or worse, someone else), there is only one thing to do: confess it publicly and ask them to forgive you.
Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at joemckeever.com/mt. Used with permission.
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