Multitasking is simply doing a number of things at once. Our bodies could not function if the brain were not capable of controlling heart rate, breathing, etc., at the same time. However when it comes to active thought processing, the capability for our brains to handle or focus on more than one thing at a time isn’t there. We sometimes pride ourselves in our ability to “multitask,” but the reality may not be what we think.
“The Myth of Multitasking” is the title of a recent article in Forbes’ online by Carol Kinsey Goman, (http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2011/04/26/the-myth-of-multitasking/) who quotes John Medina, the author of Brain Rules: “To put it bluntly, research shows that we can’t multitask. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.” ( http://brainrules.blogspot.com/2008/03/brain-cannot-multitask_16.html )
Goman states: “Technology has so many advantages, but some devices that were designed to make us more productive, are now creating a new set of productivity problems. When laptops, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cell phones are close by, attendees at workplace meetings struggle to keep their focus on the speaker. It’s just too compelling and easy to check email, text messages and surf the web instead. Of course these workers think that they are multitasking. But, when it comes to the brain ability to pay attention, the brain focuses on concepts sequentially and not on two things at once. In fact, the brain must disengage from one activity in order to engage in another.”
What does this have to do with worship and those that lead in worship? Let’s focus on two: a technical and a spiritual.
On the technical side...
At any one time in a given worship service, there are a myriad of activities for which we are ultimately, if not directly responsible: sound, lighting, playing, singing, etc. The reality is that for us to focus on worship, we have to focus on worship. That can only be done if we have properly prepared for the other responsibilities, so that we can focus on worship. Last minute, thrown together services in which those involved are handed their lead sheets right before the service may by the grace of God come off smoothly, but there will be a high toll of stress on those responsible for carrying on the details. Since we cannot truly “multitask, ” those playing and leading are forced to focus just on the basics and are robbed from having the opportunity to prepare. A steady diet of such practices only leads to a high turn over rate for those involved in the ministry.
Wise planning and preparation allow for rehearsals to work out the bugs and help everyone get on the same page. Assigning different tasks to specific individuals will allow each party to focus on a single task and giving them what they need to do their job with enough lead time to be comfortable with the process is a must. [Though it is possible for a single person to run the sound and video as long as they are not having to make simultaneous changes, training another person it is ideal.]
On the spiritual side...
True worship demands focus, single-mindedness. If the leader is still attempting the learn the music for the worship set and “lead” at the same time, it is doubtful that the leader can focus to worship. Hours of preparation and practice are required so the leader can “lead” without being tied to the lead sheets. [This is not the place to repeat a topic already discussed, so please refer to a previous post on “Worship Leader or Lead Worshiper,” http://www.edsteeleworship.com/2010/07/lead-worshiper-or-worship-leader.html ]
The point is if we are constantly concerned over lighting, mic levels, chord changes, and video issues, we will become distracted and not worship. Personally, I have found that it is very easy for me to become distracted. Each week I make deliberate, conscious decisions to help me focus on that “obedient response to God” so that I will not just be standing in front of a congregation, but worshiping as well. For those leading in worship, what we do must not just be a “face we put on” when we are leading, or an artificial “stage presence,” but an encounter with the Living God. [see these articles for related helps: http://www.edsteeleworship.com/2011/01/what-to-do-when-you-are-having-problems.html and http://www.edsteeleworship.com/2010/05/six-questions-those-that-lead-worship.html ]
One aid in focusing, is to go back over the basics. The first step is to become aware that we are distracted in the first place. It is just too easy to be carried away and lose the precious moments that were supposed to be dedicated to God to issues of lesser importance. [I’m not saying that you should ignore problems; if the sound system goes down, you have to address the issue. But, these are more the exceptions than the rule.]
Once we are aware of being distracted, we need to go back and think through what worship is, that is, our obedient response to the nature and character of God. Then, we need to focus on those attributes, and give God thanks and praise, asking Him to help us refocus. These times of refocus are generally brief moments, that may even occur during a song. There may be many of these “mid-course adjustments” during any one service, depending on how distracted we are. We must focus and continue to do so, if we are going to make worshiping a true priority in our leading. Remember worship is not an activity in which we attempt to multitask, but a focus of all that we are.