For a one time only occurrence, we need to let grace abound and love cover over a multitude of sins. Life happens. We gotta make room for that. Routinely remind the team that their participation matters to others, and ask them to communicate to the worship leader that is leading that week as quickly as possible if they'll be delayed for any reason. A quick text is always appreciated. Leaders can then share openly with the rest of the team at the beginning of our time together that so-and-so is going to be showing up late and why, so when they walk in, it’s not distracting – or at least, it’s expected.
But for a habitual pattern of tardiness, we need to sit that person down and ask what's going on in their life that's preventing them from being on board with the team. Oftentimes there is a lot of stuff below the surface that needs ministering to, and our goal is to help them and win my brother/sister over through love and truth and kindness. In the rare occasion that this person turns out to have a disqualifying heart issue (entitlement, diva mentality, laziness, apathy) then we need to deal with that appropriately and privately.
Make sure to communicate very clear expectations of all team members, and that includes timeliness (and guidelines for open communication about why they have to be late, if it's truly unavoidable and their heart is in the right place to serve). Following Matthew 18:15-17, it’s always best to address deviations from the expected standards privately and go from there.
Only twice in 25 years have I ever had to deal with this particular issue publicly, as the person was in openly defiant sin, aiming to challenge the leadership and the vision/direction of the ministry. Both times the persons in question walked in late after we’d spoken to them privately through the aforementioned process. On that specific occasion they missed the devotion and training time and sound check, and we were already well underway in rehearsal. They came strolling in, disrupting the rehearsal by starting to greeting everyone loudly and beginning to set up on stage. It was obvious that they intended to make a show of being late, without even a pretense of being even the least bit sorry they were tardy or disruptive.
We had to pause the rehearsal where we were at, and say to them publicly, firmly but calmly, "Hey, so sorry, but as we've already had this discussion in private and now you've chosen to make this a public issue, we as a team are going to have to ask you to pack up your gear and step off the stage. You're welcome to hang around and observe our rehearsal as part of our worship community, but you're not welcome to join us on the platform this week. We can try it again another week."
As you can imagine, both times it became a very tense, awkward moment for the whole team. Both times, the person left the team in a huff... but I’m glad to report that both times, the person later came back and apologized, and went through a process with us to be reconciled to the ministry team. And both times were good teaching opportunities... the rehearsal was already disrupted, the hearts of the rest of the team were already affected, and it was a good time to remind them of Matthew chapter 25, which has serious reminders that timeliness and stewardship matters to God, and it should matter to us. The Parable of the Ten Virgins, as well as the Parable of the Talents, served up back to back in this chapter, give us a powerful message about stewardship and preparedness.
Both times this happened, the team agreed together that what the Word said there applied to our situation, and we had to take our roles seriously... and they were all in. We prayed for the person as a team, and then got back to our business of preparation.
The trick is to do this while remaining kind in our approach. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Blowing up at someone publicly for being late will never lead to the results that glorify God or edify His people. Even expressing anger at them privately is probably not going to change them or win their hearts over to change. Loving-kindness, truth spoken in love, patience, forbearance, longsuffering – these are attitudes the Lord will bless as we engage with those that aren’t living up to the expectations we have of team members. Our goal is to shepherd them with love, not bully them into submission – and love for the whole team means holding to a standard for the good of all, encouraging the growth of all, while at the same time allowing room for imperfection and stumbling along the way.