One of the most pivotal factors for how well a worship service goes is how well the rehearsal prior to that service went. Now, you might be thinking, “but the Holy Spirit...”. I agree. Yes, He plays the MOST important role in how the service goes. However, without a solid rehearsal that leaves the team feeling confident in their parts, in each other, and in you as a leader, it’s very difficult to produce a musically excellent and God-honoring service that leads others into the presence of God.
As a worship leader, I’ve noticed there’s a very direct correlation between my personal ability to enter into worship and the preparation that went into that service. There’s a real sense of confidence and freedom that results in a team that has spent time carefully building a trust relationship through the rehearsal process. It rarely “just happens,” but takes intentionality and careful planning to run a successful rehearsal. Here are a few things to think about along the way:
Consider your environment.
Does your practice space feel conducive to rehearsing the music as well as building relationship and preparing to worship? Too often, I’ve arrived at a rehearsal to be met by sterile room lights and a half set-up stage. If your team feels like the space is half-ready and the room is dull, they will respond in the same manner. Consider utilizing a couple of stage lights (no need to sweat out the team by using the full set-up!) and insuring the A/V is in place before the team arrives. Perhaps have the tracks you’ll be playing on Sunday on in the background before you begin, to help gather the minds and hearts of your team as they arrive. Get to know your team by asking questions as they set up. Remember -- your team is composed of individuals with busy lives, arriving emotionally in a thousand different places. If you can find subtle ways to center yourself and others before beginning the work, you will have a more productive rehearsal.
Set the tone from the start.
Have you ever begun a song feeling less-than-confident in your knowledge of the melody or arrangement? Your team knows. It’s incredible what can happen in the room when your team senses a lack of certainty in the direction you want to lead. Spend the extra time learning the songs inside and out. If you need to, mark up your music with all necessary reminders, to help you remember the important things to note before you begin a song. Consider starting rehearsal with prayer and then going through each chart briefly, explaining key parts to the team before you touch your instruments. The general tone of your rehearsal is hard to shift once it’s begun, so seek to start it right.
Expectations, expectations, expectations.
What have you communicated to the band prior to arriving? Does the electric guitarist know her lead parts? Did you tell the drummer which version of “This is Amazing Grace” he needs to play? I’ve found that the more I can communicate via email or text before the team arrives for rehearsal, the better rehearsal we have. If the team has listened to their parts and knows what is expected of them to play, we actually have time to be creative and come up with new things. If not, we spend most of our time playing “catch up,” as each band noodles around trying to figure out their part. Set the expectation that everyone should know their parts before they arrive, and you’ll experience more freedom to change and be creative.
Work efficiently and stick to your end time.
It’s always hard to stay on track--especially with a long set (communion’s this week, remember?) and that new song that the pastor wants you to include. Plus, you’re likely working with a team of creative (ahem, distracted) people. Sometimes it feels like all we can do is get through the songs we’ll be playing for the set, let alone be musically relevant and heartfelt in the process. The less efficient you are, the more distraction will creep in, and your team dynamic will wane. You will earn the respect of your team by keeping them on track and ending on time. If they feel like you value their time, they will value yours and work hard. Communicate a firm start and end time to your team and stick to it. If the expectation was communicated well prior to rehearsal, you should be able to end on time.
ALL to His glory.
Have you spent time in prayer, asking God to specifically grant you grace as you lead the rehearsal time? Have you prayed for each person playing in the band with you this weekend? Have you encouraged your team to also be in prayer, that He would move in a powerful way through the works of our hands and sounds of our voices? I always have to remind myself of the simple but powerful truth that things are different because we prayed. If we ask God to intervene and work powerfully in us and our worship time, He will do so. That’s a prayer He wants to answer. Prayer puts us in a place of humility before the Father. And there’s no substitute for a surrendered heart.
How do you run your weekly rehearsals for your teams? We’d love to hear any advice or tips you have to offer other worship leaders!