One of the most asked questions I hear from worship leaders who are just starting to lead is how to organize and ease worship band rehearsals. This sounds simple, but it is a pretty pasture filled with land mines!
I’ve been involved in worship, either leading or as a musician, for the last 12 years and I’ve had all different experiences with rehearsals, good and bad. If you want your band to run screaming from the building, vowing to never play their instrument again, here’s my top list of surefire irritations.
1. Don’t prepare anything in advance. Nothing is more frustrating to the band than for the leader to show up with a big stack of song sheets, plop them down on floor, and ask “so what do y’all think we should sing this week?”. Part of the leadership role is to discern in advance which songs should be sung that week, pull appropriate charts (I’ll talk more about this next), and show up at rehearsal with a thought out plan. This doesn’t mean you can’t make changes, but at least everyone has a starting point.
2. Introduce 5 new songs. When the new Passion album releases, you must resist the temptation to introduce half of the songs to your band the next week. I suggest not introducing more than 1 new song per rehearsal. Your church will thank you as well :).
3. Create unique arrangements for every song. There are some exceptions to this no-no. If all your songs are charted specifically for each instrument, all your players read music, and the song is new to your church, then I say go for it. However, if your band plays mostly by ear and chord charts, you’re going to have problems. Also, once people learn the standard way to play or sing a song, playing different arrangements is difficult for the band and for your church to follow.
4. Make sure your rehearsal is at least 3 hours. Seriously people, unless your worship band is going on tour, this is ridiculous. The last thing your volunteer musicians want is to spend an entire evening away from their families for a worship rehearsal that should have ended after the first hour. If you are only introducing 1 new song (see point 2), then you should be able to run through that song 2 or 3 times, practice your known songs once, spend some time in prayer, and still be done within an hour!
5. Consistently show up late and allow others to do the same. It’s amazing how much this is just expected and tolerated among musicians. When people are consistantly late, it says to everyone else “my time is more important that yours”. As the leader, if you refuse to deal with this, eventually everyone will begin showing up late. Then your rehearsals will run long (see point 4).
6. Give everyone only words with chords. It’s amazing how many worship leaders bring only lyric chord charts to rehearsal. Playing a new song with a chord chart is like fumbling around for the light switch in a dark room. Companies like www.praisecharts.com or https://us.songselect.com/ can help you with charts. If you are committed to only using chord charts, at least allow your band to hear the song in advance.
These are not a sure fire formula for success, but if you follow these suggestions, you will navigate safely through the dangerous field and avoid many pitfalls that others (including myself) have painfully experienced!
Blessings on your ministry!