Every musician has been to them. The bad rehearsal. It takes everyone forever to get setup, no one really came prepared, and everyone leaves feeling defeated, like they wasted a few hours of their time.
Worship Leaders & church bands are not immune to these unfortunate experiences. I’ve had my fair share of rough rehearsals that felt unproductive and maybe even unhelpful. As the leader, you can feel pretty disappointed after these rehearsals, especially if they happen more often than they should.
While we can’t sit at home with all of our musicians to ensure that they prepare like we hope they would and we can’t be in control of everything leading into a rehearsal, there are certain things that we can and should influence.
For most of us, we’re leading teams filled will volunteers who are husbands & wives, moms & dads, & employees before they can be a music team volunteer. With that in mind, we should be seeking to be even better music directors, so that we can honor our volunteers and their time in order to prepare our teams well!
Today I want to talk about “5 Be’s” that you can implement this week to start having better rehearsals immediately. Each of these are simple steps you can take to see improvements in your rehearsals, so lets dive in:
1. Be Ahead.
I don’t think there is anything else on this list that will help your rehearsals more than this one. Getting ahead in your planning will absolutely change the way your team prepares for rehearsals. Without their content (i.e. Charts, MP3s, YouTube Videos, etc), your team is left to figure it out for themselves. They have no direction or guidance in their preparation.
For reference, I try and stay 2 months out on scheduling for volunteers and a month out on content. That way, you still have some flexibility in adding new songs or making adjustments for series/messages, but your team can still have their content WEEKS in advance.
There is an assumption that comes with this one. You MUST be teaching your team the value of preparation and setting the bar for how you expect them to prepare. While this may seem like a bit much for a volunteer group, I believe that most musicians volunteer because they want to be a part of something great that honors God. Setting this standard with preparation at home will help your team take strides in their rehearsals together.
2. Be (VERY) Prepared.
Speaking of preparation, YOU need to be incredibly prepared. This seems like such a “duh” statement, but you’d be surprised how many people believe they should just be winging rehearsals.
You should know the songs, COLD. Every chord change, every melody line, I mean, you might even be so incline to memorize all your music before a rehearsal (crazy, I know). The reason for this level of preparation is two fold.
First, as the leader, YOU set the bar for how prepared people should be. If you preach that people should be practicing at home and should know their music, then you should be even a step above that. John Maxwell talks about a concept called the Law of the Lid, meaning that the effectiveness of your team, and of you, are limited by your leadership. If you’re not willing to put in the extra effort to prepare, then you’re putting a lid on your team’s potential.
Second, you set yourself up to be most helpful to your team. If you don’t know how a chord progression, instrumental section, or melody is supposed to be played, then how can you provide correction or direction during a rehearsal? You have a responsibility to know these songs so well that you can play them automatically so that you can be listening across the band for things that are out of place. Do the work and serve your team well.
This also includes you having the space your rehearse ready for people to walk in, plug in, and play. For us, this is where our incredible Production Director comes into play. I know I’m spoiled. However, you should know who’s coming, what gear they are using, and how to have them setup to be ready to play. It takes more work, but it will make your rehearsals start better.
3. Be Decisive.
One of the most frustrating things I’ve experienced is a music director who is indecisive about musical choices. Going back and forth on song structure or saying “I don’t care” every time someone asks them a question about their part is incredibly unhelpful and fosters disorganization in a team.
I appreciate collaboration and encourage it on our teams, but at the end of the day, the decision rests with me. As the leader, you should solicit input when appropriate, consider everything at hand, and then make a decision. Decisions lead to direction, which leads to forward momentum. The goal here isn’t to be a dictator, but to be a decision maker.
Every team needs one, and typically as the worship leader, you’re the one who needs to be that decision maker. Go into your rehearsal with an opinion and plan on how you want to play the songs, the structure of the songs, and even how you want transitions to go.
4. Be Efficient.
When I say efficient, I mean it by its definition: achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. Again, you’re typically dealing with volunteers who have just worked a full day at work and are sacrificing family time to be with you. It is your responsibility to make a rehearsal as productive as possible with as little wasted effort as possible.
This goes back to having a plan for the rehearsal. What order do you want to run the songs in? How do you want to practice transitions? Are there any songs that will probably take a little more time? All of these questions and more should help you form an efficient plan for running the rehearsal.
The goal here isn’t to speed through rehearsal as fast as you can, but rather to achieve the most productive rehearsal possible without wasting much effort/energy. If you’re playing 10 songs at a night of worship, that’s gonna take some time to get through. However, if you have a thoughtful plan for how you want to work through these songs, you can still have an efficient rehearsal.
5. Be Generous with Critique & Encouragement.
This last one is all about how you relate to your team. My advice is to start by establishing a culture that is centered on your team creating the best environment for your church to worship Jesus together. If that is your focus, then critique & encouragement are natural parts of your typical conversations as a team.
Our team at Journey has a very open and honest culture, where critique is not only typical, but is welcome. I can’t tell you the last time we had a gathering were at least one of my teammates didn’t ask me about how they can improve.
In this context, I’m very generous with critique in an effort to help our team take steps forward, especially in rehearsal. If someone is doing something that doesn’t fit or that I don’t prefer, I’ll say something and give them an example of what I’m looking for. When you have this culture, you have teammates who meet criticism with open hands and a willingness to best serve the songs & team.
To help facilitate this kind of culture, you should also be very generous with your encouragement. Even if something small was nice during a rehearsal, take a moment to recognize that as a group and give some encouragement there. If you do this regularly, your team will start to do this on their own. Nothing gives me greater joy than to hear teammates talking with each other about how they can be other and generously heaping encouragement on each other.
If you take the time to work on these 5 Be’s, I guarantee you’ll see a change in your rehearsals and even your team. Take a few minutes and consider where you’ve been letting things slide with your rehearsals recently and make a commitment to yourself and your team to do better going forward.
If we improve our rehearsals, we’re likely to improve our gathered experience, which is likely to help to create an even better environment for our church to worship together. Take the time to do the hard work and watch your rehearsals change from something you dread to a time you can’t wait to get to!