Every worship pastor or praise team member can probably look back in their not-so-distant memory and cringe remembering a “bad” or “rough” experience at a group rehearsal. Practicing together can be a dividing issue among many praise teams and can cause unnecessary complications for worship leaders.
Psalm 33:3 commands several things from us as worshippers… it says, “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
Merriam-Webster defines skillful as: having the training, knowledge, and experience that is needed to do something well.
In other words, practice and rehearsal is needed. End of story.
Frankly, I don’t know if we as worship leaders can ever really get our teams to want to practice week in and week out. That ball is completely in God’s court. In the meantime, there are several things we can do to make our rehearsals as painless and effective as possible.
1) Get content out in advance and allow our teams adequate time to prepare.
Let’s face the facts… most churches aren’t going to pay every musician and vocalist making it absolutely necessary for our team members to work everyday jobs. That being said we cannot expect them to be able to dive head first into our weekly sets the day they receive the content from us. In order for us to be effective as worship leaders we must work ahead and coordinate our services well and in a timely manner. Personally I try to stay planned at least two weeks in advance in order to give my team members time to become familiar with the songs and hone their craft for each song in particular.
2) Place emphasis on coming to practice prepared to rehearse together.
Band rehearsal time is not time for someone to “learn” the song or tune. Band rehearsal is for rehearsing together… as a band. Song learning and individual practice should take place individually and prior to group rehearsals. The more we and our teams prepare in advance the faster it is going to come together in rehearsal and the better it will sound. In other words, everyone should enter into rehearsal already knowing the music and having practiced it at some point before. This will make group rehearsals a lot more efficient and painless for everyone involved.
3) Know what you want the songs to sound like.
Coming in to rehearsal without a clue of what we desire our finished product to be is like an inventor trying to create an invention with no idea in mind of what he wishes to create. This does not mean we have to sound exactly like any particular artist. Every praise team has their own soundscape and we should embrace that. But, we should have enough of the finished product in mind that we can guide and direct our teams effectively in rehearsal.
4) Communicate your vision.
We should seek to be great communicators. Personally I know that my team has no mind readers on it… that being said I have to be able to communicate what I want or what I am hearing in a timely manner that is easy to understand. Nothing causes more stress than a breakdown in communication. We must know our teams, know what we want, and express it!
5) Don’t practice songs wrong!
This may sound obvious but we all have fallen to the temptation to just talk about the changes we want to make in or to a song when it comes time to play it again instead of running through it again… correctly. The way we rehearse is the way we will play when it counts. It is imperative that we rehearse our songs cleanly and correctly in the right keys and at the right tempos. Slight variances will happen on occasion but if we make it a habit to rehearse things incorrectly then it will bite us eventually.
6) Seek perfection but know your limitations.
As leaders we desire to be the best we can be and we wish the same for our teams. We are called to play skillfully and to lead effectively. But, more importantly we are called to be great worshippers. We must continuously practice and work to hone our crafts and abilities to better serve the body and honor our God. While we seek perfection we must know our limitations. I am not saying that we should limit ourselves… but we have to be realistic. My team isn’t going to sound like a carbon copy of Hillsong United and the church with a single piano and organ isn’t going to sound like my team. We have to accept that. We are called to be great at what we do in the environments that God has placed us at this given time.
Let us work to better glorify Christ and edify our congregations with our worship. A good starting point is in our rehearsals.