3 Steps to Help in Leading Effective Rehearsals
Rehearsal gives many worship pastors/leaders a major heartache. It seems we are fighting so many different battles: not wasting everyone’s time, getting team members to prepare, thinking of how you want each song to be mapped, transitions, and proving resources for your band to prepare. So many obstacles and it can just get downright frustrating!
How do we run an effective rehearsal? Let’s do a breakdown of all the areas that you need to cover beforehand, during, and after for your band to be ready to lead worship on Sunday morning.
Step 1- Communicate Expectations
First step that you need to take is to communicate what you expect out of your team. They cannot hit the bulls eye if they don’t know what the target is. Take the time to express what you expect out of them. If you have never asked them to come prepared or have never told them that their gear must be set up before practice enabling practice to begin on time, then how are they supposed to know that you want these things? Take the time to communicate these preferences and be aware that you will have to repeat these communications until your team knows them by heart.
Also, let your team know what you expect out of yourself. If you expect them to be prepared and have practiced all week, then they should know that you expect the same out of yourself and are doing it. It isn’t fair to expect less out of yourself than you do them. If anything, you should expect more.
Step 2- Come Prepared
What is needed to help your team be prepared? There is a ton of resources you can provide them with. First, and the best I can recommend, is Planning Center Online (PCO). Planning Center will change your life. It allows you to schedule your team, provide them with mp3’s, music PDFs, and videos, as well as give them an outline of the service. Planning Center Online Services would be the application you would specifically use for this. Their motto is, “Services can help you schedule any volunteers, plan services, and equip your worship team.” PCO Services will change your life because you will be able to send emails or phone numbers to all of your band members, add media for Sunday, transpose the mp3’s to the key your are doing the song in, and you can set up your CCLI song select and Praise Charts accounts to import your chord charts right into your planning center. Definitely the best planning service out there.
There are also other great websites out there that you can subscribe to that allows you to provide resources for your team to practice. Worship Artistry, Worship Online, Worship initiative are all great websites that provide videos that break down each instrument for your band. Definitely worth their money.
If you use multi-tracks for your team, then sending out a rehearsal mix is another great option. Multitracks.com has rehearsal mixes and custom mixes you can buy. For loop community you can just use a free app, like audacity, and put your mixes in it, then export the mp3 for your band. If you use Prime app from loop community, you can just send the login to who needs it. Giving them this resource will help them be prepared for the correct arrangement you will use on Sunday, as well as the cues and the clicks in their eyes.
What is the best place to get PDFs for your band? My favorite is praisecharts.com. It has the best chord charts, lead sheets, piano sheets, and orchestration charts. Praise Charts also has mp3’s, click tracks, lyric slides, rehearsal mixes, and much more for sale. Another place is CCLI songselect. This is through CCLI, where you get all your licensing needs fulfilled. Songselect has three options: one, free for public domain songs, two, advanced for $157 a year, and three, premium for $198 a year. The advanced option has Copyrighted Songs, Audio Previews, 3rd-party Integration, Lyric Sheets, Auto Transposition, Chord Sheets, and Lead Sheets. And the premium option adds vocal part sheets and ChordPro Downloads (ChordPro allows you too edit the chord charts to your desire). There is also Redtie Music, Lifeway, and MusicNotes that are good places to find music as well.
How do you, as the Worship Leader, prepare for Sunday? First, you should be practicing the music and transitions (spoken and musical) throughout the week. Come prepared so that you can lead the band and not waste their time. You should know exactly where you want to go in the songs and what you are going to say so that practice is efficient and runs smoothly. If you aren’t prepared that can be disrespectful to your team. You have to expect more out of yourself than you do your band.
Next, make sure the you and your Lead Pastor are meeting during the week to plan out the service together. He is the lead worship leader and you need to hear his voice on what he needs and wants for Sunday. It’s your job to conduct the service in a way that follows where he is being lead by God. Carve out the time together to communicate and decide on what the Sunday service will be.
Also, you need to take the time to keep training. Keep developing your musical skills. The better you are, the better you will be as a worship leader. Learn new techniques, learn new instruments, learn new transition styles, new music styles, just keep learning. Another area you need to keep training in is The Bible. Keep studying, keep reading books about the Bible, keep learning. Never be content where you are. Your congregation can only engage in as deep of worship as you can lead them.
You must make sure you are spending personal with God during the week. Tyler learned this from an interview he had with another worship leader which he quotes regularly. The worship leader stated, “What happens on stage is a direct reflection of what happens in quiet time. The same goes for rehearsals.” If you haven’t spent time with God then how do you expect your heart to be ready to lead others in worship?
Step 3- Lead a Rehearsal, not a Practice
First off, make sure you communicate to your team that rehearsal isn’t practice, but a rehearsal. What is the difference? Practice is what happens during the week when you learn your parts at home, while rehearsal is putting together all of the musical elements with a group. It requires everyone to come prepared and know their musical parts so that the pieces can be easily put together & polished.
Practice happens before rehearsal, not during it. If your team comes ready to practice, then you may as well be prepared for a practice where everyone is learning their parts and is wasting everyone’s time. To go back to the first point, communicate the expectations and the differences between the two to your band. Let them know what you expect and make sure you give them the resources to succeed.
Make sure that you start on time. This means that you have to show up early enough to have everything in order for your team. Have the sound on, music out, all the instruments set up or ready for the band member to just plug in, lyrics set up, and check all systems to make sure they run smoothly beforehand. Pro tip, make an actual checklist that you can go through before practice to make sure you have done everything that you need.
Lastly, make sure you end right on time. It is important that your band knows you respect their time. Ending rehearsal on time will show them that you care about and respect their time. Even if you are not done running through everything still end it. That will be a good deterrent for your band so they will be prepared the next time. Remember that they are giving up their time with their families, down time from work, time to study, and time to rest to be at your rehearsal.
Outline of a Rehearsal
It is important to start your rehearsal off right. Take the time to pray with your team and focus on God, the reason you are leading worship.
Talk Through The Setlist
Talk about new songs
Tricky Sections in the music
Listen to Ideas
Work Individual Songs
Run each song
Polish the song looking for ways to make it better and more musical
Harmonies & Vocal Parts
Make sure The Musical Pie is In Balance
Work on tricky sections multiple times
Run through both speaking & musical transitions
Start at the top of the song and run to the band feels good and then start at the end at a good place then run to the beginning of the next song.
For spoken transitions walk through where it is, what the band should be playing, and then rehearse that with the band.
Run Full Setlist
Run the whole setlist from top to bottom, no stops, videos and speaking transitions included.
Like the beginning of service, take time to end it focused on God. This is also a great time to build community. Ask for prayer requests and allow others to lead it as well.
Rehearsals shouldn’t be as intimidating as we make them. Come prepared, communicate what you expect, provide resources for your team to be ready, start on time and finish on time, and run your rehearsal with a plan. If you can do this, then rehearsals would stop being so scary.