Avoiding Stressful Worship Rehearsals

If the team prepares before practice, group rehearsal will go so much smoother.  Having prepared team members does not guarantee a successful practice.  Even with prepared individuals, without a thoughtful game plan from the leader and without a dedicated mindset from the team members, practice could still become stressful for everyone.

In order to have a successful worship team practice, both the team leader and the team members should commit to certain things.

The Worship Leader at Rehearsal

The worship leader should commit to:

  1. Spiritual Preparation – Regardless of when you have scheduled rehearsal, you are gathering together a group of people who have all lived a lot of life that particular day.  As the team assembles, each member brings in a collection of stressful situations related to job, family, and health issues.  Jumping into practice without providing a space to pause could be detrimental to the entire rehearsal.  In an attempt to be time sensitive, I used to think that I didn’t have the margin to do any type of spiritual development for the team.  After years of rehearsing groups, I have realized that it is detrimental to the group’s health if I neglect this critical aspect.  This daily encouragement fights against the team from being hardened by sin (Heb 3:13).  I have found that fifteen minutes of spiritual development actually shortens the practice rather than lengthens it.  I can imagine the math seems off in your mind, but that investment in obtaining focus pays off incredible dividends.  Regardless of who is present, I always start rehearsal on time with a period of spiritual development for whoever is there.  All it takes is a concentrated time in the Word and a time to pray for one another.  After those brief minutes, everyone seems more calm and connected, and practice goes great.  Plus the ones who are consistently late realize that we aren’t going to wait on them and start gradually arriving earlier.
  2. Productive Order – As the leader, make sure that you are cognizant of how challenging the musical collection is per week.  If you do all new or newer songs, anticipate a long rehearsal.  If you do a few challenging pieces, anticipate a frustrating rehearsal.  As you plan, make sure that the entirety of the music can be mastered in one week’s rehearsal.  In addition, make sure that you have a productive order for practice.  After a time of spiritual preparation, proceed in an order that is both encouraging and intentional.  It is wise to start and end on music that will be more familiar.  By starting with a familiar song, everyone gets into rhythm with one another.  As everyone starts hitting a stride, introduce the newer or more challenging music.  By this point, everyone should be more limber and comfortable, and the sound issues should have been worked out by that point.  If at all possible, end rehearsal on a song that will cause everyone to leave feeling encouraged.  If you start and end practice well, the group will most likely walk away excited about the opportunity to lead at the upcoming gathering.
  3. Clear Communication – One of the greatest challenges of the team leader is how to clearly communicate with all the team members especially because each person learns in different types of ways.  Just as we are meant to study one another in order to serve as a positive catalyst in others’ lives (Heb 10:24), the team leader must realize that different people require different types of communication to promote excellence on the team.  Your classically-trained musicians are going to require a certain type of direction, and your by-the-ear musicians require something completely different altogether.  In addition, you have auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners on your team who all benefit from differing types of instruction.  Learn your team members and clearly communicate with each of them.  Make sure that if information needs to be shared with everyone that you first get everyone’s attention if they are distracted with side conversations and instrumental doodling.  State your expectations clearly and then give a few opportunities to attempt them.

The Worship Team at Rehearsal

In addition to the worship leader’s responsibilities for rehearsal, the worship team should commit to:

  1. Timely Arrival – If practice starts at 6:00, that does not mean start setting your guitar rig up at 6:00.  When you are late to rehearsal, it not only causes you to spend more time there, but it also forces everyone else to alter their schedules to accommodate your inconsiderate tardiness.  King Solomon instructed us to watch the ants at how wisely they stay focused at the task at hand (Prov 6:6).  Plan your day accordingly and get to rehearsal before it begins.  Calculate how long it will take to have everything situated and be ready to follow the leader at the designated time with everything ready to go.  It should be embarrassing to keep everyone waiting, so work hard and don’t let it happen anymore.
  2. Considerate Participation – When it is time to begin a song, be ready to do your part.  When it is time to pause a song and communicate, be considerate of everyone’s time and nerves and stop messing around.  You are a part of this worship team because you love music, and so does everyone else in the group.  If you take everyone’s time by continually practicing when the leader is trying to communicate, it shows disrespect for the leader and for everyone else’s time.  If you have prepared well before rehearsal, you shouldn’t need the breaks to work on something – you have already mastered it by this point.  Your practice in rehearsal reveals to the group you are unprepared.  By continuing to be busy when the leader is trying to communicate with everyone, you reveal that you weren’t ready for rehearsal and that you don’t value the dynamic of the group.
  3. Thorough Note-Taking – Take detailed notes during practice so that you don’t forget anything you need to work on specifically.  Every group knows the pain of rehearsing that difficult transition numerous times only to have someone forget it when you reconvene a few days later.  While each of us will have mental or physical slips from time to time, it shouldn’t be a regular issue.  If you require music in front of you as you lead, then you should be able to take specific notes from your leader and from your mistakes in practice that should alert you of any impending challenge when you near it in the song.  Whether you take notes best on paper or electronically, commit to take specific annotations.  When you get home and have a chance for last preparations before the worship gathering, take out those notes and work on the troubled spots.  Remove any anxiety from your leading so that you are free to actually worship rather than worry.

Excerpt from 5 Worship Team Killers