Podcast: Listen Here
Why Are Worship Rehearsals Important?
Rehearsals are an essential part of leading worship
If you want to be a worship leader, you need to learn how to run efficient and effective rehearsals.
You might be thinking that rehearsals really aren’t your thing. You don’t need rehearsals because you like to be spontaneous.
But what you end up with is a messy group of songs where all the musicians are kind of doing their own thing.
The worship band comes off as unprofessional and lacking in skill, even if all the musicians are really good. A rehearsal gets everyone moving in the same direction so that even low-skilled musicians sound great because they are supported by everyone else.
Another reason you might think you don’t need rehearsals is that you play with really solid musicians who you’ve been playing with forever. So you all can just get up there and play on Sunday, right?
While that may work occasionally, I would seriously encourage you to make the effort to have separate rehearsals.
Just one reason is that you’ll never progress as a worship team without a time outside of your worship set to work on new techniques and bring on new people.
For instance, how will you introduce new songs? How will you practice a custom arrangement of a song? How will you work with a young musician who wants to get involved? They certainly can’t get up and play the songs even if your core team can.
Rehearsals are the lifeblood of any worship ministry and they should be treated as such.
So how do you make sure you have great rehearsals?
7 Tips For Better Worship Team Rehearsals
Although there are many more tips out there for better rehearsals, here are 7 of the most important.
1. Send out your pre-rehearsal communication
The best way for your worship team to know what’s going to happen this Sunday — and therefore at rehearsal — is for you to tell them.
The band needs a notification containing the songs, chord charts, keys, YouTube videos, rehearsal times, and any other relevant information about Sunday.
You can use email or whatever method your whole team will receive (and look at). What many churches are using now is Planning Center to schedule and remind team members about upcoming events. The benefit of Planning Center is that you can house all your materials for quick access in future communication. For instance, instead of attaching MP3s, YouTube links, chord charts, etc. to your email, you simply have all those resources attached inside Planning Center. You create your list inside the tool. The team can now go view this Sunday’s order of service in that tool and get any resource they need.
This notification, in whatever form, does a couple things:
A. It gives the band resources so they can learn the songs before rehearsal.
What you don’t want is for people to be learning the song when they show up for rehearsal. That’s a bad use of everyone’s time.
B. If the team knows the song, they can get a refresher.
They can review the YouTube video of the song version you will be doing. Many churches have dozens of songs so if you haven’t done one in a while, the band should have easy access to materials to re-learn them.
Rehearsal notification timing
Typically I send out an email about 3 days before that week’s rehearsal. Many teams send it out weeks in advance, which is even better.
What you don’t want is people showing up unprepared, not knowing the songs or the parts they need to play in the songs
Your rehearsal will drag on and on. You’ll be there all night and still feel unprepared for Sunday.
Or the opposite can happen. I’ve gone to rehearsals where I sent out a new song earlier that week and the band played it perfectly the first time through. We almost didn’t need to run it a second time. That’s incredibly efficient and respectful of everyone’s busy schedules.
I’ve had 1-hour rehearsals before, and I’ve had 3-hour ones. For the one-hour ones, everyone was prepared because I had set them up for success.
2. Call your rehearsal a rehearsal, not a practice
It’s easy to accidentally call your team prep time a “practice.”
But starting today, I want you to start calling it a rehearsal.
Practice is something you do on your own time at home.
Rehearsal is no time to practice your instrument, learn a specific song, or figure out a certain guitar, drum, or keys part. Rehearsal is when you put together all the elements that people have practiced already.
Unfortunately, you’ll probably have team members that use rehearsal time to practice.
But this is where you as a leader can set a new culture. In a one-on-one setting, take the team member aside and ask about their practice habits. Don’t assume they are not practicing because they might be. If they are new at their instrument, they may not have been able to learn their parts in time. That’s acceptable. What’s not acceptable is playing their instrument for the first time in weeks when they show up at rehearsal.
If a team member never touches their instrument except at rehearsal or on Sunday, set a new expectation. Don’t do it in front of everyone at the rehearsal, but set a separate time.
As the worship leader, you should be practicing more than anyone on the team.
Side note: As the worship leader, you should be practicing more than anyone on the team. You need to play the songs, but also lead them and direct the band. You might put in 2-3 hours of practice minimum before you even get to rehearsal.
Each time you call a rehearsal a rehearsal, you are setting a culture of practicing at home and rehearsing as a group.
3. Schedule your team far in advance
You can’t have a great rehearsal if someone is missing.
Usually, someone is missing, not because they are lazy or don’t want to come, but because the team member had a scheduling conflict.
Sometimes life gets in the way. People have jobs or experience a family emergency. No amount of scheduling can help that.
You can avoid a lot of absences by scheduling people out months in advance.
But you can avoid a lot of absences by scheduling people out months in advance.
At my church we are lucky enough to have a worship administrator who does a couple of really smart things:
A. She sends out an email to everyone asking their availability and also how often they’d like to be on the schedule.
She requests that people black out the dates they can’t make it on our scheduling software, Planning Center.
B. She schedules people out 3-4 months in advance.
From there, Planning center sends out emails where everyone confirms the dates. Not only that, but Planning Center also sends another reminder the week they are on the team. Basically, each team member double-confirms their availability. (I’m talking a lot about Planning Center here because it really helps — I don’t receive any compensation from them!)
This process just eliminated 90% of the scheduling conflicts.
What you don’t want to do is call team members on the day of rehearsal trying to find people for Sunday.
You’ll probably have people who can’t make it to rehearsal.
The Sunday worship time can be a real mess if someone doesn’t know they are on the team until Saturday night.
Give people plenty of notice, and you’ll get great attendance at rehearsal, making it worthwhile for everyone.
If you want to learn everything you need to know about starting to lead worship, check out my book, “How to Lead Worship in 14 Days.” It will guide you through the process of working up to your first worship session even if you’ve never led worship before. And the best part is that it’s going to take you 14 days to do it.
Or, if you lead a worship ministry and you’re looking for a how-to guide to hand every new worship leader, this book is for you.
4. Figure out the arrangement before rehearsal
In Episode 9 of the podcast, I went over how to create great song arrangements.
An arrangement is how a song is pieced together, such as verse 1, chorus, verse 2 and so on.
But arrangements can be hard to create and harder to remember.
Write down your arrangements somewhere so you can refer to them easily during rehearsal.
Know it well enough to communicate it during rehearsal. It takes up a lot of time to decide on a final arrangement during rehearsal. That’s disrespectful of people’s time.
In some cases you might intentionally come with a song you’d like help arranging. That can be a great activity for the team.
But that’s the exception. The rule is to bring a thought-out arrangement for each song to the rehearsal time.
5. Start the rehearsal with prayer
You’d be surprised how much easier rehearsal goes when you pray.
Everything from technical difficulties to tough musical parts of the song become less of an issue.
It’s also a good time to learn the needs and prayer requests of others on the team.
It’s super easy to just show up to rehearsal and start banging out the songs and go home, and never even talk to the team. But rehearsal is a great, relaxed time to learn about each other’s needs and how you can pray for each other.
This type of prayer, as well as prayer for the rehearsal and Sunday, really bonds a team together. And spiritually, you’ve paved the way for a more effective rehearsal and worship time.
6. Make sure you have a sound tech
It’s so nice to walk into rehearsal knowing you have help setting up sound. As a worship leader, you have so many other responsibilities to think about. Hopefully, sound doesn’t have to be one of them.
I realize many ministries are very small, so the worship leader is also the sound tech, visuals person, and everything else.
But if you can involve members of the congregation in sound, you get them involved in a very important ministry while taking some of the burden off you.
The sound tech should show up 15-30 minutes prior to rehearsal to get everything set up.
Ideally, the worship team should be able to walk in, plug in, and start rehearsing.
In the real world, this may never happen for you. If you simply can’t find a sound person, you may need to get there extra early to set up. Whatever resources you have or don’t have, don’t make your team stand around for 30 minutes while you the sound system gets up and running
Another note about the sound tech. Remember that the soundboard is an instrument too. The person running sound should practice along with the band and discover what you’re going to do on Sunday. That’s going to make the end result — the Sunday service — a much better experience.
7. Show up early and set a culture of promptness
Communicate with the band that the rehearsal start time is the downbeat.
That means that the first note of rehearsal should be played at that time.
If a guitarist spends 30 minutes setting up their rig, they need to arrive 30 minutes prior to the official start time.
That goes for the worship leader too. As a worship leader, I never arrive less than 15 minutes before rehearsal, and it’s usually more like 30 minutes.
I need to get my guitar set up, distribute chord sheets, and help with sound setup if necessary. I do all that on my time, not the band’s.
Set a great example. You can’t tell the team to show up prior to rehearsal time if you’re not doing it.
The Bottom Line
There are 7 things you can do to improve your worship team rehearsals.
- Send out pre-rehearsal communication early
- Call your rehearsal a rehearsal, not a practice
- Schedule your team early
- Figure out song arrangements before rehearsal
- Start rehearsal with prayer
- Make sure you have a sound tech
- Show up early and set a culture of promptness
Learn To Lead Worship Better
Are you looking for a resource that will help you get started leading worship or improving your skills?
Check out the book “Learn To Lead Worship In 14 Days.” It’s a step-by-step, day-by-day handbook that can launch your worship leading journey in as little as two weeks.