Yes, you know you hate to love these top-five or top-ten lists. One fact I state clearly before I teach leaders and worship leaders is that I have made many mistakes over many years of leading music and worship. The list I below comes from such real-world experience. I know the ideas may not be news to many of you. But, having the basics articulated for both yourself as the leader and your team greatly improves your game. Also, teams need to have unity. Unity must be intentional, not randomly executed.
Here are five simple tips will massively produce better results if attended and followed. Why am I so sure? Well, did you not read in the above paragraphs about my many mess-ups? My pain is your gain!
Tip 1: Solidify song map, key, and arrangement several days ahead of rehearsal.
This empowers your team to actually practice on their own with the way you will actually be leading the song. I see too many of us worship leaders make things up as we go and change our minds in the last minute. If we lived like this in the real world of work-life—rather than the bubble of church-life—one might lose his of her job! Nothing screams “I did not prepare” more than not knowing where the music and service will go until you begin rehearsing.
Tip 2: Have the correct copy of sheet music, chord chart, and/or media to playback for your team as they prepare before rehearsal.
If you have a chord chart in the key of “C” and the song recording is in the key of “D” then you need to clarify that and communicate accordingly. By the way, there are tools to digitally change the keys of your MP3s. Did you know that? And, having a chord chart that corresponds to the map you have chosen might simply mean making your own! If you need to spend 30 minutes preparing a custom chord chart, it might save you 30 minutes of rehearsal headache—times the number of players present.
Tip 3: Have a “real” sound check.
What do I mean by “real,” you might say? Often, a worship leader will simply allow a “line check”—which confirms things are plugged in and working. When the song to make sure that happens is then continued in its entirety and rehearsal is set in motion, I guarantee no one will be happy with the monitor levels. Why? If the FOH—front of house audio tech—s not allowed to adjust levels for the input volume (gain) then he or she has to adjust while you rehearse. Of course, this will change your monitor mixes in most cases! Also, give the FOH command of the rehearsal at the front until all issues are fixed: lines checked, gain set, and EQ adjusted. It might annoy the bass player to play a riff for five minutes, but I would rather the church worship with a great bass tone than not. How about you?
Tip 4: Vocalists, tech team members, and musicians must own and know the lyrics.
Why does say the drummer and the lighting operator need to know the lyric? For one, the drummer has to understand his role of leadership in providing the corresponding cue, groove, or feel so the church can follow and sing along. If your lighting cue for a song is random and is bright and fun during a song about confession and sin, you might be sending conflicting messages. Also, leaders should own what they say! Whether you are in front on stage or behind the scenes on the mixing console, the leadership of the church in worship is hurt or helped by how well the team owns the lyrics. Does your church feel the message and see the message in concert with the words of the message in your music? If not, why?
Tip 5: Have a plan and goals in writing for your rehearsal.
What is call time versus start time? If your goal is to literally start at 7:00 pm but your backing singers are standing around for 27 minutes waiting for your guitar player to replug his pedal board, then you will experience mounting frustration. Goals are important! If you only plan on doing transitions but your players do not even know the basics of the song, then you will spend time not working on your goal and perhaps never get to the transitions. Write out a plan, state the goals, clarify expectations of call time and start times—which may be different for each member. Do this and you will actually begin to track the progress rather than muddling through each week. Wouldn’t it be great to celebrate a win rather than never knowing if your team actually is improving over time?
Out of these five, which do you think will help your worship team improve their game?