10 Essentials to Leading Great Rehearsals

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Band Practice

Great rehearsals don’t happen on their own.  They start with great preparation and planning.  Great rehearsals don’t just help us prepare our material for Sunday.  They are fun, encouraging, help us grow in our gifting and our faith.  Accomplishing those things requires leadership.  Here are # essentials to leading great rehearsals.

  1. Start on Time: There is a temptation to wait until everyone has arrived.  Make every effort to start with who you have.  Waiting for the latecomers enables their behaviour and disrespects those who made the effort to start on time.
  2. Begin with a Devotional:  It doesn’t have to long, but it is so important that we get our hearts on minds set on Jesus.  It reminds us all of what really matters and gives us the right perspective on our role as worship leaders.
  3. Use a Standard Sound Check Song.  This is a tip that one my volunteers brought back from her time at Hillsong College.  It really is helpful to warm up with a song everyone knows and is confident to sing and play.  It’s much easier for the sound team to get levels set with a song they’re familiar with.
  4. Watch the Clock:  It’s easy to get bogged down in one song and use up half of your rehearsal time. Then you have to rush through the rest of the set.  Keep an eye on the clock and keep things moving.
  5. Give Clear Direction:  Let your team know clearly what you’re looking for.  Give people the roadmap of the song.  When your team is guessing what you want, they’ll play tentatively.
  6. Be Open to New Ideas:  If someone starts trying something new on a song and it sounds good, go with it!  Even if it wasn’t part of your original plan for the song.  Harness the collective creativity of the team.  You’ll be amazed at what they might come up with!
  7. Use Direct Language when Praising:  If someone plays something that sounds great, tell them! And be direct.  “John, that sounded great. I loved what you did there on the bridge.”
  8. Use Indirect Language when Addressing Problems:  If your people are afraid of being called out if they make a mistake, they’ll play tentatively.  So be indirect when addressing problems.  “Hey, I think I heard some note issues in verse 2.  Any idea what’s going on there?”  Usually, someone having problems will own up to it and you can address it without embarrassing them.
  9. Don’t Forget to Worship:  Even though it is “just a rehearsal,” make it a point to worship.  It is a discipline to set our hearts in a worshipful posture.  The more often we do it, the easier and quicker it gets.
  10. End on time:  Respect your team by ending the rehearsal on time. Rehearsals that run long over time are usually counterproductive anyway.  As the night wears on, or as people become fatigued, additional rehearsing just gets people more tired and upset.

5 Keys to Great Rehearsal Prep

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We’ve all had bad rehearsals.  We get to the end of them and we’re tired, frustrated and don’t feel prepared for Sunday.  And we’ve all had great rehearsals, too.  They’re fun and satisfying.  It’s feels good to hear the music come together.  You leave a rehearsal like that and you can’t wait for Sunday!

So what makes a great rehearsal?  They don’t just happen.  Producing a great rehearsal begins long before the musicians arrive.  You have to plan for great rehearsals.  Here are 5 essential components of great rehearsal prep.

  1. Communicate Expectations:  We all want rehearsal to start on time.  Let your tech team and musicians know what time you expect them to be set up and ready, so that they can arrive early enough.  Let your team know how much prep they need to do before hand.
  2. Communicate The Plan:  Send out music and arrangement notes well before the rehearsal so your musicians know what to prep for.  If there are going to be any special tech requirements, make your the tech team knows in advance.  Rehearsals go much better when everyone is prepared.
  3. Create a Rehearsal Plan: Don’t wait until the rehearsal to figure out your arrangement of a song.  Know before hand.  If you really aren’t sure and want to experiment with the musicians, then allow ample time for that.  Look at all the things you need to rehearse and how long you think each one will will take.  And Don’t forget about rehearsing transitions between songs.  Make sure you can get it all done in the time you’ve allotted for the rehearsal.
  4. Plan a Devotional:  It is essential that as worship leaders we centre our hearts on Jesus when we begin our rehearsal.  Take the time prepare a short meditation or to find something to read or a video to show.  There is no shortage of resources out there that can help us get into a worshipful attitude as we start our rehearsal.
  5. Pray for your Team: When we pray for people, God draws our hearts closer to them.  Praying for your team builds unity and will prepare your heart to worship with them.  Take some of your rehearsal prep time and use it to pray for your team.

These 5 things will help you create great rehearsals. Next week I’ll post on what it takes to lead a great rehearsal.

Jazz as a form of Worship

Jazz is near and dear to my heart.  Some of the most transcendent moments of worship I’ve ever personally experienced were while playing or listening to jazz.  These things didn’t happen in church, but my spirit was moved profoundly.  I saw this piece on using jazz in church.  It has me thinking about exploring more ways to use jazz and less mainstream forms of music to express our worship to the Lord.

What’s the Most Common Weakness for Worship Leaders?

I was at a conference recently talking to Todd Fields, one of the worship leaders at North Point Church in Atlanta.  Todd does a lot of worship leader coaching.  I asked him what was the most common thing that worship leaders needed to work on.  He said that it was, by far, their ability to talk to the congregation as they were leading.  He spent the most time working with them on this skill.  When I first began leading worship I struggled with this a lot.  Here are some of my thoughts on how to get better at speaking to the congregation.

  • Remember why you’re saying something:  It is to help people connect their hearts to what they’re singing.  It isn’t to make you look clever or to “warm up” the crowd.  It’s to help them connect their hearts in worship.
  • Plan it out.  Don’t expect that you’ll just be able to come up with something inspiring on the fly.  I always think through what I’m going to say.  Often I write it out before hand to make sure my thoughts are clear.  Then I rehearse it by myself, and sometimes with the band.
  • It’s not about you.  Don’t talk about yourself too much.  And don’t tell stories where you’re the hero.  It sounds self serving and off-putting.
  • Brevity is crucial.  You need to craft what you’re going to say so you don’t waste time trying to get it out.
  • Be inviting, inclusive and positive.  Use “We, Us” instead of “I, me” in your exhorting.
  • Don’t preach the sermon.  Leave something for the Pastor!  Don’t give away his key points!
  • A little goes a long way.  You don’t need to talk about every song in the set.  But sharing your heart once in the midst of a worship set can be very powerful.

I’ll be coming with more aids for worship leaders who struggle with speaking to the congregation while they’re leading. Stay Tuned!

A Call to Worship – 10 Things to know about them

Hey!  Worship!

That’s a call to worship.  It’s something that gets the congregation’s attention (“Hey!”) and then invites them to worship (“Worship!”).  That particular call to worship is primitive. I don’t recommend that you use it next Sunday morning.  A good call to worship focuses our attention on something about God, his character or what he has done.  As we contemplate, our hearts instinctively move to to worship, so the next part of the call to worship is an invitation to do that.  Where can we find calls to worship?  Of course the psalms are full of them.  Psalm 95, Psalm 100, the list goes on.  Often the opening stanza of a psalm of praise makes for a great call to worship.  Although I prefer to use scripture in opening up a time of sung worship, you can also do it more informally, but just sharing something praiseworthy about God, and then inviting people to respond in worship.

Some songs can act as a call to worship.  Of course, Brian Doerksen’s “Come, Now is the Time To Worship” is a perfect (though perhaps over-used) example.  But there are many others.

Here are 10 things to think about when crafting your call to worship:

  1. It calls the congregation together in unity and reminds them of why they’ve gathered
  2. It presents some aspect of God that moves us to respond in worship
  3. It should engage both the intellect and the emotions
  4. It should be simple and brief – it ain’t the sermon
  5. It should be focused on God, not a funny thing that happened to you on the way to church
  6. It should include scripture, if not quoted, it should be referred to.  Such as “Psalm 27 tells us that the Lord is our light, our salvation and our stronghold.  That even in the midst of war we can be confident in him.  Let’s lift our voices together and worship our God and protector.”
  7. Challenging passages that require explanation and giving context should probably be avoided.  I have yet to hear an inspiring and concise call to worship from Leviticus.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Leviticus, but there are other times in the service where it can be used.
  8. It should be practiced and delivered with confidence and feeling – practice it as much as you practice a song.
  9. It should be connected somehow to the opening song.  It should tell why we are singing the opening song.
  10. I recommend that the congregation stand for this.  It is a signal that the service has begun and it also indicates that something important is happening.  And what’s more important than worship?

If you put thought into your call to worship you’ll bless your entire congregation.  For examples of calls to worship check out the or the worship sourcebook.

 

How does Worship Grow Your Faith?

I’ve been reading “Deep and Wide” by Andy Stanley.  In this book he lays out his philosophy of ministry.  As he writes about spiritual formation he lists 5 things that help your faith to grow:

  1. Practical Teaching
  2. Providential Relationships
  3. Private Disciplines
  4. Personal Ministry
  5. Pivotal Circumstances

It’s hard to argue with that list. If you listen to almost anyone’s testimony, you’re going to hear some of these things listed.

As a worship leader, it got me thinking.  What does corporate worship have to do with spiritual formation?  Specifically, what does congregational singing have to do with growing your faith?  Where does it fit in?

First, congregational singing is related to practical teaching.  Good hymns and worship songs put truth together with melody in a way that penetrates our minds and hearts.  And it stays with us.  Congregational worship also prepares our hearts for the preaching and teaching of the word.

Secondly, congregational worship also helps during times of pivotal circumstances.  I can think of one couple who saw their baby daughter endure several heart surgeries.  They told me how much it meant to them to come to church during that time and to sing Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name” with their church family.  That song still reminds them of God’s faithfulness to them through that difficult season.  We also know that often God uses a song to speak to us, or we respond to what God is saying to us through a song.  Again, I’d say these moments are often associated with pivotal circumstances.

Thirdly, songs learned during congregational singing often find their way into our private worship (and vice versa).  So our congregational worship can help us in our private spiritual disciplines –  one more intersection between Stanley’s list and what we do as worship leaders.

Surely there are more.  What are your thoughts?

6 Things to know about using a horn section with your Worship team

sax_by_thenysThere’s nothing like the energy of a tight R&B horn section to add energy to your band. But if you’ve never worked with horns it can be difficult to know where to start.  Here are 6 things you need to know so that you can get that Tower of Power sound on a Sunday morning.

  1. Get Some good horn arrangements
    You can’t just have some horn players show up and have them join in with the band.  If you just let them “roam free” you’re in trouble.  Get arrangements for them.  I use praisecharts.com because they have great sounding arrangements for most popular worship songs.  Praisecharts has a variety of different arrangements for a wide range of skill levels.  DO NOT just have the horns play along with the melody because they’ll just obscure and overpower the vocals.  You never hear a pro horn section do that… there’s a good reason!
  2. Play in “horn friendly” keys
    Guitar driven worship bands most often play in keys with lots of sharps.  But if you want your horn section to sound good and play confidently, you need to play in keys with flats – Bb instead of A, Eb or F instead of E.  Anything with flats in the key signature will make your horn players happy.  This is why the Good Lord created the capo!

Recommended Resources V: Youversion Bible App

I’m reading the Bible almost exclusively on my phone these days.  For the past decade or so I’ve read the through the entire Bible every year.  I’ve worn out two copies of the NIV One Year Bible and I also read the Message in one year a couple of times.  But now I use YouVersion.  I’ve selected a different reading plan every the past three years and it has been really effective for me.  Its been easier to keep up to date with my plan, as I have my phone almost everywhere I go.  I wouldn’t always carry my bible with me (for shame!).  So definitely get the app and use it to keep up with your daily Bible intake.

I still get out my old leather bound Bible from time to time.  It’s good to do whatever you can to keep things fresh, and I find I prefer the real thing for more indepth study.  But the more avenues you have to get scripture into your soul, the better.

Highlights from our Mother’s Day Services

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After this tribute we had our Spiritual Formation Coordinator, Susan Moore, pray for mothers.  Here’s her prayer:

Let’s pray together for mothers:   Father,  in this congregation I’m sure we have a wide range of experiences connected to our mothers.  For those of us who had or have great moms, we give you thanks.  For their nurture and spiritual guidance and example of sacrificial love, we give you thanks.  For wonderful memories and fun times spent with our mothers, we give you thanks.  For some of us our mothers are not thriving as they face the many challenges of old age.  We lift them up to you, Father.  Draw them to yourself, that they might experience the comfort of your presence as the limitations and the loneliness of old age set in.  For any who don’t know you, may we be faithful to show your love to them and to pray for them daily in anticipation of the day when their eyes will be opened and they  join us in the family of God. 

We pray for mothers whose children are far away – physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Please touch them and give them hope and faithfulness in prayer for their children.  Help them to know that they are not alone, for you are the great comforter who can fill our empty places with love, gratitude and meaning.

We give thanks for those children who are here today in church solely to please a mom they love.  We pray that when life’s challenges and disappointments come, they might once again find comfort and hope in the faith they were raised with.  Draw them – and us – to our spiritual home and resting place in you.

I pray for all the mothers in this room,  that we might be growing in Christ, maturing in the faith that will empower us to love well. Help us to speak well of You, to influence our children to walk in your ways.  May we be mentors and guides to those who follow us, whether  we are talking about the kids we physically gave birth to, or the spiritual children who look to those of us who are walking on ahead on the journey of faith.

We pray for the new moms in our congregation – and we have many of them – who are adapting to this awesome responsibility of raising a child and who are learning how to give selflessly to their children.  Help them to enjoy this time, the dependence that sometimes feels overwhelming, but soon enough will be over as their children grow up and leave the nest.

For some, mother’s day is a painful thing.  We lift up those who have long wanted to be mothers, but have been unable to.  Comfort and encourage them on this difficult day. Some here have trouble being thankful for the mothers they had and in fact are still recovering from hurts and wounds and can’t imagine the day when they will be able to thank God and take initiative into their mother’s life again.  But we pray for that Father, for forgiveness and grace to flow from child to mother and mother to child.  We pray for healing of fractured relationships and disappointing realities.  Our human relationships are wonderful and painful both.  When they are wonderful, we praise you.  When they are painful, they propel us to you.  Our hope is in you Lord.  Your Word reminds us that you are gentle with us and comfort us as a mother comforts her child.  You shelter us with your feathers and under your wings we find refuge.  You have written our names on the palms of your hands.  We love you and grateful  for all you have done for us.

Amen

More Thoughts about Mother’s Day

Christianity Today has some more thoughts on celebrating Mother’s Day at church. It is so important that as worship leaders we understand the broad range of emotions that are present in our people on Mother’s Day (and every Sunday, for that matter).

I think Isaiah models the sensitivity we should have when approaching Mother’s Day.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
Isaiah 49:15

God upholds motherhood as the highest standard of human love with he rhetorical question “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast?” But then with his next words, “Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” He acknowledges that sometimes even a mother’s love can fail. Only God can can love us perfectly.

That’s a message of hope for everyone who comes to church on Mother’s Day.