By Ryan McLouth
Is your worship team rehearsing or practicing each week? There are clear distinctions between these two activities, and I’m sure we have all done both. Additionally, I would posit that these terms can apply to any worship team, be it traditional or contemporary.
Let’s talk about practicing first. We’ve all been a part of this situation, and it can be painful. Worship team practice is the type of meeting in which members show up without having prepared anything beforehand. Of course there’s a varying spectrum of preparation, less effective scenarios including individuals not preparing parts prior to the meeting, not listening to the material ahead of time, not bringing necessary equipment, etc. When members come to the table unprepared, this holds the entire team back and misuses time. Think about it—if you’re waiting on someone to learn their part completely from scratch, then the group is losing time that could have been spent working together on the big picture of the music and playing/singing as a team. Practice, in other words, should be done at home.
The alternative is a rehearsal. This means that all members have prepared their individual musical responsibilities to the best of their abilities prior to the meeting time. These meetings tend to be much more efficient. Technical issues are often avoided, and there’s very little necessity for focusing on any individual on the team. Focus can be directed toward running through songs much more quickly (without several starts and stops), working on dynamics and transitions, and serving the purpose of the song. Remember that in all styles of congregational worship music the vocal melody and text are the most important part, since this is what the parishioners follow. Team members should always be focused on this component of the music, without exception.
Of course, every church has a team with participants that possess varying skills and skill-levels. Some team members are equipped to prepare material at home on their own, and others may need to be taught. Take the time to work with less experienced musicians to show them how to teach themselves and develop the skills to be self-sufficient. This may include setting up a short window outside of the group rehearsal to show them how to practice. It takes patience, but the pay-off is exponential.
You’ll find that transitioning your meeting time from group practice to a musical rehearsal will be much more enjoyable and help your team be very effective at leading worship. You’ve probably seen the church service in which either of these types of musical groups are featured. The service that utilizes a practiced ensemble is often very distracting because of musical problems, members being too engaged with their score and not with worship, and bumpy transitions. Sometime worse. The service that uses a rehearsed ensemble is easier to follow, less distracting, and often better at getting out of the way of the purpose of worship—to sing God’s praise together.
If you have questions about how to make your rehearsals more efficient and your team more effective, feel free to contact me at any time. My phone number is 660.651.9964 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.