In the early Saddleback years, our small group programs were not as sophisticated as they are now. Today at Saddleback, every member is encouraged to be in a small group, including the worship team members. Before, our small group opportunities were limited, and in some ways that was a benefit to the worship team community in that our community was much closer because the relationships revolved around and through the ministry team. Regardless of where a church is in its small group programs, from strong small groups to no small groups, building community is an essential part of the ministry. The rehearsal is about much more than rehearsing notes. For us as worship leaders, the heart is more important than the art.
First, I highly recommend that at every rehearsal, the Lord would be the center of the rehearsal. Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the rehearsal of the music and not the preparation for our Lord. Careful consideration should be given to building up the spiritual life of each musician. I do this at every rehearsal in a few different ways:
- I pray for each team beforehand (band, singers, etc.).
- I pray that God will guide the rehearsal.
- I open and close the rehearsal with prayer.
- Teach and share biblical truth by opening the Bible together.
- Allow a time of devotional in the rehearsal.
- Encourage each team member to be active in a small group and attend worship services regularly.
Further, at every rehearsal it is important to cast vision: Why we do what we do. If people accepted Christ the week before at your church, share that. Share the stores that are a direct result of what God is doing in your church and through your ministry team. Ask the teams to pray for the church, the community and the upcoming services. I do this at every rehearsal. With some of the more gifted musicians, those who need less rehearsal than the others, we can enhance their rehearsal experience by asking them to build into others, not just on a musicianship level but on a personal level.
Finally, the leadership must model the end result, which is love for God, love for the church and love for the team. Encouragement goes a long way in building community. As the leader, I model that we are More Than Music, We’re A Family — a family of God, of friends and workers for a common good.
For example, arrive 15 minutes early and engage the people on a relational level. Ask about their families, jobs and the other things that are important to them. This sets the tone for the rehearsal. You’ll find that your team will take your lead and start modeling relationship with each other.
We certainly do need to rehearse the music. All of these suggestions are things that I do throughout the rehearsal: between songs, before and after, all throughout. These are embedded in the rehearsal. You will get a lot more done in rehearsal when the team is working together in community than when they are working individually just to rehearse the notes.