Q & A: Enough Rehearsal? Too Much?

Q: We have three separate services in our church. I lead the traditional and blended services. I use the same people in both but do not have enough time at rehearsal. I hold a choir, orchestra, worship team (trad./blend), and rhythm section (trad./blend) rehearsal within two hours. How can I hold separate rehearsals for these in order to have more time and not burn my people out?

A: The combination of traditional and blended services is good because you can use some of the same material in both. Maximize that! The very nature of a blended service makes it possible to bring over much of the material from the traditional service, making it easier on you and your team.

It sounds like you are doing a ton of things at once, too many things in only two hours. While the orchestra and rhythm section can rehearse together, the choir and the vocal team should rehearse separately. I find that those two groups are easily distracted by each other’s rehearsal process. I refer to the entire team as the “worship team” and refer to the on-mic singers as the vocal team.

I recommend separate rehearsals for 1) band/orchestra, 2) the vocal team and 3) the choir. In addition, I highly recommend periodic sectionals within the orchestra.

When we as worship leaders can’t hire staff, we have to do one of 3 things:

  1. Do it all ourselves: leads to burnout and less than your potential.
  2. Delegate leadership to volunteers: increases productivity while distributing the work load, and leads to best results.
  3. Delay growth: limit productivity to a comfortable size for one leader to manage.

If you want to last in the ministry and see God’s best working through you, Option #2 is by far the best way to go. If you are currently operating under Option #1, unfortunately you are not alone. The good news is that it is a lot easier to transition to delegation from doing it all yourself, rather than continuing down the path of hopeless burnout.

When I started at Saddleback, I rehearsed the vocal team on Monday and the band/orchestra on Tuesday night. I did not have a choir. I didn’t have any staff members. There was no rehearsal facility and I was very limited on support equipment.

The first staff person I hired was an audio engineer who only worked part time on the weekends. The second person I hired was an orchestrator who wrote out all of the arrangements, rehearsed the orchestra and nurtured the relational aspect of the orchestra group.

Eventually, I was able to hire a highly skilled, part time (one night/week) choir director. This director has been with me for 15 years now. This solution has been great for the director because he loves the people and the ministry, and it works well for his schedule. Hiring this part time specialist has been a great benefit for our church.

It is very important to separate the three rehearsals: band/orchestra, vocal team, and choir. Even with them separated, a two hour rehearsal doesn’t seem long enough for me. Without this separation, I find the various teams get distracted by each other and individual people’s time is wasted.

Since two hours is about all a person can take, and time so precious. . . In order to get everything you need done, you need to maximize each minute. The rehearsal is one of the most important weekly events for your church. Making your rehearsal a top priority is essential.

When the “main event” is the rehearsal (learning music, fellowship with God and others) the music in the worship service will benefit by sounding, looking and feeling better. Excellence is a value to pursue but changed lives is the real goal. A well-rehearsed worship team allows that team to learn their music (which is fundamentally important) but also gives them time to worship, grow spiritually and to develop relationships within the team. This is the significant difference between a musical recital and leading an effective worship service.

I am continually encouraged by God’s Word in Proverbs 3:5 and Proverbs 16:3. My song “Trust God” is based on these verses. The Bible promises that God will equip you “with all you need for doing his will.” Heb 13:21. In ministry, we are never alone and NEVER out of resources for doing God’s will. I have watched God do miracle after miracle in my life and ministry and He will do the same for you and your ministry.

“I can do all things through Christ…Who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13.

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Rick Muchow is the Pastor of Worship at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA and has served faithfully there for 21 years. Rick has recorded 11 albums and has 84 songs registered with CCLI; he also authored The Worship Answer Book and is a contributing editor to Leadership journal. Rick offers resources and ministry support to the local church through his Web site, EncouragingMusic.com.