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7 Steps to Running a Great Rehearsal

7 Steps to Running a Great Rehearsal

Original article appeared here.

Rehearsing is just plain, hard work. Every worship leader, band member and pastor I know all love the end result of rehearsal—seamless music, the rising and falling of beautiful, passionate worship, and the silent hum of a well-oiled community doing ministry together. But as I said, rehearsal is just plain, hard work.

Achieving the end result of rich worship times is dependent, at least in part, on confident musicians executing a song—and an entire set—in a sonically beautiful manner.

And that takes rehearsal (unless you’re playing with a bunch of professional musicians).

The Freedom of Getting Beyond the Music

As a worship leader, I know that there is a fluidity, a great freedom in worship leading, when the band has gotten beyond “now, what chord did we play at this moment?” and are in the “I’m so lost in worship even as I nail this music that it is hard to make a mistake” zone.

A Seven-Step Rehearsal Plan

Because rehearsal is necessary, and is hard work, I’ve followed a simple seven-step pattern I learned from working with some excellent arranger-worship leaders.

I use this for a 15-minute rehearsal (I’ve had those) or a 75-minute rehearsal. It all applies.

This pattern enables our band to accomplish much in a short time, and enables us to end on time with some level of confidence in what we’re about to do.

[Note: This progression assumes that the musicians have: a) received the songs ahead of time as an mp3 and chord chart (I use WorshipTeam.com for that), that b) the band culture is to show up on time (“downbeat” time), c) the band has at least heard the songs once before the rehearsal, and d) that you have thoroughly practiced personally, and generally decided where arrangements are going, beforehand.]

Here it is, and every step is vital (and can telescope to be short or long):

1. Greet and Connect (5-10 minutes)

Smile, welcome people to rehearsal and silently honor the fact that they have made sacrifices in their lives to be there.

You don’t need to over-do this, but some worship leaders are so task-oriented that they under-do this vital step of connecting.

It changes the music and the atmosphere.

Make people feel valuable by high-fiving them, taking a moment to ask how their week is going, or by giving a simple hug. It all matters.

And be confident. Of course you’re not the best arranger in the world (heck, I live in Nashville). But greet people ready to lead the night. Timid leadership is hard to follow, and stresses out the band.

If they feel like you all are wasting time just because of poor, unclear leadership, it’s a drag on the culture you are trying to create.

Move the rehearsal forward, express appropriate humility and push through any snags.

2. Overview the Set List and Manage Expectations (5 minutes)

Once everyone is generally set up (again, “downbeat” time is an essential part of a worship band culture), and everyone has the charts (we, with a few exceptions, ask everyone to print/bring/iPad their own), it’s time for an overview.

Walk your crew through the progression of the songs, and tell them what transitions will take you from one song to the next.

Then, help the band manage their time expectations by saying something like this:

“We’ll take 10 minutes or less on each song we already have a grid for. Then we’ll take some extra time on this new song. If I cut us off early on one, we can always come back to it at the end.”