How to run an Effective Rehearsal

Leading a praise team, band, or choir rehearsal well will produce many benefits. A good rehearsal blesses the participants, both spiritually and musically. A good rehearsal fosters community and builds a team. Results from a good rehearsal overflow into corporate worship. However, some worship leaders do not take maximum advantage of rehearsal time. Below are ten suggestions for improving rehearsal technique.

  1. Pray before anything else – even before you select the music, seek God’s face. Also, if possible, talk to the pastor about the service you are planning. The pastor may provide direction and guidance. Before the rehearsal, pray over each seat that will be occupied. Pray that God will bring glory to himself and supernaturally use the person sitting or standing in this place.
  2. Be prepared. Know the music well and how you would like it to be presented. Know the text, biblical background, musical sequence, melody, harmony, chord structure, rhythm, and style of the piece. Make sure everyone has correct music before the rehearsal begins.
  3. Start and end on time. Being punctual is contagious. If you start rehearsals late, your team will arrive late. If you keep them long, they will disengage.
  4. Don’t talk too much during rehearsal. People want to sing and play more than they want to hear you talk. Keep prayer time, and devotionals focused.
  5. Start and end with the easiest numbers. You will want to begin and end the rehearsal with success. Save the problematic selections for the middle of rehearsal.
  6. Break up difficult pieces into small sections. If you plan ahead, you can work on a difficult song for several weeks before presenting it. This will give you ample rehearsal.
  7. Be clear in rehearsal directions. If you say “measure 64, page 5, vocals,” the vocals will not hear the first two directions. First mention who should listen. Next, identify the largest to the smallest location. For example, say  “vocals, look on page four, third score, second measure.
  8. If a piece is new, sightread the entire song without stopping so the team can hear it in its entirety. Send a recording to your team to listen before rehearsal.
  9. Correct politely but directly. Don’t use ambiguous phrases like “it doesn’t sound good here.” A marginal musician will have no clue it was them. To be tactful, you might try something like, “We need to polish measure XX in the “vocal” (or whichever) part.
  10. Keep the rehearsal moving. People get really bored when they sit around with nothing to do. There is nothing a bass player likes to do more than tinker and provide great background riffs during times when the leader is working with other sections. (Beleive me, I know this one well. Sometimes it’s not even intentional.)

There are plenty of other rehearsal suggestions one could offer. Please feel free to comment below. As you go, learn by experience. Evaluate, watch yourself via video, to see where you can improve. Spend a few minutes of rehearsal viewing the previous Sunday’s worship. Have your team evaluate times of excellence and places where improvement can be made. A good rehearsal produces many benefits.

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Worship Resources for a Small Church with a Small Budget

Steve Hamrick, Director of Worship and Church Technologies, IBSA

I regularly get asked questions from small churches or church plants about best resources for worship which are free or at least cost-effective. The list below contains a brief review of quality resources for various aspects of the worship ministry. The list is not a recommendation, nor is it inclusive, but it is a great place to start researching.

Worship Music

Free:

Worshiptogether www.worshiptogether.com Worshiptogether has many worship resources for the church including songs, lyrics, and chord charts of many CCM songs. You still need a CCLI license to project words in a bulletin or on a screen. There is a paid section with more detailed arrangements. Prices on purchased arrangements range from $5-6.00 per chart. There are multitracks available through a link.

 Reasonable cost:

Lifewayworship www.lifewayworship.com. Since 2008 lifeway has provided an excellent resource at a low price to help churches find and purchase worship music. Every song from the 2008 hymnal is available as well as several thousand additional songs. Each selection is available for instant access via online download. The cost of each arrangement is between .99 and $1.99 per song. Full instrumentation is available as well as soundtracks, multitracks, lyrics (for projection), and demo tracks. There is no yearly membership fee.

Songselect www.songselect.com Songselect, a daughter company of CCLI, offers tens-of-thousands of church songs from old hymns to CCM. Each song is transposable. Depending on your yearly membership plan, you can choose from lyrics, chord charts, lead sheets, and vocal scores. The piano arrangements are less than desirable if your pianist lacks creative skills, but you can make as many copies of each song as you need for your worship team. Once you pay your yearly membership fee there are no additional charges per song. Fees are based on the plan you choose; free for public domain songs through $189 for the premium plan.

Video Projection

Free

OpenLP https://openlp.org/ OpenLP is a free open source video projection software. People who use it tell me it is better than PowerPoint. See the reviews on this site. The downside is that the programmers are volunteers and part-time, so there are few upgrades and bug fixes.

 Very Low cost:

Proclaim https://proclaimonline.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=paidsearch&utm_campaign=promo-proclaim2017 $17 to $77 per year membership. Proclaim charges an annual membership as opposed to purchasing the program outright. It is cheaper on the front end but not necessarily if you use it for many years. The basic membership plan is very basic.

Reasonable Cost

PowerPoint https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/b/powerpoint-2016?invsrc=search&cl_vend=google&cl_ch=sem&cl_camp=905852555&cl_adg=45823124100&cl_crtv=225898402688&cl_kw=powerpoint&cl_pub=google.com&cl_place=&cl_dvt=c&cl_pos=1t1&cl_mt=e&cl_gtid=kwd-11651171&cl_pltr=&cl_dim0=WP9F_AAAANJDSmOT:20171017143837:s&OCID=AID620866_SEM_WP9F_AAAANJDSmOT:20171017143837:s&s_kwcid=AL!4249!3!225898402688!e!!!!powerpoint&ef_id=WP9F_AAAANJDSmOT:20171017143837:s Free to $109.00. Designed for business, PowerPoint is the oldest video projection software. Churches adapted it because many computers come with PP installed. It is OK for basic lyric and sermon projection but has many worship use shortcomings, especially if you are trying to embed music tracks in the slides or want to see slides ahead or behind your current location.

ProPresenter 6 www.renewedvision.com There are many decent worship projection software packages available for churches including EasyWorship, Media Shout and Songshow Plus, all priced at or near $400. ProPresenter is available to IBSA churches for a discount price of $325.00. PP6 is the industry standard and like the other programs is available for MAC or PC. Many IBSA churches use PP6 so we have established user groups and training to help train users. Each of these high-end projection suites integrates song lyrics, Scripture, sermon notes, video, and audio. Expect a learning curve for the one who inputs the weekly information.

Musician Training

Free:

YouTube www.youtube.com YouTube allows users free access to thousands of worship and music training videos. If you type in the name of the song you want to learn and “tutorial,” there is a good chance of finding it. YouTube is a great free tool that allows one to listen to new songs and it also has some video and karaoke songs available. Be careful with infringing on copyrights.

MusicTheory.net http://www.musictheory.net/ is an excellent free resource which teaches basic and advanced music theory and ear training. It even has modules for keyboard and fretboard recognition. It is highly recommended.

WorshipArtistry www.worshipartistry.com WorshipArtistry has an excellent free section of skill development and an even better paid section which requires a monthly or yearly membership fee. It also has excellent free worship blogs. The paid section is impressive and helps players learn to perform covers of CCM music. There are specific modules for vocals, drums, bass, and guitar.

Worship Planning Organization

Free:

Lifewayworship.com http://www.lifewayworship.com/worshipPlan/start Lifewayworship has a free program that helps organize worship planning and allows you to build a set/order of worship for your team. It is very basic but works well.

Worshiptogether.com also mentioned above has an excellent search feature to find songs by tempo, theme, style, key, etc.

Fee-Based:

PlanningCenterOnline www.planningcenter.com Planning Center On-Line is the industry standard for worship planning. For between free and $14.00 per month depending on the level you subscribe. PCO also has a highly-regarded church business software package. PCO allow the worship leader to choose music, fill out an order of worship, attach media, integrate it all to ProPresenter, and distribute it all to the staff and worship team. PCO keeps track of worship time. It is a great program, but like the others, there is a learning curve required to get the most out of it.

 

 

What does the Bible say about Race Relations

I wrote the article below on Thursday, August 10, 2017 before the tragic events of Saturday in Charlottesville, VA this weekend. I might should re-edit my second sentence to: “Until Saturday, I was under the impression that in our sophisticated world, race relations are better than they were when M. L. King presented this sermon in 1963.” I realize there has been racial tension and incidents continuously over the past 54 years, but much of it has been fueled by media and made available since social media. Since I don’t have statistics, I can’t say if racial relations are better or worse but I would like to say this. I personally condemn any acts of hatred. Period. In a doctoral project, my New Testament passage is Colossians 3. Here is verse 11: “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” In Christ, we are one. We may be different in color and culture, but we are one in Spirit. I only see one spiritual option. Put off racism along with the other vices mentioned in Colossians 3:8-10, “But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. The new self is Christ.” Below is the original blog from Thursday, August 10, 2017.

The sermon titled Loving Your Enemy by M.L. King (King, Loving Your Enemies, as told in OS Guinness Steering Through the Chaos, p. 143-146), was a challenge and encouragement for me as I read and re-read it. I would like to think in our sophisticated world that race relations are better than they were when this sermon was written but I have some African American friends who would disagree as they still experience hatred, prejudice and poverty. Why is the struggle continuing? Because there is still hatred and anger in the world. King’s advice from 1963 is still relevant in the challenge to love one another. Below, King gives three reasons to love one’s enemy:

1.     Returning hate for hate multiplies hate.

2.      Hate scars the soul and distorts the personality.

3.      Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.

(King, Loving Your Enemies, as told in OS Guinness Steering Through the Chaos, p. 143-146)

There is a society of monks called the Order of St. Benedict, named for Benedict of Nursia who lived in the mid 6th century. His work, The Rules of St. Benedict gives spiritual advice on how to live victoriously in Christ through serving others.  The Benedictine’s, as told in the Pratt book, Radical Hospitality, counter anger and hated with hospitality. They take risks by listening and getting to know others who may be different. Their philosophy in life is to serve Christ by serving others. One root of hatred is selfishness. The Benedictines strive not to be self-centered. “Another great enemy of hospitality is narcissism. When we place the great “I” at the center of our universe, we give no value to anyone else. We make commodities of people, consuming them for our personal enrichment and happiness. (Pratt, 72).

The challenge for me and you is to look at others through the eyes of Christ. Instead of asking “what can they do for me?” or “how can I change them?” ask “what are ways I can show my love to them?”

King concludes, “Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because non-co-operation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is co-operation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves.”

King’s response, like the Benedictine’s is to put on love. I wonder if he was thinking of Colossians 3:14-15 when he wrote this message? “Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.”

False Humility

The following blog was adapted from an assignment for

DWS 704 Institute of Worship Studies

based on the book Steering Through Chaos (Guinness, Steering Through Chaos)

Pride & Envy

I instantly recognize false humility in others. Maybe the skill of recognition is a gift, but more likely it is because I experience the toxin of false humility seeping from deep inside my own life. Outward pride is not a vice of which I have difficulty dealing.  Its evil twin, false humility, however, creeps as a corrosive inner voice that says, “maybe if I act humble, someone will think I am extra-spiritual, acknowledge my abilities, or recognize and affirm me.” It is difficult to write an article like this because the falsely humble voice is telling me that I am being falsely humble in identifying this concern. This behavior is passive-aggressive and spiritually self-destructive.

False humility has the same caustic characteristics as pride except false humility may be invisible to others while pride is expressed externally. OS Guinness writes, “False humility is actually self-driven and self-absorbed. A person who is falsely humble is a person who is truly proud.” (OS Guinness, Steering through Chaos!: Vice and Virtue in an Age of Moral Confusion), 61.

False humility veils itself as a subterranean offense since it appears to only affect one’s self, but it can have far reaching consequences for a worship leader. An example of this kind of false humility is expressed when I say that I want the music or message to bring glory to God but actually hope that someone will recognize how good the music was or how blessed they were by my leadership. Another characteristic of false humility can be seen when I evaluate worship by how many people are outwardly responding. We who struggle with false humility can devalue the congregation’s spirituality when we wrongly assume worshipers are raising their hands because of a perfect song selection or because our band was in the pocket of the groove and not because the worship participator is responding in relationship to God and his metanarrative.

Another temptation to which falsely humble people often succumb is the desire to please people more than God. When one’s self-worth comes from the praise of people, one becomes pharisaical. John 13:43 records that the Pharisees “loved the praise from men more than praise from God.”

Living falsely humble results in a skewed view of one’s own spirituality. Regarding pride in religion, C.S. Lewis states, “I am afraid [pride] means they are worshiping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom god, but are really all the time imagining how he approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity), 69. Pride and false humility result in self-worship which is also known as idolatry, the antithesis of Exodus 20:2, the first of the Ten Commandments. If false humility goes unchecked, it can bring havoc on our spiritual life.

So what can be done? First, recognize false humility and pride as a spiritual battle. We cannot keep thoughts from seeping into our mind since that is the way temptation works, but how we act upon the temptation is paramount. Galatians 6:2-3 reminds us to Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.” When we focus on serving others, we will please God by our obedience. Another way to break the bond of false humility is to start serving anonymously.  When you give or serve and no one knows it except for God, you can’t be falsely humble. Matthew 6 sums up our actions, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

A Worship Leader as Servant Leader

The following blog is inspired by the book In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen. In full disclosure, this article was written to fulfill an assignment for a class in the DWS program at the Institute for Worship Studies. I believe some of the leadership principles are helpful in the world of worship leadership.

Nouwen, Henri J. M. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. New York: Crossroad, 1989.

A Worship Leader as Servant Leader:

Leadership displaying a spirit of love through service as opposed to being motivated by power and authority is the golden theme of this book. Like the business world, many churches expect its ministers to lead using a secular model. The world says decisions should be made based on knowledge and experience. Effective leadership from a business perspective often requires the pastor to be highly influential executing decisions based on best needs for the church.

Jesus led from a different paradigm. His motivation was to do the will of the Father. The Father charged him to serve people’s needs and reveal the Kingdom. Scripture reminds us that often Jesus was on the way to a destination with a purpose but was re-routed because of a Godly interruption. Jesus “saw the crowd and had compassion on them.” He was also counter-cultural in his leadership style, unconcerned with tradition for traditions sake. Ministers today would improve their effectiveness if they closer emulated Jesus’ example. “Love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37). In the worship leadership arena, it is more important to love our people than to teach them music. An effective leader can do both if they work at it.

Jesus did not lead alone but communicated with the Father on all things. Similarly, he sent out his disciples in pairs, not alone. Too many pastors and worship leaders are an island. An often-displayed top down leadership model leaves the one at the top alone much of the time. Working with a worship planning team (or cohort group) is a great technique to share the responsibility and rewards.  Team accountability is a mutual benefit of working together.

Much different from a business model is the paradigm to lead as part of a community. Our world today applauds those who pursue upward mobility demonstrating an autocratic display of dominance. The world looks for leaders who make quick decisions from a strong intellectual/cognitive position. Those who wield power and exert influence from a top-down, self-confident attitude are applauded. Servant leadership displays the love of Jesus from within a communal relationship. This kind of leadership fluidly reacts to the needs of the community. It does not dictate from hierarchy. Nouwen uses the phrase “from leading to being led” to explain that Christ-like leadership is inspired from interaction with the active hand of God in people’s lives. May we all learn to lead like Jesus.

Lessons Churches May Glean from the Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic Jacksonville FLI recently escorted my mom to a doctor’s appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville Florida.  As we were pulling onto the campus, mom pointed out how nice everything was at the clinic and how she wished her church experiences could be as pleasant.

Of course this got me thinking and observing while we were there.  Mom was right. While we realize a church is not a corporation, we can find similarities for success. Not everything listed below is possible in every church.  In addition, our attention should not be focused only on facilities.  Being “attractional” without the leadership of the Holy Spirit will be a total waste of time and resources.  However, there is value in observing how people in the world respond to their environment.  Some of these observations from Mayo may be applicable to your church.

  1. Easy access to parking. There were plenty of places to park and all the spaces had an easy access to the building. While churches don’t have the budget of a major corporation, parking is a necessary infrastructure. Guest (not visitor) parking near entrances is a great idea. Ask your leadership to park away from the building and leave closer spaces to guests, senior adults and young families with small children.
  2. A Multitude of Greeters. There were greeters stationed outside, at elevators and in designated information centers. Greeters even had towels and umbrellas provided for people coming to the building during a Florida rain storm. How hard would it be for a church to have an appointed team of greeters who meet people in the parking lot and escort them to the proper location?
  3. Well designed practical architecture. The building was well designed for their clients. People took advantage of the seating in the wide hallways. Mayo had a solarium where a volunteer coordinator invited local music students to play instruments to the joy of the patients.  In church we may not be able to redesign your hallways but can we find a place in the foyer that is conducive to fellowship?  Some churches have a fellowship area where there is coffee and snacks.  Can you have someone occasionally play live music in the halls outside the worship center during transitions between Bible study and church?
  4. Smiling and caring workers. I realize that the workers were getting paid to be nice but it certainly gave the feeling that they were concerned for our well being. They talked to the patients in non-condescending gentle tones. It wouldn’t cost the church anything to train the ministers, greeters, and other leaders to smile and be pleasant to each other and congregation before and after services.
  5. Visual displays about past history and future expansion plans. It was nice to learn about Mayo’s heritage. They had pictures of the founders, the first nurses and even an article about the first custodian because she spent her life caring for the health needs of the patients. While they valued the past, they also had kiosk displays for the future expansion and information about new treatment wings in order to provide improve healthcare. We should celebrate and appreciate the past, both as a Christian and as a church member. Knowing how God worked in the past is vital in knowing He will be faithful in the future. Providing a vision for the future will help people work together. Without vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18 loosely paraphrased.)
  6. Professional staff offering the best product possible. The staff, from the doctors to the receptionists, did everything they could to provide the best care for the individual. Churches have the best “product” imaginable.  Sometimes we fail to present Jesus in a way that brings him the glory he deserves. This is even more true when we see the church struggle to work outside the building.  If everyone in the church shared their enthusiasm about the Lord, perhaps our world would be different today.
  7. Diverse workforce and clients. The workers and the patients were from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Most of the churches I have attended are not very diverse. Revelation 5 shows us that worship in heaven will include those of every race, tribe and tongue. Wouldn’t it be a nice preview of heaven to experience that now?
  8. Enthusiastic Patients excited about their treatment and cure. The hospital was still about the healing business. Most of the patients were really sick and needed the help that the hospital provided.  The patients were vocal about the healing and care they were receiving. Some churches have migrated from a place where spiritually sick people find healing to a social club made up of Christians enjoying each other’s fellowship, sometimes at the fate of the sick around them.  Has the main thing ceased being the main thing?

Corporations spend millions of dollars each year researching how people respond to stimulus.  Casinos know how people respond to certain colored lights. Retail businesses know the psychology of music.  They play fast music when they want you to move on quickly or play slow “musick” if they want you to stay and shop longer. Advertising and political firms hire panel groups to discuss pros and cons of their presentations or candidates.  Churches often take the opposite approach. We do nothing. Our mantra seems to be a default “if you want it, here it is, come and get it.” Unfortunately, that strategy has proved not to work well.

Ministry action involves connecting the product (Jesus) with the clients (people). With the guidance of the Holy Spirit and some knowledge of how people respond, churches may want to implement some practical ideas to become more effective in how we relate to future attenders, assimilate guests, and build disciples and leaders.