When having band rehearsal for a church service, one of the basic things that one must get right is the difference between a “practice” and a “rehearsal”.
In a nutshell, practice means perfecting a technique, whether it be playing an instrument or singing a melody, on your own. Practicing something really focuses on perfection – you’re trying to execute something flawlessly. That’s why you typically practice on your own – so you can repeat things ad infinitum without annoying anyone!
Rehearsals are group events where everyone (having practiced their individual tasks/parts) puts everything together to make a set. In our church rehearsals are often the place where we make changes to the order of songs, but we don’t normally change which songs are done. Most people have been practicing those songs at home before the rehearsal – so you can’t go changing songs at the rehearsal.
Saying practice sessions are limited to a single person is not always the case. Sections of the band can arrange to do practice sessions – for example the drummer and bassist (maybe also electric guitar) can meet up somewhere for an hour to practice and nail some tricky bits. Vocals and the piano player can do the same. When they subsequently show up at rehearsal the songs in question will just flow.
Of course a system like MindMyMinistry makes practicing and rehearsals much easier, because songs are available for everyone to see weeks before the actual service. Rehearsals are also scheduled right on each event (service), so everyone knows when and where they are expected to attend.
Long story short – don’t practice at rehearsal. Rehearsals are meant to glue everything together – nothing more.
As a worship band it is often easy to overlook the fact that the congregation has to be able to sing the songs too. This means (at least according to my research) that you should stick to D (maybe Eb) to upper A for the melody line. Obviously there are exceptions, but this could be used as a rule of thumb.
As musicians the worship team normally enjoys playing the more difficult songs (both in terms of tonal range but also in terms of rhythm – syncopated beats being one of the issues) Modern worship music seems to have this very problem – the songs are quite complex and the tonal range of the melody is often out of range for the average singer. These types of songs, when executed the same way as they are on the album, will lead to poor congregational participation – unfortunately this means the worship team is just performing, and no longer leading people in worship.
To combat this problem, songs should be transposed into keys where they are easy for the congregation to sing. This is not a solution for all songs, especially those with very wide ranges – but taking the song into a more suitable key can help the situation. It is interesting to note how hymns were designed for congregational singing; their melody lines are right within the comfortable range for average singers, and also the rhythms are kept very simple and easy to follow. Food for thought!
When we introduce a song at church, we usually start by playing it before a service once or twice. Everyone’s order of service differs, but we usually have some music going on before everyone is seated – this is a great opportunity to play a new song so that the congregation can start getting used to it.
After doing this for a week or two, we start introducing the song during the offering. In our church services, the offering is a time where, as a member of the congregation, you can choose to sing along or not. Also people are fiddling with money etc. during this time, so the focus is not completely on the song – a great opportunity to get people used to it.
Finally, after 3-4 weeks, we will use the song as part of the main praise and worship part of the service. By this time most people in the congregation have at least heard the song 2-3 times, and while they may not be able to sing it fully, they will be able to follow along and sing most of the chorus parts of the song, depending on the complexity.
“Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth.” – Psalm 96:1
New songs can be a contentious subject in any church. There are quite a few things to keep in mind when choosing songs to introduce. As worship leader (or a member of the worship team) you have to be acutely aware of the congregation’s needs, balancing that with the theme of the sermons and also keeping in mind what the song is trying to convey. Sometimes this means listening to the spirit of the song rather than the words.
This reminds me of a song that I really enjoyed, from Hillsong, called Healer. When I suggested this song to our worship leader at the time, she did a bit of research to find the origins of the song and stumbled across some disturbing history, and controversy to boot.
Now we as Christians know that we should not judge, and really, I don’t (and to this day I still enjoy the song) but in reality some of your congregation will also be aware of the controversy surrounding it. Therein lies the problem- they will be thinking about the controversy rather than letting the song lead them into worship, taking their focus off the true purpose of the song.
Unfortunately this is just one of the aspects of the human mind that we have to contend with when choosing appropriate worship songs.
Luckily we don’t have this challenge at our church, but it is not uncommon for some band members to have infrequent (if any) access to the internet and any systems that you might be using to plan your service (hopefully you’re using MindMyMinistry!) In fact, as I’m writing this blog entry I am out of cellphone coverage and with no internet!
When your service schedules are complex or you have more than one group of musicians (whether they are organised into separate bands or not), rostering and communication with these people becomes quite important. When some people don’t readily have access to technology this gets pretty tricky.
We’ve found that a pretty effective way to keep connected is via SMS messaging. MindMyMinistry can send out bulk SMS messages to everyone so you can keep in touch with people anytime. When you send out event and rehearsal reminders, these team members can then go online at their convenience and print off all the detail they need. (Remember, every screen in MindMyMinistry is print-enabled – just click the Print link at the top right of your screen)