One of the values we hold as worship leaders is “excellence.” Psalm 33 says that praise fits the righteous. We are exhorted to play skillfully, or to offer our best, because it becomes us. Like wearing the proper garment to a wedding feast, we don our best. I desire to offer my best, not for the sake of the comfort and enjoyment of my brothers and sisters, but as a means for God’s beloved people to worship him.
One key to offering our best preparation is rehearsal. As a worship team leader, I must offer my best not only to my Father, but to those I lead, including the band and the congregation. I cannot offer my best willy-nilly, or haphazardly. I must enter rehearsal AND Sunday mornings prepared.
I take care to prayerfully choose songs that fit with the message the pastor plans to preach, and express truth about our Savior simply and beautifully. As a worship leader, I humbly realize I have been given the task of putting words in the mouths of my brothers and sisters that encourage, exhort, and remind them of the truths brought forth by the preaching. I also select songs that fit with the liturgical order of service. Our services flow from a call to worship, to a time of confession, to hearing the message, to celebrating communion and redemption, ending with a time of restoration where we send our members into the world with the joy of the gospel.
But worship leading is much more than song selection. Before rehearsal, I send out an email to the band, giving them each a general idea of what I would like each song to sound like, and what each instrumentalist/vocalist is expected to have prepared. For example, I let the vocalists know who is leading each song, and if there are any special instructions for instrumentalists, I communicate that. I try to keep in mind the skill level of each member (including myself!), which means drawing on strengths. Skill level will sometimes dictate song selection. This way, members know what to expect when they show up for rehearsal.
I come prepared to direct rehearsal. This means communicating clearly and concisely, dictating how much time is spent on each song, moving rehearsal along, and listening. During rehearsal, I try to limit the time I spend on each song, more time for newer songs, less time for familiar ones, out of respect for those who give their time and energy to serve God’s people in this capacity. I rehearse transitions between songs, beginnings, and endings. Sometimes, I even rehearse those first before rehearsing a song in its entirety. Transitions, beginnings, and endings, if done well, minimize distractions.
I review the notes I made during rehearsal, follow up with an email to the band if needed on any changes made, and pray. I also make any necessary changes to Planning Center as soon after rehearsal as I am able.
On Sunday morning
I show up early, ready to lead the band through sound checks. I use the quiet time to pray and to direct my mind and heart in meditation on the excellencies of the God we will soon gather to worship.
I am still learning how to do all of this excellently. I prepare for worship so that we all, as a team, become less and God becomes great. Some of the most beautiful times of worship, to me, are the times when I have stepped away from the mic and have allowed the voices of the congregation to rise above the sound of the band. Almost as if I have handed over leadership to the congregation. My goal isn’t to pull off another great performance. My hope is not in a flawless execution of the plan. I don’t prioritize the nuts and bolts, nor do I seek to lean entirely on my own skill or the skills of others. My goal is to prepare the way for God’s people to robe themselves with the festal robes of his praise. There is nothing more pleasing to my ears as God’s people singing boldly, with one voice, proclaiming the excellencies of God, because it is fitting for them to do so!