Preparation Makes Perfect

By Don Chapman

As I’ve said before, it seems everyone and their brother is starting a contemporary worship service. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that many of these new services are failing. Often the reason is poor planning and execution.

Here are two key points to consider if you’re involved with praise and worship:

1. Plan ahead. I can’t believe it when I hear of churches that meet thirty minutes before the service and throw together a song set.

A well known worship leader states that he never plans his worship song set. Rather, he has a list of all the songs his congregation knows, and he keeps this list on his music stand during worship to jog his memory. Then he lets the Spirit move.

While there’s nothing wrong with this free-flowing method, I’m sure a worship leader of his stature can attract the finest musicians in town. Frankly, you’d need top musicians to pull off a service like this – musicians who know the songs by heart or can sight-read a chart perfectly. Pretty unrealistic for you and me, unless you want to lead worship all by yourself – strumming your guitar or accompanying yourself on the keyboard.

Remember, the more you plan, the more people can be involved. Flying by the seat of your pants (or skirt) can often result in a musical train wreck. Multiple train wrecks tend to make people in the congregation think you don’t know what you’re doing. If the service isn’t worth planning, maybe it isn’t worth attending.

Planning ahead gives you time to work out your praise set like a puzzle, fitting songs together in a perfect flow. It also makes your rehearsals more efficient, which leads me to my next point:

2. Rehearse. I’m also surprised at the number of churches that don’t have a rehearsal! Rehearsals give you time to prepare both musically and spiritually for the coming Sunday.

If you’re doing the praise team thing with 3-6 vocalists, I recommend having a separate vocal and band rehearsal. Each group has their own problems, and I’d rather concentrate on one group at a time. Then, put the whole thing together during your pre-service run-through. If you have just a worship leader and a background vocalist or two, let them rehearse with the band.

Your musicians might balk at rehearsing. Rehearsals are a must if you want to succeed with a quality worship service, so don’t back down. However, people need to know your reasoning if you expect them to give you their valuable time.

Try making a deal with your musicians. First tell them your strategy: that you believe rehearsing will only improve the music and bring about a better worship experience for the congregation. Careless goof-ups distract people from connecting with God, whereas smooth transitions help usher them into His presence. Ask them if they’ll try rehearsing for a month. When they see the positive results – better blend and a tighter band – they’ll be more apt to become committed team members.

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