Leave Nothing to Chance
Does this sound familiar?
“I’m sure it will all come together when we hit the stage this weekend.”
“When we get people in the room it will feel tons better.”
You might as well say...
“Let’s just wing it and hope for the best.”
I’ve done more than 3000 concerts and led worship more times than I can begin to count and I can tell you from experience that the “uh oh, I didn’t think that through” moments are the worst feeling moments ever. I’ve learned to hit the stage as prepared as humanly possible, not expecting perfection but with the understanding that doing my work on the front end will lead to a solid outcome. How many worship pot holes could you have avoided had you just thought things through? I thought I’d share a few questions that I ask myself before I wrap rehearsal. Never, and I do mean never, do I head into the service without knowing the answers. And rehearsal will not end until I can be sure I have the answers I’m looking for.
Can the singer handle the song?
Is it in the right key for them? Will they be able to manage the moment emotionally? Will they truly be able to lead the congregation when they sing it? It’s a disaster to hand a singer a song that’s too big for them or way out of their comfort zone. The people in the building will never be able to let go and worship if they have an uneasy feeling that the singer is about to crash and burn. I will change the singer or the song if I feel we’re heading for a train wreck in the service.
Can the band handle the song?
Is the band playing to their strengths? Do I need to simplify drum patterns or guitar lines? I’ve actually stumbled across better arrangements of songs by setting my band guys up to win. When they’re confident they give a better performance.
Who will talk between songs and what will they say?
Now before you get all “don’t quench the Spirit, bro” on me, think about actually worshipping in rehearsal! When you create a service-like atmosphere in rehearsal it makes sense that you can feel what needs to be said and who needs to say it. Do we share a scripture here, pray there? Does talking for too long or just spouting “worship speak” really enhance the moment? Once we’ve established who will speak and where we then begin to craft what should be said. Exact words? Not necessarily, but in the ballpark. Have you seen a worship service grind to a halt when a worship leader kills a great moment by talking in circles for way too long? So have I.
How will the congregation respond?
This one is tricky, and a lot of it has to do with years of experience. A good rule of thumb, however, is to judge how you feel when you finish the song/element. I know that when we played Mugu’s Story in rehearsal I wanted to cry, applaud, and sing - all at once. I figured that the people in the room would feel the same way, which allowed me to anticipate where to take them next. When we rehearsed the song “Alive” by Hillsong Young & Free I had a pretty good feeling that our church would eat it up, mostly because the 40-something writing this blog thought it was awesome. This then allowed me to make a decision on how to get into the song and out of it. Knowing what your church responds to musically will also help you make good decisions in rehearsal.
How are my transitions working?
If they’re not, work on them! Don’t go into the weekend without your musical transitions nailed. They are the secret sauce to your service flow.
Am I confident this is all going to work?
It’s an obvious question, but one we many times forget to ask. We can’t see the forest for the trees, meaning that we get caught up in the details and don’t take time to see the big picture. I can think of a bunch of services I’ve been a part of where every song and creative element felt good on it’s own but just didn’t make a ton of sense when they were smashed together. I like to witness the entire worship set from start to finish at least 4 times. I’ll listen to it on planning center a few times before the weekend as well, making minor changes along the way. I don’t stop tinkering until we hit the stage for the last time on the weekend. It’s important that I feel that everything flows smoothly from one song to another, in and out of videos and with presenters entering and leaving the stage. This is where most worship sets fall apart. Many times the pieces don’t fit together the way they did on your white board.
Please hit me up with your thoughts and maybe a few questions you ask before you lead your church into worship. By the way, before I get a bunch of rebuking responses, “leaving nothing to chance” is not the same as “leaving no room for God to move.” Felt it needed to be said.