I promised I’d talk about the 3 most popular questions I received during the round-tables and Q&A sessions.
The 3rd most popular is HERE.
Here’s the 2nd most popular: REHEARSALS
“What are your rehearsals like?” or “What’s your rehearsal schedule?”
I guess this is a big issue for lots of folks. And, after discussing our philosophy on rehearsals with them, I was reminded of why it’s such a big deal for us.
The bottom line for us – both music and service production – is that anything less than our absolute best is a disappointment and, frankly, unacceptable.
The first and most important key is to surround yourself and build your team with people that constantly inspire you and push you – professionally AND spiritually. People that don’t settle for mediocrity are the kind of people you want in your life, on your team, and facilitating a Sunday service.
I guess the first thing you have to ask yourself is “am I going to settle for a half effort or am I only satisfied with 100%, 100% of the time – from me and the people around me.“
Now that doesn’t mean you’re exhausted and overworked. On the contrary – It should be a pleasant experience because everyone functions at a high level of ability in an area at which they are gifted and experienced. That doesn’t mean they’re lazy or slackers, but rather that they also reach a place of inner satisfaction when everything – including their role – works at a level of excellence.
SO… How’s all THAT happen each week, assuming you have the “right” people in place?
The same way that you get to Carnegie Hall:
Practice, practice, practice.
Step 1 – PREPARATION:
Before our Wednesday night rehearsals, I email all the musicians (Worship Leader, Band, Singers, etc.) what we’re doing that week. We have our final pre-production meeting on Tuesday morning, in which the final details of the service are, well, finalized. There’s usually no change in music content, but every once in a while we’ll tweak something based on a sermon change, service length, etc.
Now a Tuesday afternoon email for a Wednesday night rehearsal might be too late for some of your musicians. That’s a judgement call for you to make. Maybe a week or two is more realistic for your program – even though they’ll probably not work on the songs until the night before anyway 😉
Getting them the songs is a different story. Distributing a worship song through a North Point Music organization membership solves a lot of legal issues. Another great way is sending the iTunes link (iTunes song URL) for a song, and having them download it. Just find the track in iTunes, then right-click on the name of the song and choose Copy Link. Then paste it into an email. No Brainer.
If they’re too cheap to pay $0.99, just give them an iTunes gift card. NO BIG DEAL.
The bottom lines on preparation are:
– WE need to be at least one step ahead of them.
– THEY need to be given realistic time to prepare on their own before rehearsal.
– THEY need to know what is realistically expected of them as individuals before a group rehearsal.
– THEY need to be assured that we know what we – both as individuals and as a church – know what we’re doing.
I believe people will follow leadership that is PREPARED.
Step 2 – MID-WEEK REHEARSAL:
We have ours on Wednesday nights, but that’s not to say Tuesday or Thursday aren’t viable as well. Monday’s too early – you’re recovering from the day before. No one wants Friday, and Saturday afternoon interferes with family time.
It also allows a Thursday evaluation of Wednesday’s rehearsal, and gives ample time to enter final lyric arrangements into Pro Presenter, as well as time to tweak as needed.
So we have dinner ready at 6:00 PM in the Green Room. Might be Italian or Mexican, maybe Subs or pizza, Chick-Fil-A or Chili’s. It’s good, it’s often a hot meal, and there’s enough for seconds. Oh, and dessert. It tells the musicians and audio volunteers that we care enough about THEM to put some time, effort and resources into making them feel valued and comfortable. It also creates an atmosphere for them to chill out for a while, visit with old friends, and go deeper with new ones.
Everyone arrives sometime between 6:00 – 6:30. Guys set up their gear, drummers work on their in-ear monitor mix with the Monitor Engineer (so as to not waste the band’s time later), and then get food when they’re ready.
We found that having a set call time in Atlanta during rush hour is a battle we’d never win, so the 6:00ish method has worked well.
IMPORTANT: At 6:45, while in the Green Room, I’ll pass out stapled packets of the Rhythm Charts for the songs, and we’ll listen to them on the small PA system – together, both stages, as a group. Guys review the charts with pens-in-hand, bassists and drummers talk about kick patterns, guitarists talk about voicings and parts, vocalists talk about harmonies, and – most importantly, Worship Leaders are reminded of song forms, etc.
This exercise has been one of the biggest paybacks we’ve ever implemented. It’s been such an asset to talk out songs, forms, and special aspects of the tunes, especially with both stages’ musicians in the same room. Plus, what they gain from the collaborative experience is invaluable!
After that, we all – including Audio volunteers – gather up in a circle and have what has become one of the highlights of the week. It’s a time for us as staff to remind everyone that we’re glad they’re here, and that they are here this week for a special reason. We cast vision for the upcoming Sunday, the message and series, and some of the details in why we might be doing a particular special song.
We talk about what’s going on in each other’s lives, address any specific prayer needs, and encourage them to use Sunday’s services not as another gig, but as a specific, intentional time to enter into worship to our God and Creator!
We remind them that our rehearsals are for just that – rehearsing. We rehearse effectively so that, by Sunday services, the notes, chords, patches, rhythms, forms, monitors, and all the other distracting elements are ingrained into our subconscious – so that it’s second nature. That allows us to focus on God during the service’s worship, and not have our nose buried in charts.
Then I or one of our Worship Leaders share scripture that is appropriate for the day or topic or song, and then I have a 2 or 3 people pray for us and any specific needs or issues.
And, as often as possible, we’ll have one of the Worship Leaders play acoustic and lead us in a chorus or song.
These brief Wednesday night encounters have birthed an awareness in our players of the importance of the spiritual aspect of worship – and that it’s OUR chance to worship God. There’s nothing more attractive to an unbeliever than witnessing true, authentic worship.
Then we hit the stage.
What’s great about the Green Room time is that we, as staff and Worship Leaders ahead of time, have determined the arrangement, which eliminates all the second guessing and “input” from opinionated band members.
That way, once we hit the stage, the Worship Leader acts as bandleader – running a good, focused sound-check (that’s another topic altogether!) and then rehearsing the tunes.
We, as staff, sit back at the Front Of House (FOH) mix board with the FOH engineer and essentially “produce” the songs. We help address mix issues with the Audio team, and answer any questions that the band has on stage. And troubleshoot and put out fires.
The tough thing at North Point is splitting your time between auditoriums, but we make it work…
Once the rehearsing part is over, we run the worship set and specials just like we would on Sunday and record it to a CD Burner. We then duplicate about 15 copies on a CD duplicator and give a copy to everyone to take with them to listen and evaluate their playing, singing and mixes. This exposes rough spots, and helps folks refine their parts before Sunday.
Lots of weeks see us making calls or emails on Thursday morning to singers and players regarding certain “not-yet-perfect” parts…
It also allows us final song times for the service producers and lyrics for Pro Presenter.
Part 3 – SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY !!!
A typical Sunday AM consists of 8 parts, at least for music:
1. Call Time – 6:45 AM: We set call time 15 minutes before down beat so guys can check their lines and monitors, review any specific musical elements, and sip down a coffee and tell some stories before down beat.
2. Down Beat / Tech Rehearsal – 7:00 AM: The tech teams (cameras, video crew, etc.) come out of their meeting and are ready to rehearse their (volunteer) roles at 7:00. This rehearsal is mostly for them (camera shots, lyrics, shaders, video elements, etc…), but it is also for the musicians and FOH – dusting off the cobwebs.
They’ll also rehearse any extraneous elements (videos, speaker mic check, etc.)
3. Full Run Through – 7:45 AM: This is a full run-through, from the video elements during the pre-service, through the opener (if there is one), announcements, worship set, offertory transition, title package video, set piece movements, speaker (preacher) check, prayer, more set piece movement, and closing song (again, if there is one).
All in real time (except the sermon).
This, again, helps make sure that everyone, no matter what their role, is adequately rehearsed and prepared before the service. ALL questions are answered.
4. Recap and Prayer – 8:30 AM: All 50+/- people involved in the East and West services gather in the Green Room over a quick breakfast (mmmm, more food!). The lead (East) producer gives a verbal final order, noting and reminding of any tweaks that were made, or special issues that need reminding.
We then circle for a couple minutes for prayer.
5. More Prayer! – 8:52 AM: Recently we’ve been meeting with all the musicians from both stages back stage just before we go out on stage. It’s a time for Todd, Eddie or I to once again remind them of the importance of what we’re about to do, to encourage them to enter into worship themselves, read scripture over them, and pray specifically for them as they lead our people in worship.
6. 1st Service – 9:00 AM: Pretty self explanatory, I believe!
7. 1st Service Evaluation – 10:20 AM: After the first service, about 10 key people meet to evaluate the service, to encourage the good stuff, and address the stuff that needs changes or adjustment, or in some extreme cases needs to be removed altogether!
The SPD Director and Associate Director (staff), 2 producers (staff), Audio Director and Assistant (staff), Production and Technical directors (staff), video directors (volunteer and/or staff), Lighting guy (staff), music dude (me), and maybe a couple other folks are in this 15 minute meeting.
We then go address any concerns or issues with folks. For me, it’s usually Worship Leaders or singers.
8. 2nd & 3rd Services – 11:00 AM & 12:45 PM: Again, self explanatory.
Part 4 – MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK:
About 12 of us from the 3 campuses meet at 9:00 AM Monday morning to do an in-depth evaluation of the services at each campus. No holding back at this meeting – hope you have thick skin!!
So, class, what have we learned?
1. One reason rehearsals exist is so that the music becomes internalized, thus allowing musicians a more freeing on-stage worship experience, and ultimately lead the congregation in worship.
2. Everyone is given an opportunity to be adequately prepared, no matter their role.
3. Extensive evaluation is the mirror which celebrates the good and exposes what needs to be improved and/or changed.