Tips for Getting Worship Team Volunteers to Prepare
A lot of musicians from the church draw a strange line between worship and performance, as if the two are mutually exclusive. There’s often this presumption that if you’re worried about the music, you’re not worshiping, and that performance always pales in comparison to the importance of being engaged in worship.
And while this is an incredibly “noble” intention behind why many volunteer musicians don’t spend time in preparation, I think the more common reason is often a lack of care. I’m not saying they don’t care about being a part of your worship team! Of course they do! Many committed, engaged, and excited volunteers don’t prepare for Sunday mornings. It’s more-so a lack of care and prioritization over preparing ahead of time.
Getting Your Worship Team Volunteers to Prepare
As a worship pastor, we know that your number one priority is to run a team full of committed volunteers that are on board with the church’s mission and are excited to participate in worship. But it’s not a sin to admit that we all would love if our worship team band members showed up a bit more prepared for Sunday services. So, if that’s where you’re at, here are some tips to get your worship team volunteers to practice and come prepared!
Remind Them How Practice Allows Us to Participate Personally in Worship
I would hope that everyone can get something from a worship service, but the truth is, as leaders we are there to facilitate the experience for others. While we should enjoy the experience ourselves, our priority should first be to lift others up (our congregation) and support them during a time of worship.
Often times, this requires a sacrifice on our part – our attention as band members can’t simultaneously be fully devoted to worshipping in the moment and be fully devoted to remembering and executing our parts correctly on our instruments. It’s psychologically impossible. However, you can actually create more mental bandwidth to devote to worshipping by making your instrument parts easier to remember and play through practicing.
In the same way we are able to breath, walk, balance, or bike while holding a conversation simultaneously because each of these skills are “easy” for us from years of practice, putting in practice and preparation hours on our instrument frees up a TON of mental bandwidth to devote to worshipping and being in the moment.
Reiterate the Importance of Why You Do This
This relates to the prior point, but just a reminder that the priority of a leader is to put the congregation first. In the same way that a pastor may have things they could learn from the sermon notes they pulled together, Sunday morning at the pulpit isn’t the best time for them to be doing that. They learn something new during the week, think about it, work on it, note it, and then present it to the congregation in the sermon after they’ve fully fleshed out the idea.
In a similar manner, we as worship team members should be putting in the due diligence to memorize our parts. This allows us to get out of the way and not be a distraction for the congregation. And that aspect – not being a distraction – is incredibly important. Here’s an analogy that may help your team to understand the importance of this:
Imagine you’re asked to play your instrument for a family member or close friend’s first dance at their wedding. You would prepare as much as possible! Why? Because you understand that this is an incredibly precious and meaningful moment – both to the couple as well as all the people in attendance. Your failure to prepare because you want to be in the moment for the first dance and enjoying watching it may likely lead to mistakes that distract all those in attendance from the couple.
The same scenario is present during worship. This moment means a ton to those in attendance, and they’re excited to participate in that experience. Your lack of preparedness is often enough to zap people from the moment. Clamming a wrong chord, figuring out the song as you go, throwing in your own “style,” or forgetting the song form are all easy ways to pull someone out of the moment and divert their focus on you.
Provide Them Resources
If you’re asking your team members to learn their parts, but they aren’t up to par to do it on their own without additional resources, then provide it to them!
If you’re using Planning Center Online, you can often upload instrument mixes from MultiTracks with the guitar part or harmonies or whatever else is needed. If you can’t find rehearsal tracks, you can find guitar/drum/bass covers on YouTube that you can link in an email or in PCO.
Don’t ask your team to step up to a plate you haven’t yet made accessible. Give them all the resources they need to succeed in their role!
Start Recording Rehearsals
Ok, first objective is to actually have a rehearsal. That might sound silly to some churches, but many don’t even have a midweek rehearsal. They show up Sunday morning, play the songs one time during soundcheck, and then play for the morning.
Starting midweek (or Saturday) rehearsals is imperative if you want to instill a mindset of preparedness in your teams. Once you have midweek rehearsals happening, figure out how to record the board mix. A lot of soundboards have a USB out. You can download the driver online for your computer and plug into your computer, pull up a DAW, and record it. If not, invest in a cheap Zoom field recorder and run a couple of stereo outs into that.
Uploading rehearsal recordings does WONDERS. Not only can it help with reminders on how you may have changed transitions or song arrangements – it also exposes your playing in a way you may have never heard before. There’s nothing quite as humbling as listening to a recording of yourself. The season I began recording myself while practicing, at rehearsals, or in studios is the season I grew the most. Being forced to listen to my own ideas that I thought were “cool and stylistic” lead me to find out a majority of them were poorly executed, sloppy, and not nearly as cool as I thought they were. Start recording rehearsals!
Be the Most Prepared on the Team
People will usually reflect the attitude, energy, character, and actions of their leaders. If you are not consistently the most prepared on the worship team, don’t expect everyone else to be prepared. In fact, imagine the minimal level of preparedness you’d like your team to show up with, and then attempt to double that in your own preparation.
If you know the song keys, chord changes, where the drums enter, the exact song form, what the general drum parts are in the song, and what’s happening in the tracks, you are setting your team up for success. People will see that and want to mirror it.
Don’t expect anything of your teams that you yourself cannot live up to.
About the Author
Chris Fleming is a professional musician from Minneapolis, MN who has played with artists such as TAYA, Big Daddy Weave, and Jason Gray. He is actively involved with the worship music scene and has contributed as a drummer, music director, song writer, and producer for various worship artists and churches locally and nationally. Chris is the Motion Designer at Motion Worship, helping to create motion background collections and countdowns for our subscribers.