Running Efficient and Effective Worship Rehearsals

This month I’m giving you another free lesson from my brand new Musical Excellence Course! This time we’re talking about running efficient and effective worship rehearsals! Did you know it’s possible to get through a full 5-song worship set twice within one hour, with everyone feeling comfortable with their parts and excited about the upcoming service? Yep! It’s possible, and in this episode I’m going to show you how! After listening you’ll know how to lead better worship rehearsals!

This lesson is part of the Worship Ministry Training Academy. Inside the academy you’ll get 138 more lessons just like this one, plus live monthly training, exclusive interviews, and personalized help to grow as a worship leader! Best news is, you can try it absolutely free for 10 days. Sign up HERE

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Alex | In today’s episode, I’m going to teach you how to run efficient and effective rehearsals that help you and your team. Sounds awesome and feel confident and excited for your upcoming services. Hello and welcome to another episode of the Worship Ministry Training Podcast, a monthly podcast for for worship leaders and worship team members. My name is Alex and Fijian. I’m so glad you are here tuning in, investing in yourself, growing and developing. Because when you get better, your team gets better, your church gets stronger, and your community is impacted by what you.

Alex | Do, because what you do matters.

Alex | So thanks for taking the time to invest in yourself. Thanks for trusting me to teach you. If you are a new listener, I would encourage you to go check out all of our eight years worth of previous episodes. We have tons of episodes and each episode is practical and on point and stays on one topic. So go dig through the topics that will be helpful to you in your ministry right now and dive in and learn and grow and develop in those areas and hopefully strengthen yourself and your team and your ministry. Most of us have been part of frustrating rehearsals. I know I have. I’m sure you have. Hopefully we aren’t the ones running those frustrating rehearsals, but if you are, or if you have a hard time with your rehearsals, or you’re not happy with how your team is sounding after rehearsal, I have a very practical episode for you today. I’m going to be giving you some tips on how to run efficient and effective rehearsals. Those two words are important so quickly, how can you do it all within 1 hour, which is possible? And how can you make sure everyone walks away feeling confident and excited about the upcoming service, knowing their parts, knowing how service is going to go?

Alex | That is what we’re talking about in today’s episode. And today’s episode is actually part of our Worship Ministry Training Academy, where I have 138 other lessons just like this one. That’s right, 138 video lessons on all sorts of aspects of your worship ministry. How to make your ministry stronger, how to make yourself stronger as a musician, as a worship leader. So if you’re helped by this episode, and if you’re looking for practical training to improve yourself and your ministry, then.

Alex | I really want to encourage you to.

Alex | Check out the Worship Ministry Training Academy. Here’s the great news. It’s completely free to try for ten days. You have ten days, full access, completely free. And you’re going to get ten indepth courses. We cover things like vocal technique, breathing technique, set building, musical excellence, team culture, running, efficient rehearsals, and more. And you’ll also get live interviews with amazing worship leaders. I’m interviewing Andy Rosier from Vertical Worship next week. And the following month, I’m interviewing Brandon Lake. So if you want to be on those interviews live and ask your own questions to our guests, you can join the Academy. And besides those interviews, you also get live monthly workshops with me. Last month, we talked about how to rebuild our team after COVID, and next month, we’re talking about how to keep ourselves spiritually fresh as worship leaders. And again, this is all free to try for ten days, and after ten days, it’s only $19 a month. That’s right. So I would encourage you to sign up at worship I would love to meet you inside of the Academy. All right, let’s get into today’s episode on running efficient and effective rehearsals.

Alex | Let’s outline where we are going. In this video, there are four components to a great rehearsal a spiritual component, a sound check component and arranging portion, and a final run through. So let’s talk about each of these elements in turn. Number one, a spiritual time. A spiritual time. So as your team arrives, you want to make sure each member feels welcomed. You want to greet them, you want to talk to them. You want to ask them how their week is going. You want to make them feel cared about and that you’re actually grateful that they’re there.


Alex | You want them to feel like, man, I’m so happy that my leader is actually thankful that I took the time out of my busy schedule and I came to church to rehearse. You want them to know that you’re appreciative of that. And once everyone arrives, then you want to begin with a spiritual segment to get your whole team’s hearts focused on the Lord. That’s the goal with this time, is to get everyone’s hearts focused on the Lord, because people are coming from work, people are coming from school, maybe from their family time, maybe it’s been a hectic day. Maybe they just changed a whole bunch of diapers. I don’t know. And it’s normal for their brains and their hearts to be scattered and for them to be carrying the weight of the day as they come to rehearsal. And you want to take that first moment of rehearsal to get their minds back on the Lord and to remember why they are there. And so at the bare minimum, as the leader, you should be praying at the start of your rehearsal and have the team this is the bare minimum on stage, praying for the rehearsal, praying for each of the team members, and praying for whatever else the Lord puts on your heart that’s the bare minimum is to start with prayer.

Alex | I know some worship teams don’t even do that, so I’m just encouraging you do that as the bare minimum, but a better, more robust time would be preferred. And so what do I mean by that? I mean this get everyone off the stage, sit somewhere in the pews or somewhere maybe on the steps of your stage, and do a short Bible study and prayer time. And one suggestion that I always tell worship leaders to start with is to read a psalm together. So pick a psalm, read one psalm per week. Have each person read a verse, go around the circle until the psalm is done and ask them what they thought. Ask them what jumped out to them. Ask them what the Lord spoke to them. And have a little bit of a time discussing and just keep asking, what did the Lord speak to you? What did the Lord show you what we jumped out to you? If you don’t want to do that, just do a short devotional thought. Hey guys, in my Bible reading time, the Lord spoke this to me. I just wanted to share with you guys. Or you can assign different team members to bring a devotional thought each week so that they get some spiritual responsibility put on their shoulders and they grow through that as well.

Alex | Then you can take prayer requests. Hey, what do you need prayer for? What do you need prayer for? Okay, let’s all pray for the person to our right. And you should do this every week if you can, especially if you have a mid week rehearsal. There is no excuse to not do this. And it should take about ten to 20 minutes tops. Okay, you don’t want to go too long because you do actually need to practice the songs, but you want to get your team’s heart focused and centered on the Lord. So remember, we are not primarily worship leaders to make music. We’re worship leaders to make disciples. And this is one way that you can do that. So start every rehearsal with a spiritual component. Once you’ve prayed, you want to move on to the second component, which is sound check. Sound check should be the first thing you do before you actually start working on the songs because it’s hard to rehearse if you can’t hear what you need to hear. It’s hard to rehearse if you can’t hear what you need to hear.

Alex | That’s why sound check is the first.

Alex | Musical thing that you should do. And this is going to look different for every church depending on the sound system you have, whether you have in ears, whether you can control your own mix with a phone app or an iPad, whether you have to ask the guy from the sound board, maybe you guys have wedges. But if you have your own ears, one way that you can do a quick sound check is to play through the intro verse and chorus of a song. So hey guys, we’re going to play through the intro verse and chorus of our first song. Let’s go ahead and play. Then we’re going to stop and then we’re going to adjust our mixes on our own because you can control it on your tablet. So that’s one way to do it. You play through just the short portion of the song, you make your tweaks, you try again, hopefully everyone’s happy. If you don’t have the ability to set your own mixes, then you need the sound guy to do it. And this. You can do a similar approach where you play through the introvert course of a song, but then you have to ask the sound guy for adjustments to each person mix.

Alex | And the key to doing this is for you as the leader with the microphone to command this time. So you play through the one, two, three introvert chorus.

Alex | You play through that.

Alex | Then you ask, hey Mr. Drummer, what do you need? Okay, he needs this. This. Hey, Mr. Bass Player. What do you need? OK, he needs this. This. Hey, Mrs. Singer. What do you need? She needs this. This is you command that time. You be the liaison between the band and the back of the room sound engineering team. Okay? You command that time because otherwise it can get too sloppy. People are shouting from the back, shouting across from the stage to the back. That’s no good. Okay, so you ask everyone what they need, make the adjustments and then play through that introvert chorus again. Ask if there are any final adjustments and hopefully you’ve just been able to get through a sound check where everyone gets what they need within seven minutes.


Alex | That’s the maximum amount of time that you should be spending on a sound check. Do not let the time slip away during this portion of rehearsal because that’s going to crunch the actual important part of your rehearsal. Another additional optional element to your sound check is to do a vocal check. A vocal check. What is a vocal check? This is where you have the band loop through the chorus of a song over and over and over while your vocalists sing their harmonies at their loudest volume. So they repeat the chorus. You guys sing it over and over and over with the band playing. And the sound guy is sitting in the back, he turns up one fader, one vocalist at a time. He makes the EQ and compression adjustments that he needs to make, turns that vocalist down, turns the next vocalist up and adjust that one until he loops through all the vocalists and then the band can land it and you guys are done and everyone’s happy and all of your vocalists sounds amazing and pristine and clear and beautiful and it’s going to be great. So that is one way that you can do a vocal check to improve the vocals of your team.

Alex | Now why do you do it with the full band behind you? Because you want all of the drums and everything in their vocal mics because that’s actually what is going to be coming out of the PA during a service. So you don’t want to have it all isolated and quiet and make adjustments that are not actually going to reflect reality.


Alex | That’s the sound check portion. Sound check with vocal check and once you’re done with that, you’re going to move into the third portion of our rehearsal which is the arrangement portion. The arrangement portion. And this is where you’re working on each of the songs as a unit, as a standalone unit, you’re working to make each song as good and as strong and as beautiful as it can be. You’re not thinking about the whole set yet and the flow and you’re just thinking about this song. Start and stop.


Alex | And your job during this first portion of practicing the songs is to stick to one song until it sounds great. And obviously you can’t stick to one song for the whole 45 minutes time block, but within reason you’re going to focus on this song. And then when you’re done with that song, you’re going to focus on the next one and focus on the next one. So let me talk a little bit about this. So what you want to do in the arrangement section is you want to work out any kinks. You want to dial in all the parts and you want to make sure everybody knows what to play and when. And the key to having an effective arrangement portion of rehearsal is that you as the leader gives as much clear direction as possible. The more direction you give, the more they can follow and do what you need.


Alex | And so one way that I like to do this is before we even start rehearsing a song. Before we start running through the first song, I will take 30 seconds and talk through any potential trouble spots or anything specific that I think the band needs to know. So you’ll be like, hey guys, we’re going to do verse, chorus, chorus versus talking through song structure would be appropriate here in this 1st 30 seconds. Or you could say before we get to this song and get to the bridge, I want to play through the bridge chords on my acoustic guitar only or on my keyboard only so that you can hear the timing. Because the timing of the chord changes are a little bit tricky and a little bit weird and it has this passing chord here. So just listen to me, I’m going to play it and then do you guys feel comfortable with that? Okay, great. So that’s what we’re going to do when we get to the bridge. Now let’s start the song. So basically you’re going to talk through anything upfront within a 30 to 45 2nd window. This could even include things like I want you to sing verse one with me, I want you to come in with harmony on verse two, and I want you three to sing with me for the first chorus.

Alex | So that is the prestarting 32nd 45 2nd instructional speech you give at the beginning of each new song during this arrangement portion. And that way everyone knows what is expected. You’ve worked out any kinks in advance and now you can actually start the song and hopefully get all the way through it without stopping. That’s the goal, is that you can get through a song without stopping. So while you’re rehearsing the song, you’ve given your 32nd instruction. Now everyone’s playing along with the song. Your job as the leader, and this can be tricky, but you need to do it is to listen. You need to listen to what everyone’s playing. You need to make sure that all the chords are correct, that people are playing, that nothing is clashing, nobody is stepping on each other’s parts, that the harmonies sound right, that there’s no weird notes there. You need to actively listen. And what does that mean? It means that you should have prepared your part so well that you don’t have to think about your chords and your words and what you’re singing. You should know those things so well so that you can focus on what everyone else is doing and that you can make sure that nothing is going wrong with the band or with the singers.

Alex | You need to focus on them because you’re going to be giving direction to them to make them sound the best that they can. And so as you’re playing the song, you’re listening and you’re making mental notes. You’re making mental notes of things that you want them to address after you get through the song. So once you get through the song, you’re going to bring up your mental notes library and be like, hey, I noticed, piano player, you were playing something, an electric guitar player, you’re playing a different thing. And I felt like it was clashing. Can I hear just you two play those parts together? No one else played? Just you two play? Okay, actually, do you guys hear how that’s clashing? How about you, piano player, you simplify? Or how about you, electric guitar player? You simplify. Let the piano whatever you decide to do, but at the end of the song, you stop, you address any pain points, hey, I noticed someone was singing the wrong part in the harmony. Or hey, Mr. Bass player, I noticed in the chorus both times you went to the wrong chord. Just make sure it’s the E, not the A.


Alex | So let’s just make sure we’re going there. So that’s what you do. You play through the song, you make mental notes, and then at the end, you address it. Hey, could you hit an uplifter right there, Mr. Percussionist?

Great. Awesome.

Alex | Thank you. Oh yeah, and the bridge, I want to sub drop. We’re going to break on four. I noticed only you two did a break, but can we all do a break together? That would be great. So that’s what you want to do. Now, if you’re playing the song and you can give quick correction over the microphone without stopping, feel free to do that as well. You don’t have to stop a song to give direction. You can keep playing and be like, hey, Mr. Drummer, can you go to the ride? Or, hey, percussion is bringing the tambourine. Or, hey, let’s do a little break on four right here.


Alex | 1234. You can do all that without stopping the song, but anything that takes more explanation, that’s where you want to make a mental note. When the song is done with your first pass through it, make the changes and do that again. You don’t want to stop the song in the middle, but you do sometimes need to you do need to stop the song sometimes and be like, oh, guys, this is a hot mess. Like, hey, the rhythm is way off kicking bass. You guys are not playing the same rhythm pattern. Let’s stop let’s loop that chorus over until we get that rhythm right. Okay, now let’s take the song from the top and let’s go from the top. So that’s how you arrange the song. And then once you’ve got that song sounding good, you move on to the next song. You give the 32nd intro speech about what you want, what tricky parts we need to figure out any vocalist direction. Jump into that song, try not to stop it. But if you do need to stop it, pick it back up where you left off. That’s one important aspect of running this part of the rehearsal is to keep things moving.

Alex | So let’s say you do have to stop and work out a rhythm, bass, and drum thing. Like, okay, let’s loop that. Okay, we’ve looped it. We’ve played it five times.

Alex | That sounds right.


Alex | Okay, let’s take it from the second chorus so you’re getting clear direction. Let’s take it from second chorus. 1234. Everyone’s back in. Don’t diligeally, don’t waste time. Just fix the mistake. Move things forward. You don’t want to get stuck, and you don’t want a dillydally, and you don’t want to just let time dawdle away and drain away. And pretty soon, you’re like, in a two and a half hour rehearsal, and everyone wants to go home and be with their families. We’ve all been in those rehearsals, so keep things moving.


Alex | One thing I’ll say about this, during this ranging section of the rehearsal, make sure you’re getting a lot of encouragement, a lot of encouragement, a lot of positive feedback, okay? You don’t just want to ask for what you need. You don’t want to just say, hey, that was wrong. You want to be like, oh, that’s a great fill. Oh, I love that. Hey, Luis, that’s awesome on the keys. Or oh, I heard that. My key. Oh, man, those base whatever. So show them that you’re stoked with what they’re doing, too, because if you praise the good stuff, they’ll do more of the good stuff. Okay, so you want to include equal parts encouragement with your instructions and requests.


Alex | It shouldn’t be too lopsided one way or the other. You want to challenge people, but you also want them to feel appreciated as well. Okay, so once you’ve finished the song, then ask, does anyone have any questions? Anyone have any questions? Okay, no questions. Let’s go ahead and move into the next song, this song number two, and then you give your 32nd spiel about what you want for the next song. And here’s a really important little trick. Instead of jumping into the next song, go back to the outro of the previous song that you were just practicing. Play the outro, land that song and then start your next song. That little trick gives you an extra practice for the transition. It helps you feel how that transition is going to feel, and it gives the band a little bit of extra context for, hey, we’re coming out of this song, we’re going into this song. So before you jump into your next song, give your little 32nd spiel, go back to the outro of the previous song, play the outro, and then go into practicing and arranging your next song. Do this for all four songs in your set and follow this pattern.

Alex | When you get to the last song of the set, you’re done, have everybody tune up, and you’re going to move into your final portion of your rehearsal, which is your full run through. Your full run through is exactly what it sounds like it is. You running through the full song set as if it was rehearsal, meaning, I’m going to talk here, I’m going to pray here, I’m going to have the pad here. We’re going to delay starting this song. This girl’s going to lead. It everything as if you were going to do the service.

Alex | You’re going to do it like that.

Alex | In this rehearsal, including praying. You don’t have to actually say the full prayer, but let’s say you get to the end of the second song and you plan to pray there. So you’re just going to say, okay, here, I’m praying, I’m praying, I’m praying. Louise, keep playing a little bit more on the guitar. I’m praying. In Jesus name, amen. Okay, song four. Okay, so you want to run this full run through as if people were in the room, as if it was church service. You want to include every element that’s going to happen in the real service. In your final run through. You want to go from top to bottom as if it’s the real thing, doing any sort of vocal cues. Like if you’re playing and you’re like, sing it again. Whatever you would say to your church, say it in rehearsal because it’s good to practice those things so that you don’t trip on your words and do a funny vocal cue in the actual service. Do everything. And if you don’t know what a vocal queue is, you can watch my increasing congregational engagement course. But a vocal cue is when you say or sing something that helps the church, feel encouraged to sing out more.


Alex | So do everything like it’s the real service and try not to stop unless there is a complete disaster.


Alex | And here’s a really important little pro tip that could make a huge difference for you if it’s possible. Record your full run through on a USB stick or on your soundboard and grab that file after rehearsal and send it to your team. Ask them to listen to it. Ask them to make any changes or adjustments. In fact, you can specify changes if you listen to it first. Before you send it, you can say, hey, guys, here’s the MP3 from rehearsal. Mr. Bass player, please change this. Don’t play here. Mr. Drummer too busy on that section. You can send notes there, and they can then make changes before the service and sound even better for the service. So that small pro tip of recording your final run through, sending it to your team with instructions, it’s going to make your team so much better. So that’s your fourth component is your final run through. Once you finish that run through, ask your team any questions from anyone? Any confusion about anything? Does everybody know what they’re doing? Does anyone want to do anything one last time before we leave? And once you get all the negative answers, no, we’re good, we’re happy, we’re feeling comfortable, then say, great, let’s pray, and send everyone home with some encouragement about how grateful you are for them.

Alex | And just be super appreciative because you can never encourage and appreciate people too much. Okay, so those are the four components of a great rehearsal and how you can maximize each element. And the key to running an efficient and effective rehearsal is clarity, direction, and keeping things moving. Clarity, direction, and keeping things moving. You, as the leader, have to give clear direction, and you also have to keep the rehearsal on track. So don’t get stuck too long on any one of these elements.


Alex | So you know that you’ve been successful in your rehearsal. If everyone is leaving feeling confident, comfortable, and excited about the upcoming service, if people are feeling confident, comfortable, and excited about the upcoming service, you know you’ve done a good job leading rehearsal. But if people are flustered, frustrated, stressed, and unsure, then you need to keep working on your rehearsals. And don’t worry, I know that you’ll get better with time, and everything takes practice, including practicing. Just be sure to be a confident leader and to actually lead your team. And like I said, I do have a full mini course on rehearsals that you can check out in the course library. It goes into even greater detail than what I shared here, so check that out if you haven’t. And in the next lesson or two, I will put some video files of me actually running rehearsals at my church so you can watch these principles in practice. Now, if you don’t want to watch me leave rehearsal, that’s fine. Just skip those one or two videos and go on to the next one. All right?

Alex | I hope you were helped by today’s episode. If you know someone who would find it helpful, please forward it on to them. Send it on, text it on, email it onto them. Let’s spread the love and let’s encourage one another with these trainings. And be sure to check out Worshipmaster to start your ten day free trial and get access to indepth courses, live monthly trainings, exclusive interviews and personalized help from me and our supportive community. Hope to see you inside the Worship Ministry training academy. Otherwise, I’ll see you next month for another helpful episode. God bless.