Managing a worship band is challenging, and it takes special set of skills to keep everyone on track. Here are 7 mistakes I’ve seen even experienced worship leaders make on occasion:
1. Not giving musicians enough time to work up songs.
Unless you have a group of pro musicians on staff, it’s unlikely that sending your band members the setlist a day before rehearsal will give them enough time to work it up. Give your musicians as much lead time as possible to work up sets will always result in more productive band practices.
2. Not giving band members enough practice resources.
Most musicians (and particularly volunteer musicians) will not be able to work up music just by listening to a youtube video. If you want your team to succeed, chart it out and let them have it long in advance. Link everyone to a Dropbox folder with charts, lyrics, mp3s of each track, and any backing tracks (or use a service like Planning Center). Yes, it’s a pain to create everything, but it’ll save you hours of group rehearsal time.
3. Changing songs last minute.
Don’t do it, unless there’s absolutely no way around it. Last minute changes guarantees that your musicians will not be prepared for the song, and even the most seasoned band will not be at their best if they’re throwing a track together last minute.
4. Changing the key signatures of songs last minute.
Again, this probably won’t be an issue for a pro musician, but if you’re working with volunteers this could throw some of them. Work with your singers before you show up to practice, and teach them how to identify which key will work best for them.
5. Letting young or inexperienced musicians waste practice time.
Don’t let practices get bogged down with you trying to coach one musician. If a young musician struggles in practice, stay afterward with them to work on the problem areas. I even worked with a church for awhile that offered free music lessons for musicians that played on Sunday. Remember to respect more seasoned player’s time.
6. Letting musicians repeatedly show up late to practice.
This is an easy one to say, but hard to implement. When a musician shows up late to practice repeatedly, it wastes the other musician’s time and sends a message that slacking is okay. Incompetent worship leaders usually either get openly angry with the late person in front of the other musicians (not professional) or act as if it’s not a big deal (also unprofessional). Great worship leaders will pull the musician aside after practice and lay out something like below:
1. Ask how they’re doing, what’s going on. Hear their side of the story.
2. Explain why it’s so important to be on time to practices.
3. Explain that this time it’s fine, but that they next time he/she shows up late xxx will happen, and then if they’re late after that, xx will happen (and stick to it!)
4. Repeat why it’s so important to be on time, and how you’d like to work with them by scheduling them less, helping them get a ride, etc. Explain how valuable they are to the group.
7. Not giving enough musical direction/giving too much musical direction.
Finding the balance between too much direction and too little is challenging. The great worship leaders I’ve worked with land right in the middle- they seem to have a 6th sense about what to work on, and what to let slide. If you’re not sure where you land as a leader in this area, record yourself at the practice and then look back at it later in the week. What worked? What did you spend too much time on? Reviewing your own performance can help you see big gains in how great the sound is on Sunday morning.