I grew up in Canada and when I was young, nothing except the odd convenience store was open on Sunday’s. Evenings were reserved for family activities which was underscored by most retail closing by dinner time and Mom and Dad adhered to a fairly consistent eight hour work day.
It truly was another world.
Today it’s not unusual for people to work a 50+hr work week. We work from home, the office, the road, anywhere with a wifi connection. The standard nine-to-five is not standard anymore with many employees working any and all hours throughout the day. If you have a family, chances are your kids are involved in multiple mid-week evening activities be it sports, youth group, after-school clubs or music lessons. Church isn’t the only show on Sundays anymore and many congregations have adjusted their service times to accommodate these cultural shifts in how we spend our time.
What do these changes mean for worship ministry?
Part of shepherding a worship team is time management. Unless you work with pro musicians every week, you probably want to rehearse and even if you have a stellar band, there’s great value in simply being together in community. I’ve seen and participated in nearly every iteration conceivable when it comes to worship team rehearsals. Although not every church culture is the same, our global social culture continues to gravitate towards more active and busy lifestyles. Because of this, I’m convinced that Sunday morning worship rehearsals are worth considering. Here’s five reasons why:
- One Less Withdrawal for Busy Families. When you eliminate a mid-week rehearsal you are giving the people you shepherd the gift of time. Nothing is more valuable or precious than time. If you are in a church that encourages small groups, you may be freeing them to attend or use that evening to rest and be with their family. Our families are our first congregations we shepherd. To fail in this arena is to fail everywhere else. Individual family congregations make up the collective larger church congregation. When you free those on your team to make their families a priority, you are contributing to the overall health and unity of your church.
- Guaranteed Attendance and Less Favoritism. It’s often easier to attend a rehearsal when it’s scheduled before the actual event. Additionally, we all understand the stress that’s created when a pivotal player (i.e. a drummer) can’t make a mid-week rehearsal. More often than not, we agree to letting them miss a rehearsal but because their musicianship is critical, we allow them to still play at the event. Although that’s sometimes the best decision, it can communicate favoritism to the team if there’s a sliding scale on who has to attend rehearsal. Sunday morning rehearsals help eliminate this.
- Recruiting Power. What’s an easier sell in today’s social culture, two meetings or one? I think the answer is obvious. Time is the most valuable currency we have to invest in our ministries. If you are looking to increase volunteerism in your church, one of the ways you can attract people is by easing the weight of commitment by consolidating to one, pre-service rehearsal. Who knows – you may open up the floodgates of volunteerism simply by having your rehearsal before the service. This simple shift may be the lynchpin to more involvement.
- Better Musicality. Whether we like it or not, most of us work differently, often better, under some pressure. Sunday morning rehearsals apply that little extra amount of pressure to raise the bar of musicianship. By removing the time between a mid-week rehearsal and the service, musicians have to arrive practiced up, ready to offer their best sacrifice. Equally, Sunday morning rehearsals put pressure on worship leaders to have their services planned ahead, transitions thought out and charts/tracks accurate and ready to go. Because the clock is ticking, worship leaders need to make the most of every minute and have a solid game plan on how to lead their rehearsal in the most effective way.
- You See The Larger Team. One of the things I love about Sunday morning rehearsals is that they provide a window into the larger picture of what it takes to have church on Sunday. There’s a real sense of camaraderie when you are preparing for church at the same time as other staff and volunteers. In our church culture, we gather with all volunteers and staff pre-service to pray. There’s often a sense of anticipation, expectancy and fervency that is cultivated in these moments with the larger team that you don’t necessarily experience at a mid-week rehearsal. Group prayer with the larger team is also an opportunity for the worship team to have proximity to other pastors where they can hear your church’s heart and values reenforced by someone other than you.
This kind of shift from mid-week rehearsals won’t work in every church culture and I’d be ignorant to not mention some of the challenges that come with it.
For starters, it reduces the amount of social time at a rehearsal. Whereas mid-week rehearsals provide opportunity for people to stick around and visit, Sunday morning rehearsals need to be far more calculated and planned. It’s not to say social time still can’t happen, it just may not be as open-ended as it can be following a mid-week rehearsal. In our culture we counter this by providing a number of opportunities through the year to get together as a ministry for fun and fellowship with one another.
One criticism I’ve heard about Sunday morning rehearsals is the lack of time for spiritual preparation as a team. I think it all boils down to how you manage your time. In our culture, we carefully budget the first 15 minutes (after line checks) to do what I routinely say is “the most important thing we will do” – pray.
I’ve gotten creative in how we spend our time praying. Sometimes we open it up for requests, other times we walk through the sanctuary praying aloud for those who will attend, other times we’ll gather in a circle and pray aloud simultaneously for the person next to us. Some weeks I’ll follow our prayer time with department updates, vision casting, testimony or devotion. Regardless on how you spend your time, the fact of the matter is that these elements can still and should happen if you are well-prepared and self-disciplined to stick to the clock. It takes intentional focus but it’s possible and well worth it in light of the above mentioned benefits of Sunday morning rehearsals.
Two key factors for making Sunday morning rehearsals work are hospitality and flexibility.
Asking musicians to arrive early on Sunday requires Saturday night sacrifices. If you want your team well-rested and Spirit-controlled, sleep is a key factor. If you’ve been in Sunday morning ministry for any length of time, you understand that Saturday night social events need to be wrapped up in time to get ample sleep for an early Sunday start. One of the easy ways to take the edge of early mornings is to have high-quality, fresh coffee ready (bottled water for vocalists) and some stamina-sustaining breakfast foods. You may be able to find volunteers in the church who would delight in preparing a breakfast meal for the team to enjoy. This simple act of hospitality is relatively inexpensive and shows appreciation for showing up for an early call time.
I love when couples are able to use their gifts and serve together on worship team. This can be a challenge when they have young children. Your flexibility in either arranging for child care or allowing them to bring their kids to rehearsal may make the difference in whether or not they are able to serve together Sunday mornings.
Making the switch to Sunday morning rehearsals doesn’t work for every church, but if you’ve never considered it, maybe you should? Who knows what blessings and opportunities could be waiting on the other side of this simple shift?
In my experience, Sunday morning rehearsals offer a high return for the sacrifices involved and have the potential to take your worship ministry to the next level.
Next Time: Where Do Great Worship Songs Come From? with Dr. Ron Kenoly