Sundays come around with amazing regularity…just about every week! But do your band rehearsals happen with the same frequency?
I’ve been leading worship at EBC for a few years now, but we haven’t always had weekly rehearsals. In fact, it’s only been within the past couple of years that we’ve moved from a fortnightly to a weekly pattern of rehearsing. This was due in part to a change in circumstances with the set up and line up of our bands; we had been going through a process of bringing together our morning teams into one big ensemble. Whereas before our different morning teams met on separate nights of the week, now that we were all together for Sunday morning it was necessary to rehearse together on the same night so that we could learn the same songs, get used to playing together and build up a sense of team.
There was also a resistance on my part to only rehearse songs for Sunday at rehearsal. Why did I think this way? Well, because I was keen to do different things in our rehearsals: learn new songs, practice improvisation, work on playing together better as a band. I didn’t want our rehearsals to be purely about rehearsing Sunday, and at the same time I didn’t want to take up extra evenings in the week when our volunteers were already giving up their time.
Now that we are rehearsing weekly in a co-ordinated and structured way, it has improved the quality and effectiveness of our Sunday services immensely. We get regular feedback from our leaders and congregation about the difference they are hearing, and seeing. And the band have more confidence in what they play and sing, as well as being encouraged in what they are serving on a Sunday.
On a practical level, we rota the bands a term at a time so that everyone knows their commitments for upcoming Sundays. Songs are chosen by the worship leader two weeks in advance, which gives the band a chance to practice them. Then we rehearse them the Tuesday before Sunday. This pattern did mean that we weren’t all able to play regularly together…so we soon introduced a second fortnightly rehearsal in a different room on the same night. This is open to all that aren’t playing that week, as well as being an opportunity for new musicians to come along and join the team. We take the opportunity to learn new songs, practice arrangements and concentrate on specific areas or sections…all of the areas that I was concerned about losing. And recently we have been able to use this additional meeting time to introduce our younger people to the worship team.
We used to rehearse before the service on a Sunday; putting the time and preparation in during the week means that we are able to have a relatively concise soundcheck and top and tail on a Sunday morning. Where there used to be pressure before the service, we now have breathing room before a service to prepare and pray. And having a regular weekly rehearsal together has meant that we are much closer personally, spiritually and musically as a team.