The Art of Last-minute Set Changes
Last-minute changes to your set list are simply a part of the worship leader and musician’s life. They simply will be asked of you; it comes with the territory. Sometimes this is a result of a quick conversation with the pastor as to which direction he feels led, a sudden desire to make a change in the program, or the prodding of the Spirit either before or during the worship portion of the service. We as worship leaders—meaning the whole worship team including the musicians—must be prepared to adapt to such changes at any given time. An essential factor that will allow you to accomplish a smooth transition away from what’s been rehearsed is clear communication with your band and singers about the possibility of this situation occurring at any time. As leaders, it’s our job to make eye contact, use clear hand signals, and prep our team to be as dependent on our leadership at that moment, as we are on God’s direction.
Moving with the Spirit
An open heart and positive mindset to changes must be communicated and encouraged in a worship team. When leading your team out of a comfort zone they might be used to, a worship leader must maintain an understanding approach toward them. If they seem reluctant to move in an unrehearsed direction or away from the set list at hand during your worship time, it’s the leader’s job to quickly gain their trust and bring them along. With efficient communication and a genuine desire to help from the leader, they will soon catch on and follow.
Avoiding negative attitudes when unexpected changes are required is important for team morale and also key to what is communicated/ministered to the congregation. A solo may be omitted from the set or a certain song you were really looking forward to teaching the church: With all of that—and more—it is important that we are still able to flow and keep our focus on giving God all of the glory that he alone deserves.
Serving Beyond Your Comfort Level
Although last-minute changes are not comfortable for everyone, they are often necessary in order to move through our worship set effectively. Whether this consists of changing, omitting or adding a song, we find that as we operate in obedience with a desire to please God, we make room for a higher level of his manifest Presence (Ps 133). Our focus must always be on God and his people, knowing we as leaders are vessels that he desires to use in order to serve them. When we come to this realization, it stops being about our personal choice when asked to make an alteration to our list.
Listening Fuels Communication
We need to be open to the voice of God and what he wants to communicate with his people in regards to the season our churches may be in. This is where clear communication with your pastor is key. What works for me is to let him know the songs I’ve prayerfully selected and be open to any changes he may suggest or even open to questions as to why I felt led to select such songs. These two elements, without sounding too cliché, can either make or break your service or even potentially shift the congregation away from the direction God is intending for your house and vision. As you submit to leadership, so will the rest of your team, and together you will bear the fruits of your obedience and develop the ability to flow no matter what the circumstances may be.
Cultivating this type of environment with a worship team is just as important as rehearsing a normal routine. You’ll find that it will allow you to move together limitlessly and truly experience genuine moments in God’s presence.
Quick Tips: Last-minute Changes
- Maintain a healthy and open dialogue with your pastor and team.
- Know that there will be last minute changes.
- Prepare yourself and your team for them.
- Rehearse clearly established eye/hand communication signals.
- Stay positive, even when the change is painful, and your team will follow your lead.
- Keep your focus on God and the congregation, not yourself.
- Stay tuned to the Spirit’s leading.
Eric Lopez currently serves as the worship leader at Centro De La Familia Cristiana (Christian Family Center), a Hispanic/multicultural church in Orlando, FL. As well, Eric is a part owner of Melrose Music Group, an independent record label distributed exclusively by Universal Music.