Call me “idealistic,” but I could do with a lot less stress these days. Life itself is stressful enough, but if we were to be completely frank and honest with ourselves here, leading Wednesday rehearsals can be one of the most stressful hours we face. Other than Sunday mornings when the sound system is emitting bizarre hums, cracks, and pops, or a choir member has fallen off a riser and broken something important (happened to me), standing before the band and choir at the mid-week can be a challenge unlike any other.
I think I’m stating it closely to say that most people in church leadership outside of music have little concept of what it takes to pull off what we do on Sundays, especially considering the minuscule amount of time that people seem willing to devote to it. I mean, I know children’s ministry is stressful, too, but they’re not on stage every week, living or dying based on how we execute what we tried to practice together. The pastor’s stressed, of course, but he or she doesn’t have to practice their sermons in sync with a group trying to say every word he’s saying with just the right inflection and be musical about it at the same time. We must be crazy people.
But, what if there’s a better way? What if there are a few little things we could put in place that cut rehearsal time way down and cut the stress even more? Wouldn’t that be amazing and wonderful and make you think of cake? Thought so. Me, too. So, here’s what I’ve got. Try these three things throughout one whole choir season and I bet (if I were a betting man) that you’ll find the next season much improved and that your mid-week rehearsals can become one of your favorite hours of the week.
#1 Lose planning procrastination.
Even if you plan songs in advance and meet with your pastor or creative team, if you have one, it’s still quite easy to put off administrative duties until the last minute. What if your overall planning strategy included every detail for prepping for every mid-week rehearsal you’re going to be responsible for? What if you owned the administrative part just like you own the “fun parts” of making music? What if you got real chummy with a calendar and a spreadsheet and turned off the tunes for a week until you got the entire fall planned down to the minute? They say, “The devil’s in the details,” but I say he’s only in them if you’re not. Stop putting off the inevitable and make every rehearsal amazing because you lived it before you got there.
#2 Get a creative team and enlist their support.
From one “Lone Ranger” to another, leadership is lonely enough without hogging all the work. What if you enlisted a few sharp choir members to help with things you could do, but don’t have to do? What if you actually worked on building some authentic community by mentoring and training other leaders who can fill in for you occasionally and even lead rehearsals when you’re there? What if you took a little more of a pastoral mindset to what you’re doing rather than needing to be “the leader” all the time? Would things get better? Of course, this is an affront to your need-to-be-needed-all-the-time thing, but I think we all need to realize that very little of this thing is all about us, anyway. Team life is much better, believe me. Invest in some volunteer help and watch things get better.
#3 Get very, very clear on what you MUST accomplish at each rehearsal.
For some, choir is a social club where they get relational needs met, as well as a spiritual boost through fellowship and prayer. But for you, rehearsal is the time you drill down the songs until people can actually communicate them. What if you allowed for both by finding ways to pre-rehearse your members through social media, CD’s and printed music, and a few special Saturday rehearsals each season? If you’ve done your homework, it makes it much easier for them to do theirs. If you’ve laid out expectations in written form at the beginning of each season and review them often, the expectation that they’re in this to actually give something to God and the congregation can be focused into learning the songs prior to rehearsal.
You have to watch out for copyright laws on burning CDs and running rehearsal copies,but all of this can be covered through CCLI or by contacting Christian Copyright Solutions. Don’t procrastinate on this part, either. Keep it clean. Do it right. Own the responsibility to lead well and rehearsals will cease to be drudgery and can actually become fun. No one wants to be doing a song and dance in front of the choir, pretending to be prepared when you’re not. They see through it and you feel lousy for doing it, so own who you are now for them and be the leader.
Work on these three things well in advance of your season, or, if you haven’t yet and the season’s starting soon, do some catch up work and shine. You can do it. They’ll love you for it and you’ll be happier come Wednesday.
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ABOUT JOHN CHISUM
John Chisum is a long-time Christian music business professional, ordained minister, songwriter, publisher, and worship leader. He is the former Director of Song Development and Copyright for Integrity Media, and the former Vice-president of Publishing for Star Song Communications. John has managed dozens of professional Christian songwriters such as Paul Baloche, Lynn DeShazo, Gary Sadler, and many others, and has had over 400 of his own songs recorded. Along with his business career, John is an internationally respected worship leader and has traveled over one million miles in ministry worldwide, while constantly serving in local churches over the last 30 years. He holds a Masters of Arts in Worship Studies from Liberty University. John and his wife, Donna, have been married for 36 years and live in the Nashville area.