How Our Church Recruited Worship Volunteers, Part 2

Yesterday I shared the plan we developed for a wide scale recruitment campaign at our church encompassing four areas of the arts:

  • Dramatic Arts
  • Musical Arts
  • Technical Arts
  • Visual Arts

Some of you may be thinking, “I know that artists do drama, create visual artwork, and perform musically, but technical artists?  What is that?”

Before we move on to what actually happened in the campaign, let’s unpack this issue briefly.  The names we give to people matter.

Most performing artists have the mindset that the “AV guys” (sound, lighting, projection) are glorified computer techies who like to dabble in geeky stuff like sound boards, wires, and gadgets and do not have a clue musically.  Those same “AV guys” often think that performing artists are whiny, finicky, uppity, difficult-to-please people.

Unfortunately, sometimes both are true, but that is not the complete picture.   Churches who stop there will end up with technical teams and artists who are always fighting for power and cutting each other down.

A Different Way

Followers of Christ are called to a different standard.  Jesus prayed that everyone would know we are Christians by our love, not our superiority, technical mastery, or any other prideful and sinful perspective of ourselves.  In that same vein I believe that Christian artists are called to a higher standard where we support and honor each other rather than fighting for supremacy.

Secondly, working on the technical team is a highly creative calling.

  1. Discerning musicians and sound professionals alike will quickly point out that a great sound man is also a good musician.  Mixing a great monitor mix or FOH mix takes not only technical savvy but also great ears and artistic sense.
  2. Lighting is by nature a creative activity.  The brightness, color, and focus of a light has great impact on the mood in a room.
  3. Running projection requires a sense of beat in order for the operator to change the slides at the proper time.
  4. Creating projection slides definitely requires a creative touch.
  5. Even working as a stage hand can be creative, from the way cabling is done (there IS a right way and a wrong way and the right way looks and works much better) to the layout of equipment on a stage.

Those on the technical team deserve to be treated as artists and not as second-class button pushers.  If you call your technical people artists, you are communicating several things to them:

  1. Your work is important.
  2. Quality matters.
  3. Think creatively, not mechanically.
  4. Behind-the-scenes workers are as important (if not more so) than those in the limelight.
  5. The computers, sound and lighting boards, and other equipment are instruments, not tools.
  6. Because you are working with instruments, treat them with care.

By referring to technical volunteers as artists just as we call actors and musicians and painters artists, our hope is to encourage unity rather than factions and creativity rather than rote service.   Time will tell, but I believe the end result will be greater unity and effectiveness, and a greater sense of calling among all of our artists.

What about your church?  Do your technical artists and performing artists work together well, or are they pitted against each other? 

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Rehearsal Leadership for Beginners

Learning to lead a band rehearsal can be a hazardous process.

First of all, accepting the title of “leader” can feel like taking a target and taping it to your shirt.  You get to answer all of the questions and settle all of the disputes.

Once you have accepted that reality you must become comfortable with sharing your heart with people who are not always in your inner circle of friends.  This experience can feel much like undressing in front of strangers (not that I have, but just saying).

Deal with that and you still have not even begun deciding how to structure the rehearsal.

Help?

If you are feeling overwhelmed, let me tell you that I constantly deal with the first two issues.  If you are human you will need to occasionally revisit those things.

What you can do, however, is develop a rehearsal process that is clear and does not add stress to an already challenging experience.

Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Begin on time.  No matter who is there always begin on time.  The key to valuing volunteers is valuing their time.  Those who are late should not penalize those who are on time.  Later that week (NOT after rehearsal) call those who were late and ask them to step up.  They are holding everyone else back.
  2. Always begin with prayer and a brief devotional.  By brief I mean 5-10 minutes maximum followed by 5-10 minutes of sharing and prayer.  The goal of this time is two-fold: 1) to enable everyone to deal with the baggage they bring with them, and 2) to emphasize that our focus is on Christ and worship and not on ourselves or perfection.  Treat your worship team like a small group.
  3. Deal efficiently with sound checks.  One of the most frustrating parts of a rehearsal can be getting the technical issues straight.  Cut this one off at the pass and meet with the technicians ahead of time to decide how you are going to handle set up and sound checks.  Set a time limit that is reasonable but preferably short.  I prefer to have my musicians arrive 15 minutes before rehearsal begins to set up and plug in so time is not lost within rehearsal.  Do not assume anything; communicate, communicate, communicate.
  4. Methodically go through each congregational song. 
    1. If the band has had a recording to work with in preparation, or if the song is familiar, play straight through the song without stopping.
    2. As soon as you end direct them to any major meltdown areas and play through those areas until they are comfortable.
    3. If things sounded fine to you, ask if anyone has an area they want to revisit.
    4. Finally play through the song once more without stopping.
  5. Play congregational sets through.  After you have worked through each congregational song individually, play through any groupings of songs in the service in order to get the transitions figured out and to get the feel of doing the songs as a group.
  6. Work up the special or performance tune, if you have one.  Leave at least 30 minutes for this.  You may even want to play the recording through once before you start, if that would help.
  7. End on time.  The best way you can value a volunteer is to end on time.  If you find you are consistently running over in time, ask yourself several questions:
    1. Am I leading the rehearsal effectively?  Usually there is something we as leaders can do better.
    2. Is the music too hard?  Quite often I have found that I want to do too much hard music for my team and I have had to pull back.
    3. Are we trying to do too much music?  Playing 4 songs well is much better than playing 6 songs moderately well.
    4. Have I allocated enough time for rehearsal?  2 hours should be a given.  1.5 is too short, and 2.5 is really long.
    5. Can we improve how we work with the technicians?  Sometimes the key to improving rehearsals is working more closely with the sound technicians to prepare more effectively for rehearsal.

Ultimately leading rehearsals is a lifetime learning process.  Hang in there.  You can do it.

What rehearsal leadership tips do you have for beginning rehearsal leaders?