"Best Practice"
Worship Leader Course

3 Secrets to Make Preparation a (REAL) Priority for Your Team

Secret #1: Teach Your Team to Practice

Hi Worship Leader!

I LOVED it when bar band / cover band musicians joined my team.

I’ll tell you why in a second, but first...

This is Part 1 of the 3-part email course called BEST PRACTICE: 3 Secrets to Make Preparation a (REAL) Priority for Your Team. Today, we’re focused on the first secret to level up your team’s preparation.

If you don’t wish to receive this course, please click the “Not Interested” link towards the bottom of this email.

So why did I love it when bar band musicians joined my team?

Let me tell you about Bill (which his real name, cuz he wouldn’t mind that I shared this).

Bill came from the bar band / cover band world. That guy knew what it meant to prepare a song.

He learned his parts—before rehearsal. He also listened to others during rehearsal to see how he was fitting in. (And would kindly call them out if they were stepping on his part.)

Even when Bill would tell me before rehearsal, “Jon, I’ve hardly had time to practice,” I still knew we’d be OK.

His “hardly practiced” still beat most of my church musicians' efforts (More on 'church musicians' in a minute.) And when Bill was a little rough at rehearsal (which was rare), I knew he’d have it together by Sunday.

But then, there are the dreaded ‘church musicians.'

These are the folks that had most of their experience in churches—and not the kind of churches that demand musical excellence.

One such musician was a guitarist name Kevin. (Not his real name.)

Kevin had skills. At one point in his life, he had practiced hard to get to the level he was at. But now, he was just coasting. And he had the attitude “this is just church."

Part of the problem was this: Kevin once served under a worship leader who stressed over and over that Sunday was NOT a performance. While I agree with that worship leader, Kevin unfortunately interpreted "not a performance" as "don't bother practicing."

Kevin practiced just enough to not play the wrong chords on Sunday. And he did so with his head buried in his music stand.

So that brings me to Secret #1 in our email course, BEST PRACTICE: 3 Secrets to Make Preparation a (REAL) Priority for Your Team.

This is a "secret" most worship leaders don’t like:

Secret #1:
You Have to Teach Your Team

"Seriously?!?" you’re thinking, "These people are GROWN-UPS! I have to teach them to practice?"

Unfortunately, yes.

(Unless you're in a large church with a deep pool of potential pro-level players. But those folks come with their own set of issues—which is beyond the scope of this email course.)

I'll get into why you have to teach your team to practice in a second, but first, you need to know that there are five angles from which you need to teach preparation:

  1. WHY
  2. HOW
  3. WHAT
  4. WHEN

Let me go through these five angles quickly: (By the way, whenever I use the word musician in these emails, I’m always including instrumentalists AND vocalists.)

1. Why

If your team doesn’t understand WHY practice matters, they won’t make the investment of time and energy.

Last week, I sent an email getting us ready for this course. In it, I gave three big reasons why practice is critical.

(By the way, if you missed that email last week with the three reasons why practice matters, email me back and I’ll resend it to you.)

There are a lot more than three reasons. In our flagship course on preparation called “Practice Matters”, I spend an entire module teaching WHY preparation is so critical—musically, relationally, and even biblically.

So, please, don't discount the WHY. You're team needs to know the reasons to why practice is essential.

2. How

In this world of Youtube trained musicians, many of them have never had to "perfect a piece for performance.”

No recitals. No concerts. No music juries.

By the way, for our conversation here, I’m defining performance this way: "Playing with other musicians in front other people." Not, “Look at me and how great I am.”

Many church musicians don’t understand what it takes to get their part ready to play live with other musicians. And the ones that do probably could use some advance practice techniques, like...

  • memorizing songs...
  • learning new songs in less time...
  • playing with a click...

Bottomline: HOW TO PRACTICE has to be a part of your team member development process. (It shouldn't require someone joining a Pearl Jam cover band to know how to prepare a song.)

3. What

The third critical angle to train your team is "WHAT to practice." Much of this relies on you. You have to be clear what you want for each song.

For example...

  • Do you want your acoustic guitarist to play what’s on the recording—capo’d at the 5th fret, playing a finger picking pattern? Or is OK if she just wood-chops on open chords?
  • Do you want the "tribal" tom sound on the drums? If you don’t tell your drummer that, he'll just play his go-to beat: eighth note high hat with the snare on two and four.You know the one: do-do-chi-do, do-do-chi-do, do-do-chi-do, do-do-chi-do, fill: DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA!! do-do-chi-do, do-do-chi-do...

Here’s a super-practical tip to make communicating "What to practice" easier:

If you do the same songs often enough (and you should), create a default arrangement guide that includes the form (or sequence) and a bullet list for what each instrument should play.

It takes a little time for each song, but the next time you schedule that song, it's DONE. And your team will appreciate the consistency and communication.

And that's critical to remember:

  • 99.984% of your team WANTS guidelines and specifics.
  • They want to do well.
  • They want to know what your expectations and standards are.

So teach them what to practice.

Third critical angle to teach preparation is...


"When to practice” sounds like a no-brainer. But again, don’t assume people know.

Here’s an example of spelling out the when. I call it the "24-hour rule." It goes like this:

After you learn the song, make sure you practice again within 24-hours before rehearsal, and again within 24 hours before the service.

Simple enough. And not only have you communicated that you expect practice before rehearsal and Sunday, you've subtlety told them to "learn" the song before rehearsal.

And finally, the last angle is one of the toughest things to teach:

5. How Much

As worship leaders, we say to our team members, "show up to rehearsal prepared."

But what does that mean?

We need to define for our team how prepared is “prepared." In other words, team members need to know how much to practice.

Setting time guidelines for personal practice is tempting, but it won’t work. You probably have a person on your team who can invest 45 minutes and be 95% ready for Sunday.

Another person may need to spend 45 minutes to just get comfortable with one song.

So mandating specific practice timeframes doesn't work. (Plus, it’s good way to make grownups feel like they’re being treated like children.)

To get your team to know how much to practice is to define what your team's minimum level of preparation LOOKS like.

So what does your minimum level of preparation look like for rehearsal? Here are few things you might include:

  • Everyone knows their unique parts.
  • People might still be looking at the chart, but they’re not struggling to keep up.
  • Vocalists and instrumentalists are listening to each other.

And here’s what a minimum level of preparation for Sunday services might look like:

  • Heads aren’t buried in the music stand.
  • Team members are confident and expressive.
  • Most of our actively rotated songs are memorized; the newer songs are almost there.

So take some time to write what "prepared" looks like for both rehearsals and services.

Wrap Up

So those are the five angles to teach personal practice:

  1. WHY practice matters.
  2. HOW to practice effectively.
  3. WHAT to practice.
  4. WHEN to practice.
  5. And HOW MUCH to practice to be fully prepared.

Now, if you found this email helpful, you’re going to LOVE part 2. I’ll give you a hint—it’s all about ELIMINATING your team members' EXCUSES for not practicing enough.

That’s coming this Thursday morning. In the meantime, take a few minutes to do the following:

  1. Email me back your biggest frustration related to preparation. Whatever that is, I'd love to hear it. I'll help point you towards a solution if I can.
  2. Spend 10 or 15 minutes just writing out what “prepared” should look like for your team for both rehearsals and services. (See #5, "How Much")
  3. Be watching your inbox Thursday morning around 8am. (Or click Part 2 if it's already released.)

I’m excited for what this free course, BEST PRACTICE: 3 Secrets to Make Preparation a (REAL) Priority for Your Team will do for your worship ministry!

Talk soon!




Jon Nicol
Creator of the course Practice Matters |


© 2024 | Matt Miller

Privacy Policy     |     Terms of Service