10 Mistakes Leaders Make Trying To Get Their Team To Practice

Does this sound familiar?

Several of your team members show up to rehearsal unprepared.

So what happens to that rehearsal? Most of the time is spent figuring the basics of the song—the form, the individual parts, starts and stops, who’s playing, and so on.

So then, during your Sunday morning warm-up and soundcheck, you’re still working out certain parts of the song. AND you have yet to have a full run-through of all of the songs, let alone practice any of the transitions between the tunes.

So you muddle through the first service. And then, finally, in your second service, things start clicking and feeling a little bit better.

And as you walk off the platform after the second service music set, one of your players inevitably says, “Gosh, it’d be nice to play that set one more time; it was really starting to come together.”

Besides your sudden urge to punch that player in the forehead, what’s the problem with that picture?

Your team missed a BIG step. They didn’t practice BEFORE they came to rehearsal.

The “lack of practice” by team members is a HUGE issue for so many worship leaders. Most of the leaders I talk would put it in their Top Five Frustration list.

Moving your team towards more effective practice and preparation requires one BIG thing: LEADERSHIP.

Without intentional leadership on your part, your team will stay stuck with their MO. Which is this: “Let’s practice just enough to avoid a train wreck on Sunday” mode.

The problem is, most leaders aren’t even sure where to start. And unfortunately, they can end up making things worse. So I wanted to dig into several mistakes worship leaders make when it comes to leading their teams towards better preparation.

1. Assuming The Worst

Leaders often believe that the lack of practice equals laziness or apathy. That might be true for one or two of your team members. But most just haven’t been given a clear vision of what great practice looks like, and a challenge to step up and practice well.


2. Not Modeling It

As the leader, you should be the most prepared person at rehearsal. And maybe with your team, that doesn’t take much.

If you’re going to call your team to a higher level of preparation, you have to come to rehearsal knowing your music extremely well.


3. Not Running A Rehearsal That Demands Preparation

So not only should you show up highly prepared, you need to start running your rehearsal in a way that tells your team members they need to prepare. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Stop listening to recordings of songs during rehearsal.
    Unless a song is brand new, don’t spend time as a team listening to it. Listening to the music is something your team should do during their personal practice time.
  • If a team member doesn’t have his particular part learned, move on.
    Don’t let an ill-prepared person waste the team’s time by requesting the band repeat a section or song over multiple times so he/she can get it. Let them know they’ll need to learn that before Sunday and move on to the next song.
  • Practice with a click. Even if you don’t run one during services, the click tells the team how well they’ve prepared. If they can’t keep up, you know there’s work to do.


4. Not Giving A Compelling Reason *Why* Practice Matters

I mentioned in the first mistake, assuming the worst that people need a clear vision of what great preparation looks like. Part of that vision is telling them WHY it matters.

You can say something like,

“When we prepare and know our music well, we can worship with freedom and lead with confidence. And our heads aren’t stuck in our music stands.”

But just saying this isn’t enough. You need to teach them why practice matters biblically, relationally and musically.

(By the way, at the end of this article is a link to a free resource called Get Practicing that will help you teach your team the “WHY” of practicing.)


5. Not Giving Clear Guidelines On How Prepared To Be

“Show up to rehearsal prepared.”

That’s what I used to say to my team. But I never defined what “prepared” looks like. Be specific with your team:

“By rehearsal, you need to have your part learned so able to play/sing it with the whole band.”

“By Sunday, you should have your music memorized (or close to memorized), so your head’s not stuck in your music stand.”

There’s a lot more detail you can go into, but that’s a good start.

(Here again, the free resource at the end of this can help.)


6. Trying To Change Behavior, Not Culture

Your team’s bad practice habits aren’t just a behavior issue. It’s a team culture issue. Poor preparation is ingrained in the culture. You need to look at changing the culture.

And that means keeping at the transformation process for more than a few weeks in a row.


7. Demanding, Guilting Or Begging

You can change your team’s behavior temporarily by demanding they practice. Or guilting them into practice. Or even begging them to. But that’s all you’ll get: a temporary change in behavior. The underlying culture issue won’t change.

In fact, you might make it worse by doing those things.


8. Not Giving Team Members Enough Time To Learn Their Music

I’m always surprised by the number of leaders who complain about their team not practicing but then only get them their music a couple of days ahead.

You have busy volunteers on your team. Give them the music at least a week ahead of time. Any less than that and you probably shouldn’t expect much.


9. Not Giving Team Members Adequate Learning Tools

If all you give your team members is a chord chart, guess what? The guitarists are going to chop wood on open chords, the piano is going to pound block chords, the drummer will play his pet patterns, and the bass player will just thump roots.

And the BVGs? Forget it; they’ll just sing whatever harmony they make up.

If that’s all you want, that’s cool. But if you want your team to come in with specific parts learned, you need to provide good reference recordings, detailed rehearsal notes, and maybe even instrument-specific tutorials.


10. Not Holding Team Members Accountable

If you’ve given your team a clear vision of why practice matters, and you’ve articulated what they need to practice, you’re only about halfway there. To help change the practice culture of your team, you need to hold them accountable.

If you don’t do that, none of the other work you’ve done will change things.

And by the way, holding someone accountable doesn’t mean big confrontation or heavy-handed leadership. It’s asking questions and assuming the best:

“Hey Taylor, I noticed you struggled to get your parts during rehearsal. Is everything OK?”

Leading with an observation and showing concern for them as a person will almost always open up a candid conversation with your team members.



Do you feel overwhelmed right now? Looking at this list of ten potential mistakes, it does demand A LOT from you as a leader. But I want to help.

get practicing LogoI just released a FREE resource called Get Practicing. It’s a worship team training kit—as in, you use it to train your team.

All the content is ready-made to share with your team (like tips sheets and video training), so it won’t eat up a bunch of your time getting stuff ready. And there are even videos FOR YOU to show how to make the most out of those tools.

To learn more, go to getpracticing.com. It will help you avoid several of these mistakes and get intentional about leading your team to practice more effectively.

Please comment below: What’s one of your frustrations with your team not practicing? 


Jon Nicol