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Six Tips for Scheduling in a Small Church

This is a supplemental post that accompanies the my Musicademy article, Five Ways a Schedule Helps Develop your Worship Team.

Here are six practical tips for scheduling in a smaller church worship team…

1. Make Your Schedule At Least One Month In Advance, But No More Than Three.

I like to keep my team scheduled out at least month in advance. For example, as I write this, July is winding down, so I’ll remind my players to block out their unavailable dates for September on the worship planning tool I use (more about that in a moment). Why September? Because at the end of June/beginning of July I created the August schedule.

And why no more than three? Two words: Faith.

OK, that was only one word, but it’s a big ONE. Create space for the new musicians you’ll have in two or three months. Remember, pray people into your gaps.

2. Use A Planning Tool.

I use Planning Center Online’s Service app. It’s a one-stop place to schedule musicians, plan services, maintain and communicate with volunteers, and distribute mp3s and charts. Can you accomplish many of the same things with a Google calendar, email, a spreadsheet and Dropbox? Yes, but not as conveniently, easily and cleanly as PCO can.

And there are other players in the game besides PCO. Try them out too, if you’d like. I just know PCO and have grown to love it.

3. Create A Standard Schedule To Work From.

I create a standard monthly rotation and work from there. In a perfect world, this would be my schedule. And that perfect world is one where drummers don’t get sick, bass players don’t visit their in-laws in Dubuque, and sopranos scoff at the idea of taking six weeks off after giving birth.

But because life has a tendency to interrupt my team, I need to rework it. Regardless, beginning from a schedule template is easier than starting from scratch.

4. Intentionally Schedule Sundays Off For Everyone.

(Including you, Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr./Rev. Worship Leader.)

This intentionality will help deal with two health-sucking issues:

1) Burnout

2) MEs: Musician Entitlement Syndrome.

I talked briefly about each of these issues in the Musicademy article. But we didn’t get into the practical – whether you’re considering giving someone a regular week off to help thwart burnout or evade entitlement, the question is the same.

What do I do without them?

I think in some Bible college somewhere, a really hip professor must be teaching worship leaders that the original Greek in Romans 12:1 reads,“Therefore…in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies accompanied by an ultra-modern worship band. This is your spiritual act of worship.”

Did you take that class? I took the graduate level. But eventually I had to learn that worship that’s “holy and pleasing to God” doesn’t require a 6-piece band with full vocal harmonies. In fact, it doesn’t even require music.

So what should you and I do if giving someone a week off means going without? It’s complicated. You may want to take notes:

Go. With. Out.

It’s not as fun, but you and your team’s health is more important than maintaining the façade of a full band.

5. Invite Another Person.

Most smaller church worship leaders are part-time at best. After you’ve scheduled a few months, invite someone into the process with you. You never know, maybe they’ll learn it and take over for you. But at the very least, they can see it with some fresh eyes and maybe offer some suggestions.

6. Communicate Before And After Making The Schedule. And Maybe Even During.

Here’s what I tell my team before I make the schedule out:

“I’m about to make the schedule. Please block out the dates in PCO that you aren’t available. Make sure you include any rehearsals that you cannot make, even if you can play on that Sunday.”

So give your team a heads-up that the schedule is coming out. Then after it’s posted, remind them to take note:

“I’ve just made the schedule out. Please note the dates you are playing. If you can’t make your scheduled time, please find an appropriate substitute.”

This simply puts the responsibility back on your team for 1) knowing when they play, and 2) finding a solution if they can’t. Just make sure your policy for trading and covering among musicians is clear and understood by your whole team.

Question: So there’s a few tips for scheduling for a smaller church worship team–what are some ways you approach scheduling in your ministry?

Jon Nicol