A funny thing happened on the way to the worship service the other night…

We had a night of worship scheduled for Wednesday evening, and along came a perfect storm. My presentation coordinator had been out sick, so I had to devote some of my normal prep time to getting ProPresenter set up for the volunteer who agreed to come in at the last minute. There were a few last-minute changes to the band that I needed to accommodate, and it was a big band at that. To fit everything into the M-48s, I had to get creative, which meant patching took longer than usual.

As we got closer to sound check, the band was all really (and rather uncharacteristically) late. Sound check started late, and we had some issues I needed to troubleshoot. The bigger band and significantly larger vocal team (along with a few last-minute changes) led to a longer sound check than normal. So by the time we got to rehearsing, we were a good hour behind. Oh, and the start time was based on a 7:00 PM start—except the service started at 6:30. 

For a service like that, where we will do a solid dozen songs, we like to have four to four and a half hours of rehearsal time. Last week we had three. I know I felt like I wasn’t fully prepared for the lights to go down when we started, and in talking to the band afterwards, they weren’t quite ready either. But something amazing happened.

It all came together. More importantly, it all came together at the same time in front of the congregation. I was talking with our MD about this afterward, and we both noted a few interesting things. First, we had a much larger crowd than we usually do for these. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it was a little more risky for the band, and for me.

On a normal weekend (or night of worship, for that matter), we rehearse enough to really get the songs and arrangements down, I have my snapshots dialed in, and we all press “play,” so to speak. But that night, we were still bringing it together as we went; and it was magical!

That experience has gotten me thinking about how we approach the rehearsal process. I certainly wouldn’t advocate showing up completely unprepared, or skipping rehearsal altogether. But I wonder if we sometimes get it too dialed in. 

I know by the time I get to the 11 PM service on Sunday, I have my snapshots so dialed in, I can pretty much just hit “next” all morning. I still mix, but I don’t have that much to do. And that’s because by the 11, we’ve run the song five times that weekend (three times in two different rehearsals, and twice in services). I don’t know what to do about that, but there is definite difference between what we experienced on Wednesday than what normally happens on a Sunday. 

Now, certainly there are other factors involved as well. God is clearly doing something in our congregation right now, and we can’t discount that. The larger band naturally led to more energy (and SPL) than usual. A full house (complete with the whole Jr. High group) also added to the experience. 

But I really believe the raw and fresh nature of the songs that were not over-rehearsed really helped as well. 

I’m still processing this, and I’d like to explore it more. Honestly, I’m not sure what to do with any of this, but it felt like something worth sharing. I’d like to hear from you; what is your experience with this? Can we suck some of the life out of a service by over-rehearsing or being too dialed in?

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