By John Chisum
Call me “idealistic,” but I could do with a lot less stress these days. Life itself is stressful enough, and if we were completely frank and honest with ourselves, leading Wednesday rehearsals can be one of the most stressful hours we face. Other than Sunday mornings when the sound system is emitting bizarre hums, cracks, and pops, or a choir member has fallen off a riser and broken something important (happened to me), standing before the band and choir at the mid-week can be a challenge unlike any other.
But what if there were a few little things we could put in place that cut rehearsal time way down and cut the stress even more? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Try these three things throughout one whole choir season, and I bet (if I were a betting man) that you’ll find the next season much improved and that your mid-week rehearsals can become one of your favorite hours of the week.
#1 Lose planning procrastination
Even if you plan songs in advance and meet with your pastor or creative team, it’s still quite easy to put off administrative duties until the last minute. What if your overall planning strategy included every detail for prepping for every mid-week rehearsal you’re going to be responsible for? What if you owned the administrative part just like you own the “fun parts” of making music? What if you got real chummy with a calendar and a spreadsheet and turned off the tunes for a week until you got the entire fall planned down to the minute? They say, “The devil’s in the details,” but I say he’s only in them if you’re not. Stop putting off the inevitable and make every rehearsal amazing because you lived it before you got there.
#2 Get a creative team and enlist their support
From one “Lone Ranger” to another, leadership is lonely enough without hogging all the work. What if you enlisted a few sharp choir members to help with things you could do but don’t have to do? What if you actually worked on building some authentic community by mentoring and training other leaders who can fill in for you occasionally and even lead rehearsals when you’re there? What if you took a little more of a pastoral mindset to what you’re doing rather than needing to be “the leader” all the time? Would things get better? Of course, this is an affront to your need-to-be-needed-all-the-time thing, but I think we all need to realize that very little of this thing is all about us, anyway. Team life is much better, believe me. Invest in some volunteer help and watch things get better.
#3 Get very, very clear on what you must accomplish at each rehearsal
For some, choir is a social club where members get relational needs met, as well as a spiritual boost through fellowship and prayer. But for you, rehearsal is the time you drill down the songs until people can actually communicate them. What if you allowed for both by finding ways to pre-rehearse your members through social media, CDs and printed music along with a few special Saturday rehearsals each season? If you’ve done your homework, it makes it much easier for them to do theirs. If you’ve laid out expectations in written form at the beginning of each season and review them often, the expectation that they’re in this to actually give something to God and the congregation can be focused into learning the songs prior to rehearsal.
You have to watch out for copyright laws on burning CDs and running rehearsal copies, but all of this can be covered through CCLI or Christian Copyright Solutions. Don’t procrastinate on this part either. Keep it clean. Do it right. Own the responsibility to lead well and rehearsals will cease to be drudgery and can actually become fun. No one wants to be doing a song and dance in front of the choir pretending to be prepared when you’re not.
Conducting powerful rehearsals doesn’t happen by accident. Preparing to lead is as important as leading itself. Great leadership never happens without it preparation. Procrastination is almost always lethal for leadership, so getting support where you need it and being clear on what must happen at each rehearsal is your key to powerhouse leadership that makes everything work beautifully. Work on these three things and you choir members will love you for it and you’ll be happier come Wednesday.
About the author: John Chisum has been active in the Christian music industry as a songwriter, arranger, producer, music publisher, and recording artist. He has served alongside some of the world’s greatest and best-loved artists such as Bill & Gloria Gaither, Don Moen, Twila Paris, Paul Baloche, and many more. John is currently Managing Partner of Nashville Christian Songwriters and recently celebrated his 36th wedding anniversary with his wife, Donna. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.