Inside A Sojourn Music Worship Team Practice Session

by Kristen Gilles

in Worship Leading

Kristen Gilles, singing & playing piano with Sojourn Music bandmates at the Sojourn J-Town campus in Louisville

Singing & playing piano with Sojourn Music bandmates at our J-Town campus in Louisville

6:30 a.m., every Sunday at every Sojourn Church campus:

Although 6:30 a.m. seems like an early rehearsal time for Sunday morning worship, I look forward to it on the weeks I’m scheduled to serve at Sojourn. These rehearsals afford opportunities for growth in musicianship and in the gospel as our team is regularly challenged in both areas while we prepare to lead worship.

We’re often working through our own heart issues and any differences of opinion or sounds that may arise as we rehearse. And, naturally, we’re working through the musical challenges of listening to each other, creating space for each instrument on stage and arranging the songs in a way that best serves the congregation. We need God’s grace, working in each of us, to accomplish this.

This is why we begin each rehearsal with prayer. 

We acknowledging our dependence on Christ alone—He makes our worship acceptable—confessing our pride (we ALL struggle with this!), any anxiety and fear, and asking for grace to do the work we’ve been called to do together.

Another challenge is that of finding synergy between the musicians, since our band members often vary from one week to the next. We usually have the same band leader, but the rest of us musicians and vocalists are rotated in random order according to our availability to serve (and when we serve, it’s always in two back-to-back services in the morning or evening, depending on the campus). This presents a unique challenge each week as we’re working with different musicians and instruments on both familiar and new tunes.

It starts with the Campus Worship Director/Pastor or band leader

In order to help get the band on the same page, the band leader will come prepared with an idea for each song arrangement and he’ll convey this to the band before we practice the song. We’ve all been (at least we should have been) listening to the same tracks for the past few days so in this regard we should already be on the same page—knowing the tunes.

Kristen Gilles arranging music at the piano at Sojourn J-Town. Photo by Tom Branch

I bring all my chord sheets with me

However, if the arrangement of the recorded track is not suited for our band, rather than try to fit a square peg into a round hole, we’ll rearrange the song to better fit the band’s abilities and sounds. For example, if a recorded arrangement featured several classical string instruments and we have only a drummer, lead guitarist, bassist and acoustic guitar, we won’t be able to replicate the recording. The same is true if the recorded arrangement is powerhouse rock and we’ve got a bluegrass band serving.

Our band leaders do a great job of preparing and presenting their arrangement ideas to the band (with flexibility as sometimes their idea(s) might not work). The band members also have freedom to contribute ideas to help with the arrangement. It’s helpful for everyone to come prepared to play the song as recorded or completely different from the recording. We all need to be flexible and ready to do our best no matter the arrangement. We might not all be “feeling” a certain musical style, but we’re called to lay aside our preferences in service to Christ and His Church.

Sojourn New Albany Sunday Team praying

Praying w/ worship band and pastors before a service at Sojourn New Albany

Quick Look:

  • Our typical rehearsal begins with everyone showing up (hopefully on time), plugging in, quickly checking sound for each instrument and voice (which is tweaked during the rehearsal by our faithful and excellent sound engineers)
  • We prayerfully acknowledge our submission to Christ’s leadership
  • Then we strike up the band after arrangement ideas are given by the band leader before running through each song.
  • We usually have between 7 and 8 songs to prepare.
  • We spend about 10-15 minutes per song.
  • We typically rehearse for no more than an hour and forty-five minutes (from 6:45 to 8:30), allowing thirty minutes before the first service begins.

We end our rehearsal by quickly recapping notes on intros, outros, and instrumental breaks for each song, then after a short break for everyone we reconvene with our pastors to pray again for the time of gathered worship and all those in attendance.

Whatever the method to your rehearsal madness, as a band leader or member, I encourage you to prepare your heart, your hands and your voice for service to the King of Kings as you follow Him in leading your congregation in worship. Our goal is to make much of Christ in all we say and do, and in how we sing and play our instruments.

Remember, too, that Christ has already made our worship acceptable whether we nail every note or wreck the train. Trust in Him!

Top two photos courtesy Tom Branch, from Sojourn J-Town campus

Bottom photo courtesy Bobby Gilles, from Sojourn New Albany campus

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