But they also stress me out just a little. From the moment I am booked I start to freak out. There are even times when I fight the feelings of inadequacy. Like I'm not good enough [musically and spiritually] to be leading people through an entire weekend devoted to growing and resting on the grace of God. However there is one thing that has proven to be a sure quencher of those feelings. It is preparation.
Often times the pressure or stress can paralyze me to do nothing and "wing" alot of things, but in my growth as a worship leader I am discovering the tools that battles that paralysis.Preparing for worship in any form, but especially weekend retreats, ironically gives me the most freedom and courage to do what I know God has called me to do. Lead.
So here's the top then things I do to prepare.
1. Meet with organizer.
This allows me to get the theme of the weekend, the background of the church, and the type of event info. The background of the church is important to me because I like to know the intricacies of the group. [What do they respond to? What is the demographic? Do they like modern worship or hymns?] I want to know how to best serve them.
2. Read through theme verses and passages.
I try to do this every week leading up to the event. That way the truths that will be illuminated that weekend will be at the forefront of my mind and as a result, it will affect my song selection, song writing, and word usage. I want to be able to lead the group to a place [or through a place] I have already been. I want to be with them on their journey.
*Side note, everything is done with prayer. Alot of prayer.
3. Purposeful song selection.
I play through songs that have been powerful in my life and songs that I have witnessed the Church respond to. I think that it is counter productive to throw a bunch of songs together for a worship set. Not wrong, just not very efficient use of the time. I think taking people on a journey using lyrics and music that stir emotions can be powerful. [I'm not the first one to come up with this idea. A lot of other WL's do this.] Especially if worship is before any kind of message, coordinating the music and message together can be a powerful tool to ready people's hearts to respond to encounter God.
4. Put tentative sets together and play through transitions.
I usually put together two lists of potential sets. I play through both and see how they flow together. Sometimes I take songs out, add others in, change the keys or even some lyrics. I want it to be as distractionless as possible. Although it doesn't always go perfectly [aka. missed lyrics, wrong notes, wrong chords], but that's ok. It's life right?
5. Play through opening set and solidify transitions and themes.
Especially if I have a band. I don't like to have mid-week practices because my band is usually volunteer and I don't want to take up more of their time. So I play through everything on my own and then am able to bring a ready-to-go set of charts with transitions and everything already done for them. This makes practice less hectic and the weekend smoother. Again, it's all prep.
6. Pack everything up.
This is my worst area. I feel like I always forget something. Even if I make a list, I forget to put something on my list. Still workin' on that. But as much as I can, I pack everything up the day before. Alot of picks, my guitar tuner, any cords I am responsible for bringing, sheet music in folders for all the band, my microphone, guitar, extra strings, Bible, journal with entries specific to the retreat and a pen. Never forget a pen. You'll always need one.
Bottom line: you can prepare all you want but it is God the ultimately turns the hearts of men and women and children. He can transform the beast of a worship set into an entirely different creature in the span of 5 songs. I pray that our preparation might be a channel in which His people might see Him and worship. But my most ernest prayer for retreats is that God would build relationships among the women and girls that will inevitably lead to deeper understanding of Him and the Church.
8. Stop @ Starbucks for my lucky Caramel Macchiato.
You might think I'm joking, but I'm dead serious. Of course it doesn't have to be Starbucks, any coffee shop will do. Most retreats are in the mountains or at least an hour away from home, so we gotta get something for our long ride.
9. Play a warm-up cd on drive.
It's not always my vocal exercise cd. Sometimes it's just a really good artist album. Like tomorrow, it will be Adele. When I'm playing guitar or piano and singing at the same time, the last thing I wanna do is worry about my voice when I have my instrument to worry about. So I do what I can to make my voice as comfy and warm as possible. And have fun doing it.
Right before walking on stage:
10. I can't tell you this one...
I think everyone needs something they do in the secret of their own heart. This is mine :)