The Organized Worship Leader

Mark Cole

During my 30 years of worship leading and leading church music departments, I have discovered that one of the best ways to take any stress out of music ministry is to be organized and well prepared.

During my busiest seasons I have had 120 people on my worship team. That included a 6 piece rhythm section, 4-6 vocalists, an 80 voice choir and a 30-40 piece orchestra. To add to this we had 4 different teams we rotated weekly. I have also worked the other end of the spectrum with smaller groups of 3-7 singers and musicians. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

No matter what the size of the team, it always helps to be well organized and prepared. One of the spiritual gifts that Paul writes about is leadership and administration. (I Corinthians 12:28) It really helps if you have that spiritual gift, but no matter what your gifting, we can all be more organized.

Here are the steps and timeline that I use to help me be organized no matter what the size of the group. Sometimes I do this in the role of the Worship Leader and sometimes as the Music Director (MD).


  1. Contact the worship team and set up the rehearsal. This is usually done 4-6 weeks in advance. (I use Planning Center Online).
  2. About a week before the rehearsal, I double-check and follow-up on any team members who haven’t responded yet. (Texting usually gets the best response).
  3. Recruit (and/or audition) any subs that might be needed.
  4. Pray for the team and the church.
  5. After receiving the worship list from the worship leader (usually 5-10 days before the rehearsal), I may make suggestions on keys, songs and flow.
  6. Write any new charts that might be needed for that week. This mainly involves a full vocal & rhythm chart but can also include any choir, string, brass or orchestra parts if they are involved that week.
  7. Update all the charts and Mp3’s online for the band to rehearse with. (note: has the ability to transpose MP3’s. I’ve also done this using Garageband)
  8. Email out notes to the band & singers (on the Monday before) with reminders of areas to pay special attention to and practice before the mid-week rehearsal.
  9. Program the click for each song and any back-ground tracks for the service.
  10. Send out Multitracks RehearsalMix List to the rhythm section
  11. Serve as IT help for any members having trouble with Planning Center.
  12. Do my own personal rehearsal & memorization (vocals, keys, acoustic guitar and/or woodwinds). This usually includes practicing with the original recordings (often in a new key) and reviewing the arrangements, instrumental groove and vocal parts.
  13. If I need to sing and also talk to the band live, I use an A/B switcher on my mic.
  14. Work with the sound-man on the band set-up for that week.
  15. Lately I have been using ‘‘ Playback app on most of the songs. This usually involves loading the songs on my iPad, editing the arrangements, ending and transitions between songs.
  16. Work with the Media Coordinator on putting the lyrics in the order we will sing them.

Mid-week Rehearsal (Thursday PM)

  1. Show up early and do my personal set-up.
  2. Set-up my iPad with Playback app.
  3. Greet all the team members as they arrive.
  4. Introduce any subs for that week.
  5. Work on getting the rehearsal started as soon as possible.
  6. Run the in-ear or monitor soundcheck.
  7. Have the worship leader open in prayer.
  8. Work with the worship leader on a song order for the rehearsal.
  9. Count-in the songs (via MD mic) and give musical cues or use that feature with Playback (recently I worked with a MD who gives the Nashville Numbers of the chord progression to the band).
  10. Address any problem areas that arise.
  11. Keep the rehearsal moving and productive.
  12. Give vocal and instrumental suggestions.
  13. Make musical suggestions to team members on areas to work on before Sunday.
  14. Close in prayer.

Production meeting (Thursday)

  1. Review last weeks services with the pastors, usher co-ordinator, sound and media.
  2. Work on this week’s service order.
  3. Close in prayer

Pre-Service Rehearsal – Sun 8:15 AM

  1. Show up early and do my personal set-up.
  2. Greet all the team members as they arrive.
  3. Work on getting the rehearsal started as soon as possible.
  4. Pray.
  5. Review the service order, lyrics and video shots with the worship team, pastors, sound, media, camera operators and floor director.
  6. Work with the team and sound on any last-minute adjustments.
  7. Work on musical transitions from one song to the next. Currently I’m using the Playback app and I program the transitions in.
  8. Encourage the worship team to get past the music and worship God.
  9. Pray.

Services (9:30 AM, 11:15 AM & 6 PM )

  1. The band goes on early to tune.
  2. Cue and count-in all the clicks. (Or use the pre-programmed Playback app – I usually get the bass player or use a foot-pedal to start Playback)
  3. Give all the live musical cues (via MD mic). This usually includes cueing the team for the introduction, verses, chorus, bridge, any solos, a cappella sections, transitions and endings.  (if not using Playback and I’m the MD) – (optional Nashville Numbers if the band doesn’t use charts onstage)
  4. Play and worship God.
  5. Remind the worship team to smile and worship.
  6. Socialize, eat and build community with the team between services.
  7. Play keyboard for the pastor at the end of the service.

What do you do that helps you stay organized? What is working in your situation?

Check out my book: Leading Worship ~ Notes from a Grand Adventure.’ This is a great gift for the musician or worshipper in your life!