Last night my praise team and I visited a church of several thousand in Birmingham, AL. We opted not to have our own rehearsal in order to go and observe what this larger, more developed ministry is doing. Their music style (praise band based) fits our approach, so we felt it would be a good choice to get ideas from. It is always a healthy practice to expose our people to other effective ministries. We were not there to critique, but rather to learn and to be led in worship (which we were!).

Below are some of the things we observed from that service. Because we are a new church plant, we do not have the financial resources, facilities or manpower to do everything the people at this much larger church do. Nonetheless, we were encouraged to find that we are doing several things similarly – despite our size and newness. I have place astericks beside *some things below that we are not yet doing but can/should apply or that we can improve on now. – Dwayne

Observations:

  • They used a video countdown and *started 3 seconds before it was done! The band and singers were in place well before countdown finished.
  • Their set was exactly 25 minutes long with very little talking and *smooth continuous music segues between songs. They played one upbeat and different tune to close the service.
  • They did not appear to use any screens or stands (except for the bass player) for music. *The singers had the lyrics memorized and everyone knew the arrangements well. That allowed for greater freedom, expression and connection with the congregation.
  • They all used Aviom personal mixers with ears. This is what gave them such a tight and harmonious sound.
  • They used 2 acoustic and 2 electric guitars which really filled up the sound. They also had 2 keyboardists, playing pads and melodics.
  • They included a *preplanned yet spontaneous time of impromptu quiet praise. The band vamped on 3 chords while the singers filled in with simple obbligato phrases. Very nice!
  • They had a safe, middle-of-the-road acoustic sound and style, which appeals to most any age.
  • On 3 songs different soloists led the first part of them. On 1 song one lady soloist led while the other 2 girls sang backup with her.
  • Their *intros and outros were tight and well-rehearsed.
  • There were 6 singers, 3 girls, 3 guys. Their voices were possibly doubled in the mix, making a nice choral sound.
  • The *singers were staggered upstage and back and the band was spread out across the entire stage, the acoustics flanking both sides.
  • The precision mix of each song with different voices and instruments taking the lead was clearly accomplished through an automated, pre-set board – and lots of rehearsal to fine-set that board!
  • The *sound level was at about 85 dB with peaks around 90. Comfortably loud to demand attention and fill up the room, but not overwhelming.
  • Drums and rhythm guitars were more up front in the mix and the keys and electrics back slightly, probably through use of reverbs.
  • The *backdrops were colorful and creative but not overwhelming.
  • Everyone was dressed casually yet nicely & appropriately.
  • The songs they chose were fresh but most of them were apparently familiar to their congregation. The songs flowed from 3 fast to 3 slower. Keeping some of them in the same key helped their transitions.
  • They *placed a table in front of each section for communion, then routed the rows from the right side back to the left. Simple and quick.
  • The cameras already knew who was going to sing or play solos and they zoomed in on them immediately.
  • *Part of the band was on risers, giving a contoured affect.
  • They did not use/need a percussionist. Also, I believe they were playing everything we were hearing (no use of digital additional tracks).
  • They had a *large, precise to the second timer at the back to help them stay on schedule. (They started on time at 7 sharp and ended at 8 sharp.)