expressive worship

Do Less, Inspire More

I was in a rehearsal yesterday with a world class artist, helping them get ready for their tour of over 100 dates in Europe, Asia, and the US. It struck me that one of the reasons we can put such a great show together is because this artist is only doing 13 songs, and we have 6 weeks to rehearse.

For years I’ve heard people say (myself included) what a shame it is that worship teams aren’t better, more professional, or making the most of their talents. But I believe one of the reasons for this is most worship teams try to learn too many songs in a short amount of time.

With this artist I’m working with, we just spent the last two days on only one song – getting it tight, finding the right tones, working on the presentation, making sure harmonies are right, etc. Then when all the songs are worked out this way, we’ll rehearse them over and over again, and then they’ll do the same show night after night all around the world.

As a worship leader, you don’t have the luxury to spend two days on each song. I know you all want to be better, and you want to use the gifts God has given you, glorifying Him to the best of your ability. So here is my recommendation, whether I’m working with worship teams and/or world class artists:


You don’t have to learn 100 songs in a year. When you learn so much music in a short amount of time, often you’re just glad to get through it without many mistakes. I don’t think that’s the way to play worship music. That’s not the way to play any music!

But if I’m playing a song regularly, I can constantly tweak and make the song better.

I work on a Christmas tour with NewSong each year, and because of their busy schedule, we don’t have much time to rehearse. So what we’ve learned over time is to review the old stuff from the previous year, and then learn 1 or 2 new songs for the new tour. This is a world class show! And it’s partly because we’re not trying to learn 15 new songs every year for the tour.

The other reason to not work on so many songs is because your congregation likes to repeat meaningful worship moments. I like going to church and hearing certain songs again that I’ve sung before. I don’t always need new stuff – I enjoy doing the songs I know and love. In fact, I imagine a lot of praise teams and church choirs do some of their best work at Christmastime because many of the songs are the same each year.

So find your “voice” – your style for your congregation and worship team. Find a core group of songs that really work, that people love. Spend a lot of time in preparation…make them great! Make worship moments out of them. Make them special…

Then once you’ve got the core songs, start adding other songs that you think might work well for your team and congregation. And if one of those turns out to be an outstanding worship moment, too, then it becomes part of the core.

Ever wonder why Paul Baloche, Chris Tomlin, Lincoln Brewster, (insert name here), all sound so great? They do the same songs every night – but in different locations. And it’s inspiring!

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Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson, world renowned Live Music Producer, helps musicians and worship teams develop songs into “unique worship moments.” His Live Music Methods help create freedom in the room so your congregation can express their worship more freely and passionately than ever before! Tom has worked with nearly every genre from rock to pop to Christian Gospel, impacting major artists and worship leaders such as Jars of Clay, Casting Crowns, NewSong, Sidewalk Prophets, Chris Tomlin, Francesca Battistelli, Todd Agnew, Phillips, Craig & Dean, Parachute Band, The Martins, plus a multitude of independent artists.

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  1. Scotty Brown says:

    Right on Tom! I couldn’t agree more. I’ve lead worship for years, at my church and countelss others. There are always a couple songs that I can pull out, that are easy to learn, powerful in their message and easy to arrange into somthing that captures the congregation. The type of songs people worhip with easily. My church and those I visit are overwhelmingly contemporary in style and music and they tend to pick up new stuff easily. However, I sang How Great Thou Art for communion last week and my pastor and I couldn’t help but notice how many, young and old, were singing.

    As an artist, which includes worship leaders/teams, it’s easy to fall into the trap of getting bored with the same music week after week (or night after night for some of us). We fail to realize the difference between the musician and the average person. Too many “new” or difficult songs will cause the people to stop worshipping and work at singing. And then, we’ve FAILED!

    Again, great job Tom and thank you!!

  2. Homer Haynes says:

    You posted this message just in-time; this will be helpful for my praise team and my band. We’ve begun to restrict the number of songs we rehearse. Our set-list is an array of 12 original songs. We rehearse about 3 to 4 songs per session. Your comments/recommendation is right on pointe.

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