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Church players. How do you handle rotations?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by LoJoe, Aug 30, 2004.

  1. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    My MOM has asked me to scout for some ideas. Here's the scenario. We're a "church in a box" currently meeting in a school auditorium. Our praise band has one of each, keyboarder, drummer, guitarist, and bass (me). When one of us has to be out, we just make do without for that week and it has worked well enough. I can play either bass or guitar and our guitar player can fake it on bass well enough to get by with some root banging. We're about to merge with another church that has a nice big building but no Pastor. They also have the remains of their old praise band. There are two guitarists, a beginning bass player who played for about 6 months before they stopped using the band, a drummer, and another keyboard player. They haven't played as a band in about 8 months. In order to keep everyone happy in our new combined expanded family, the MOM is trying to figure out how she could do some kind of band member rotation. Since we've never dealt with this issue before, we're all clueless as to what would work best, whether it be a weekly rotation of various players, monthly rotation, or for several weeks/months at a time. Another alternative would be to build two complete bands and let them each take turns as a unit. We'll only be having one service a week, with possibly a Sunday night service being added next year. so that's the only time for people to play for now. Any single service church players out there that are a part of a rotation schedule? What works well? What doesn't work so well? Thanks!
  2. mattwells


    Mar 19, 2003
    I have worked in a few very different church settings, and here are my suggestions:

    1) DO NOT, let me say it again, DO NOT build two different bands. We did that for a year at a church I played at and it was disastrous: there was no unity among the two groups, it harbored resentment (fueled by comments from the congregation like "I like the other singer better" or "Those guys aren't as good as the other guys")

    Okay, that was my only point, now here are my opinions: I think that it is best to try and blend the two groups together: if you guys have been playing for awhile, add in one of the guitarists one week, let the other bass player play the next, trade drummers, etc. That is how we do it now and it helps to foster good relations and it makes everyone a better player (you get to play with different types of musicians). I would say the best practical way to do it is to have a schedule come out once a month, and don't get stuck in the "every other week I play" routine. You are going to want to play with different people and so will they.

    You did not ask any really specific questions, but that is my take on what I understand your situation to be. PM me or e-mail me if you have any specific questions (or have your Mom e-mail me if she has any questions).

  3. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Does everybody want to be a "full time" player?
    Maybe there is a possibility that someone would like to be a sub. It could be a relief for someone with a busy schedule or family to be able to just worship, as opposed to being a performer. Right now, I sub for Sunday services. I have no desire to take the chair from the regular bassist. That is unless the Good Lord indicates otherwise. I have gigs on some Saturday nights and it is a killer to play at the early service.

    Just because the people may not be able to perform at a service doesn't mean they can't perform for church functions like youth group activities or outreach ministries. Maybe there is an opportunity for rotation there.

    Another thing to keep in mind are the abilities/tastes of the players. Maybe some people are more into the old hymns, while others prefer modern praise & worship songs. Maybe the pastor may have some type of sermon where a certain style of music would be more appropriate. I currently play at the Saturday night service. It's more of a contemporary service, and my skills are a better fit for that group than the Sunday service, which is more traditional high church.

    Do you have a choir? Maybe guys who aren't playing instruments could still contribute in the choir.

    With time, as your church grows you may have additional services or activities. Maybe that will be able to accomodate all the musicians.

    In the end though, it's about serving the church, not individual musicians. Best of prayers for this issue.
  4. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    Thanks for the feedback guys. I did not know of any specific questions to ask. We have not done this before other than asking what others were doing out there. For now our goal is just to help them feel like it is a true merge instead of us just steamrolling in with our band in a box. I like the idea of all players playing with all other players at different times and I could see where two seperate bands would possibly create some favoritism and competition. Even as Christians, we're still just people, warts and all.

    As far as music styles, being that we only have one service, we do a "blend". We open with two hymns, do a contemporary set of 5 (Songs like the one in my sig off the CD we made last year) and then there is a hymn for closing with just the keyboard and bass. Something for everyone, and something not for everyone so to speak. Since some of the band guys in the other church are on the younger side (under 18), I am also going to offer to help start a youth band and see where that takes us. Great input though. Thanks very much!
  5. srxplayer


    May 19, 2004
    Highland, CA
    We use a rotation type of schedule. One week on one week off with drums and the different singers. We have five guiatar player one of them plays keys also. We have one main bass player, and two drummers. There are also two of us who sub on bass when needed.

    I rotate though a three week interval of drums/sound booth/drums and then one week off. I sub on bass and percussion when needed.

    We create a schedule for close to three months and make changes with subs for vacations, work, and familily needs.

    We have also done the two band thing and it went well. We just used the two different bands for two styles of music. One was more rock oriented and the other was more of the reverent / reflective style of music. As the number of band members dropped off we went to the rotation and it's working ok.

    Just keep in mind that burn out can be a factor. Especially with smaller churches. We have a congregation of about 300 and it has caught up with us a few times and people left because of it.

    Give it to God and he will guide you on this...
  6. RevGroove

    RevGroove Commercial User

    Jul 21, 2002
    Burlington ON Canada
    Manager, Account Services: Long & McQuade Ltd. (Burlington); MTD Kingston Basses International Emerging Artist; Bartolini Electronics Emerging Artist
    I have to disagree with mattswell, though I'm sorry that has been his experience.

    I've been to a few churches with rotation by full band unit, and it all seemed to work well. The key I think is to spread ability around evenly. Don't put all your "proficient" band members on one team and leave the other team with those that are still trying to learn. Having people on both teams that are able to teach those that are struggling is wise (as well as biblical.) If they are struggling too much...then they need to be in some sort of program to help get them to the point where they are capable of helping lead worship in a service setting...

    ...also, if you do two bands, while the arrangments don't necessarily need to be the same, the song selection should be similar so that the congregation doesn't get "info overload" so to speak. Share songs between the two groups, and socialise as a unified group as much as possible.

    Good luck, and God bless!
  7. Ok. This is what I would do.

    1. Get all the potential musicians and singers together, and ask them all to think about whether or not they want to play still. I say this becase often people will continue to play/sing out of obligation rather than because they want to praise God. When people get to that point, they need a break from things until they WANT to keep playing/singing.

    2. Secondly, call them up during the week after they have thought about it. Make a list of who wants to keep going with it (you may find that you are left with only enough for one band, or you may find that everyone wants in).

    3. Create a roster based on 2 or 3 bands, depending on how many people you have. Be sure that everyone who wants to gets to play/sing. If you have enough for 2.5 bands, make 3 and have some people play twice in the roster. Be sure that the bands are mixed, so that they contain people from both congregations. They will need to learn to play with each other and like each other ;)

    4. Every 3 or 4 months, change the band members around so people don't get too used to being with the same group. Make sure that everyone on the new roster still wants to keep going. Give those who don't some time off.

    That's what I would do. Hope that helps.
  8. Humblerumble


    Feb 22, 2004
    We alternate worship leaders weekly but our core band stays the same. Our drummer plays every weekend but one, we have one pianist and two alternates, and a synth player. Two quality lead players and several acoustic guitar players. One bass player (me) and one of the guitarists plays bass when I can't be there. I have been in a situation where we alternated musicians more frequently, and have run into "I only want to play with singer A and singer B," who were the most talented singers. That really grated on my nerves. If you can keep that out of the equation it should work out fine. :)
  9. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I certainly think it would help to get everyone together. If I were running the music in a situation like this I'd want to find an opportunity for everyone to get together as soon as possible - that would include the "church in a box" band, the "church with a building" band and anybody else from the two congregations who would like like to investigate taking a role in supporting the musical aspect of your services. That includes not just musicians but also those who play vital supporting roles like running the sound and projecting the lyrics.

    As the leader I'd want to cast my vision of what I'd hope to achieve in the area of music over the coming few months. I'd also make space for people to contribute comments on their own hopes and fears. I'd finish by getting each person to fill in a short form detailing their skills, availability and contact details. I'd deliberately keep the meeting short (people's time is precious), relaxed (maybe incorporate some kind of social afterwards - even if it's just time to chill over tea and biscuits) and encouraging (I'd want everyone to find a place to serve where they can work effectively and feel fulfilled).

    Following that, I'd see what pieces I had before trying to put the jigsaw together. If time was tight and I needed a stopgap measure, like using the "church in a box" band for the first month, I'd make clear that this was a contingency plan and not a pattern for things to come.

    Does that make sense?

  10. True that. There are so many leaders who don't understand this principle. We have leaders at our church who think that if we can't sit through over 2 hours of someone talking at us then we have an attention span problem. The truth is that people, particularly the younger generation, like things to be much more to the point. Why take 2 hours of someone's Friday or Saturday to say what could be said in 30 mins? After all, the more time they take up, the less time we spend out ministering to people, building relationships, enjoying life, practicing our musical talents, etc.

    That's my opinion anyway :)
  11. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Definitely - with a carefully considered agenda, a lot of meetings can either be reduced in time or at least give more time to the areas that really need it. That frees up more time for all the other things you mentioned, not forgetting the time needed to actually put plans drawn up in meetings into action.

    In a christian context, Ephesians 5:17 ("... making the most of your time, because the days are evil.") is worth marking, although I think the concept carries across whatever your creed (I wonder what frightening amount of "musician hours" are wasted each day by ill-considered planning?! :D ).

  12. YES!!!!!!!!

    I agree totally with your statement. The church I go to now has leaders that understand this and as a consequence the church is growing. It's so refreshing to work with leaders who are in touch with pressures of the real world!

    Anyway back on topic, here's a copy of an email I recieved from our Master Of Music recently. It pretty well explains how we do things at the moment and I think you may find some useful ideas contained therein.

    ( Note: Names changed and edited for privacy.)

    "Hi guys hope you have all had a good day.

    I just wanted to write you a quick note to explain the roster a little further and what I think we need to do with practices. I was told that I didn’t go into enough detail last night and people were left wondering what was going on.

    I have attached a copy of the August roster just in case you didn’t get one last night.

    As I tried to explain last night what we are going to do is standardize our songs. What I mean by that is, write individual parts for the new songs coming through eg. Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, drums, bass, keys etc. So no matter who is on a particular instrument for a service that part will remain the same. Things like chord inversions, solo’s, keyboard sounds, drum & bass grooves will be all written down so we can all learn them together and play them the same.
    My aim is not to hinder creative expression but to enhance it by giving each musician a foundation that needs to be held together and then once they have that down then each musician can build upon that as they see appropriate. The parts that will be written will be as simple as possible to make sure that it is obtainable for most people to play.

    This obviously will affect the way that we run practices. And we are going to do it like this. If you look at the roster for practices you will see that the 1st week is used for combined team meetings like we had last night. The 2nd week is a practical week where singers do their thing as well as a core band is learning the new songs writing and recording the parts.
    The 3rd week is life group week
    and the 4th week is where all of our band members come to learn the parts together.
    In this last week it is vital that all of our team is there to learn the parts. If this doesn’t happen it will be a bit of a waste of time for everyone involved.
    This will also solve the problem of people dogging out on practices and not learning the songs because if we see that people are not learning what needs to be learnt then it is going to harder for them to get to play on the Sunday.

    I think this idea should work well if we are all committed to it. It will develop a great environment for people to learn new things and for us to be able to train up new people. And helpfully the band should become a lot more stable allowing people to worship without the distraction of musicians doing weird things.

    The core band that will work together on the 2nd week I have selected for a few different reasons. The first one is availability I need this team to be solid and dependable. The second is obviously musical skill not only in playing but in writing notation etc. The third thing is chemistry these people must be able to work together well without attitudes going on who will listen and be teachable.

    The people who I have selected to do this are Bart, Homer, John Howard, Simon & Art.

    If you are not on this team that doesn’t mean that you are any less valuable in the team I just cant afford to have everyone there on that night because just like the old saying “to many cooks spoil the broth” if we have to many ideas and opinions there we could waste a lot of time.

    There is also a need for a musician or two to go to the singers practice to help them out with something to sing along with so if anyone could help us out with that it would be great.

    That’s about all I hope that is a lot clearer.

    Bless you guys you are all doing a great job!!!!"

    Hope this helps :)
  13. Angry Jonny

    Angry Jonny

    Aug 20, 2004
    The system we use is pretty simple and seems to work well. Sometime at the end of the month, an email goes out from one of the leaders asking for everyone's availability for the next month. Once people respond, they make a schedule based on availability and how the different people will mix together (more from a sound / style perspective as personalities aren't really a problem). From there, if someone can't make it when they were scheduled, they typically will swap with someone else, find a sub, or we just don't have that person that week.

    All of that being said, we do have 2 completely different bands that do this, one for Saturday night (edgier rock style music) and on for Sundays (acoustic guitars, bass, and keys) so you could say we alternate bands AND people. When we started the Saturday night service / band, one of our biggest concerns was that there would be a "our band is better than your band" problem, but so far so good.

    Anyway, my personal opinion is that having a larger group of more or less interchangeable people who are scheduled based on availability is the best way to go as lets you put a consistent level of quality up front almost every week.