IDEA #3—Sub out the work!
Instead of doing the prelude with the band, which is yet another song to prepare, see if one of these ideas will work for you. You’ll save the rehearsal time, which will give you more time to work on the stuff you are doing.
Do an organ prelude. If you have an organ, my guess is that it sits mostly idle. Which is too bad, because the organ is a majestic instrument. Yeah, classical organ music isn’t making it anywhere on the Hot 100 Worship Songs list, but it’s still gorgeous. Instead of seeing it as outdated, as a weight that’s holding you back, see it as a foundation, supporting you with centuries of church history. Some of the most beautiful music ever written was written for organ, and written specifically to glorify God. There is almost surely someone in your congregation who can play the organ. The problem, as I see it, is one of perception. Use it for a prelude some morning, and when you get up to greet the audience, say something like this:
“Wasn’t that a gorgeous piece of music? That song is titled “____________”, and it was written more than a century ago. The woman playing it this morning was Mrs. Jane Smith, and you might not know it, but Jane played that organ here back in the 60’s, and we thought it would be a treat to hear it, and her. For many decades here in this church, and for many, many more decades before that in churches worldwide, the organ was used by bodies of believers just like ours to glorify God and draw the congregation together in singing. You’ll probably hear a little more of it from time to time. Let’s not forget our roots.”
If it’s REALLY a hard sell, call it ‘vintage’ or ‘old school’. Change the perspective.
Give a good pianist a chance to shine. Ask a good pianist to do a piano solo for a prelude. Sell it to the congregation the same way as you might with the organ.
Start a small choir. Find someone in your church who would love to lead a small vocal ensemble, or choir, and have them prepare a piece once in a while. I think a choral call to worship would be, well, pretty cool.
Add a little ritual to your service. Do the same song every week as your call to worship, but do it a little differently every time. One week the Praise Band does it, the next week the organ, the next week a choir, and so forth. We could all, in my opinion, use just a touch more ritual in our services. Rituals say “God is big, you are little.”
IDEA #4—Do an unplugged week.
I don’t know about you, but I get tired of hearing the same exact instruments over and over. Once every however-often, maybe every six weeks, give the band a week off and do the worship service with just a guitar, piano, or maybe both. Bring the lights down a little, do something different. This will not only give your congregation a break from the sameness of the band every week, but it will give your musicians and singers a break as well. They’re on the schedule less, it’s easier to keep it fresh—you get the idea. AND, rehearsal, for you, is a non-event for an unplugged week. There’s nothing—I repeat, NOTHING—‘uncontemporary’ about not having a band onstage. If you think that, you should watch more performing on TV.
Next up: Change your definition of a well-played song, and emphasize the basics.