How many worship groups are there that when using in ear monitors also use a metronome or drum machine in their ears to stay tight as a group? I do and it works great. Seems like some folks don't want to do it and I don't understand why they prefer being sloppy with rhythm.
Thought I'd weigh in on the side of the mighty metronome. Rubato is great in solo playing and in professional groups that have years of experience listening to each other and locking in to the groove. Most praise teams are not made up of such professionals, and instead are groups of people who each have their own, unique, sense of rhythm (usually developed by years of playing solo). I met with a lot of resistance when I started using a metronome in our rehearsals, but I firmly believe that if you want to be able to play with other musicians, you have to develop a solid sense of rhythm. The best way to do that is to play with a metronome. It gives you a measurable, objective way of dealing with rhythm problems instead of everyone assuming that everyone ELSE is losing the beat. I keep telling my team, "The more the metronome annoys you, the more you probably need it."
An option we've been experimenting with as a bridge towards just learning to listen to each other better without the annoying loud click sound is to have the drummer use one of these: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/BodyBeatSync which has a vibrating clip for the drummer to wear, so he's feeling the beat and we can all follow him.
However you do it, with amateur musicians I believe it's critical to have an objective guide to follow, and rehearsing with a metronome has made a huge difference in my team's ability to gel.
As one who has weighed in quite a few anti-metronomic comments, I must admit that the worship teams I have inherited in my life had a lot of experienced musicians aboard -- and with one exception the drummer had a strong sense of the continuing beat. Shift work gave us a situation once where we had alternating drummers -- one who always gave us a straight beat, the other whose world was big-band (young man in love with the 40's), and responded flexibly to any vocal nuance. Being the song leader, I appreciated that -- but he drove some of the guitarists crazy.
I myself had a bad habit of racing the tempo as a teenager. I self-flagellated by using a metronome for awhile. It was like being nagged by a fishwife, but since I hated it so much I vowed to master control of my tempo, simply so I would never have to use a 'nome again. That had to be done as a classical musician -- the difference between a good professional musician and a lousy one is the ability to handle rhythm; and the only difference between classical and amateur musicians is the classical ones learn to play two rhythms at the same time;
The metronome was invented as an informational device for sharing music in a world without recording equipment (1800). It quickly became an instructional tool, because of its objectivity (like a golf pro, who can't shoot that well, but can see flaws in the master's swing). At his moment I am considering an online course for a school band. It has not only metronomes but red-and-green colored markers to tell you if you played wrong notes -- or rhythms (!), so you can study at home. A human band director can tell you a lot of things about those notes -- subtleties the computer can, by its own definition as a computer, never attain -- but it would be a great pleasure to have those little chublings walk in to rehearsal with the notes under their belt, and the RHYTHMS correct.
One of my church musicians, a very free-spirited fellow, once said, "O metronome! Lie to me or teach me to speak thy truth!" :)
I found your reply just now! Ah, what keen insight.
There are few issues that illustrate that Truth is something more than accuracy, and that more than one kind of truth ma apply to a situation.
I keep threatening my music students with the metronome, they then concentrate and get it right, never need it after one application. hehe
A little more humane (but not much) than the rack, the dunce cap, or the chair in the corner:)
'Concentrate' is a good word.
I suppose the metronome is kind of like cruise control; I finally have a car with a cruise control that works, and I must admit it's kind of nice to drive without having to think. Still really strange feeling when it goes around a corner, like you're going to fly off the road. Maybe it's the corners in the music, those almost imperceptible fluctuations in the pressure of tempo, that make it so hard to stay with the demanding, insistent, driving, imperial, 21st-century-never-let-go push-push of the metronome.