Hi,

I'm looking for some advice on how to recruit vocalist and musicians for a worship team. We currently worship with videos at our church. We don't have live worship. I feel like God has been impressing my heart to start a live worship team. I'm trying to take this slow. I've even written up a worship team application and what we are looking for and our expectations. I'm having a difficult time finding anyone. There are a couple people from my church that have some vocal talent but they have some issues at home. So not sure if they are the right choice to be on a worship team. How do I go about recruiting people without offending anyone or recruiting the wrong people? Tough choices here!

Thanks,

David

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Hey David! Great question. :) It is definitely challenging to start a new team, especially in a smaller church where you do not have a lot of potential people to pick from. A few thoughts...

1) Having a smaller but higher quality team is better than a larger team of lesser quality. Do NOT allow people to join the new team simply because they want to. Don't be afraid to hurt someone's feelings. Of course, I'm not saying to be mean, but in your role, you will no doubt have moments of having to let someone down easily... and point them towards a ministry in your church that may fit them better. As your team grows, the weaker links that shouldn't have been there to begin with would eventually get moved out and likely be more hurt at that point than they would to have just left them out to start.

2) You want people with a decent amount of musical skill of course. One of my favorite verses for this is Psalm 33:3 where it says to "play skillfully". :) Now, you are dealing with volunteers... not professionals... so you can't expect studio musicians. What you CAN expect is that those involved have a solid level of ability to at least start with and are willing and able to put in the time to further develop their abilities. I personally think it's wrong for a church musician to just be content with their current level of ability and musical knowledge and never strive to better the gift that God gave them. The only way for someone to get better is to do it... so you may have some musicians/vocalists that are "okay", but with the experience of being on the team (especially when surrounded by some higher skilled musicians), they will undoubtedly grow and improve over time.

3) Musical ability is not the only thing you are looking for. You need people that will be committed to this ministry... that will show up to rehearsals, take it seriously, and will realize that they are stepping into a leadership role in the church. The main worship leader is not the only leader on the platform. Everyone up there is leading. This is where the question of "they have some issues" comes into play too. Some people will expect everyone on the platform to be living at a very high standard, and that is fine, but my opinion varies from that a bit. From experience, I have allowed some people to be involved that were maybe "borderline" in their lifestyle, but that I saw true potential and a right heart towards the ministry. In most cases, those people would grow spiritually as they were a part of a solid ministry team. Some people need something like that to get them in a stronger place in their own spiritual journey. So I take that question on a case by case basis. At the same time, I've removed people from a team for lifestyle issues, too. Sometimes you have to. 

4) Make expectations clear. Put together guidelines and expectations for the team. Make them clear and available. This helps especially for those "borderline" individuals that you've put on the team, hoping that they will grow in the process. If the people agree to your guidelines, then you have every right to sit them down and address a situation if they cross those guidelines. If you don't set it up front, then you can't really say anything because it wasn't made clear... so that'd be mostly your own fault.

5) Of course, pray. Ask God to send you the right people. To help you to know which people in your church should be a part of this team... and to send you people that you need that aren't there yet.

6) If you have a hole in the team, and you know someone in the area, ask them to consider helping you for a period of time. I'm not saying to steal someone from another church, but if someone is not committed each week to ministry elsewhere, maybe ask them to pray about helping you for a set time period to help you build the team/ministry. Who knows... they might just choose to stay longer. I've had that happen before, which was great!

7) For recruiting within the church, you might consider having a info meeting where anyone that is interested in being a part is invited. There, you'd share your vision for the ministry, lay out the expectations for participants, and have those that want to be considered fill out your application. Then you can follow up with those people individually and feel it out. If needed, you'll need to audition some people to make sure they can actually do what they say they can. You of course already know that half of the people that claim musical abilities have no idea just how lacking of musical abilities they really are. hahaha :)

Anyway, just wrote some things here off the top of my head. Hopefully some of it is helpful and others will chime in too. May God bless your efforts and help you to build an awesome team that leads your church into new realms of worship that they haven't yet experienced!

Hey Nathan,

I really appreciate your response to my question about starting up a worship team. I completely agree that first starting out I should begin small. I have been praying that God would open up a door for our church to step out into live worship. I'm seeking people (volunteers) who have a heart for worship. Talent is a plus, but I can work with that. If someone isn't ready to sing or play in front of the congregation yet but has a heart and passion for worship, I would be willing to work with them and have them show up for rehearsals until they are ready. I believe character is important. Which involves integrity and their spiritual walk. I know some people may be borderline in their lifestyle. Being on a team might guide them in the right direction. I have so much stuff in my head and on paper that I want to try but getting started is the most frustrating part. I have video tutorials for every musical instrument and vocalist. I have devotionals prepared for when I start. I know I can't get ahead of God. I've spoken to my Pastor and he's given me the green light to proceed with caution. Finding the right people that will be committed is my current struggle. 

It sounds like you're definitely on the right track. Just follow with God's leading and you'll be just fine. :)

I would agree with your thought of having people come to rehearsals that maybe aren't quite ready yet for Sundays. I've done that a number of times in the past. It's also a good way to audition someone without doing a formal audition... and also to see how committed they are before they fully have to be. It's been a helpful option for me to use... the "why don't you come to rehearsals for a few weeks and get a feel for everything?".

Keep it up man!

Interesting comments so far. I started a worship team from scratch in a church I was helping lead a few years ago, and some of my comments run somewhat counter to Nathan's, so while I also agree substantially, I'll put the differences down.

Note that I'm UK based, and so our culture is extremely different from US culture (much more than language similarities would suggest).

1) Key for personnel in the worship team is a heart for worship. Ability is only important up to the level that their playing must not detract from the worship or put people off, but without a heart for worship then you just have a nice gig at best. They should be saved individuals who are committed to the church and the direction it's headed - no hired hands from local bands or guys that rock up for a blow at a meeting.

2) If you turn people down, always have a sound and clear reason that they can grasp, and preferably do it with other people around you who will witness and support you. And when you do, be prepared for histrionics or anger sometimes. But always be gentle and loving, encouraging and seeking to build up. Lifestyle is a tricky one, but for those who have *obvious* problems, they need to be wanting to move forwards in salvation, rather than holding firm to their sins. There's also a fair chance you'll have more mature Christians who have learned to cover their sins and appear to be great people of God.

3) Skills/growing and developing: we worship in Spirit and in truth - it's not the olympics and the worship team aren't there to bring home medals. Worship music is still a relatively simple form - 4 chords, some obvious dynamics and and ability to keep time together are what's mostly required. Yes, we can have fun with it according to our ability (and the ability of the congregation to be fully involved with what's happening) but the technical stuff will not bring people before the throne of God. What people DO need from practice is a chance to learn to play together, communicate and flow together, and those are the skills you will need to work on in practices. No-one except another guitarist who's watching the band and not worshipping will care if you used an A augmented flattened 5th chord in a turnaround.

It's worth pointing out that to a degree, if we aren't playing set peices continually, that we will all be learning and growing as musicians when we play freely together. What I would encourage team members to learn is how to play together without music in front of them, and if possible, how to improvise/cope when someone goes musically 'off piste' in a way that lets the band flow in the Spirit instead of following the written law. ;-)  But you want the congregation involved as particpants too - not just spectators - and if someone should start a song off the floor, then it's really helpful if someone in the band can pick it up & run with it until others can catch up.

4) Leadership. It's better to be a group of friends working together in worship than to have a leader/hierarchy where the whip is cracked to get people in line. If whips need cracking regularly then the person leading has probably made a mess.

5) Musicians required. Anything, really, that's able to provide chord-based backing. Acoustic only. Electric guitar only. Bass - maybe, if they're able. Piano. Banjo/Ukes - have to think about that! ;-)  And to contradict myself, strong singers able to harmonise spontaneously could lead against a backing of drums alone, though it could be hard work.

It's hard to lead using instruments capable of playing only a single note, because they are often weak rhythmically, and people need a clear rhythm to follow, more so with modern songs that often lack a strong, clear tune.

But don't be afraid to have a musical 'hole' in the band. No bass? Add some lows to the guitar tone. No guitar? Keyboard is fine in that range, though it may be difficult to cover rock songs. No keyboard? Have one guitar strum and another play arpeggios. Only 1 guitar and no other band? That's completely fine, but give them a decent volume and encourage them to play confidently. 2 Sundays ago I was the only musician at the front (pre-arranged) but turned up a little more & it was enough.

6) Recruiting.

If the church is <100ish & you know most people there then ask people you feel have a heart for worship and some musical ability. Tell them what you want to do and why, check their willingness, then invite them to the first get together behind closed doors and see what gels. Don't invite people you don't feel happy to work with or whose heart you doubt. In the UK I'd also recommend a public invitation (to which no-one would respond) but that might simply see you swamped with everyone wanting to join the band in US culture.

If the church is >150 (and I'm guessing it isn't) then public announcement + application AND personal invite may well be the way to go. In many ways the public invite is a way to scoop up the few you missed, rather than a serious part of recruiting the band.

Personal note: this had me thinking about how things woulod be if I were involved in another group of churches where I wasn't known. I've been playing guitar for worship almost 40 years and still get invites to play for other bands, plus gig out a couple of times a month, yet if faced with a written application process and auditions in order to start playing in a church band, I'd probably just not bother.

Sorry for the mini-essay - hope that's useful.

Hi Toni,

I really appreciate your mini-essay. Lots of great stuff. Yes, I would defiantly have someone with me when I audition them, in case I have to turn someone down. I wouldn't want someone getting offended and then leaving the church. As far as rehearsals go, I would encourage people to memorize their part before the scheduled rehearsals. I would not invite people that I don't feel a connection with or who don't have a heart for worship. I would start out very informally by just getting together during the week in a relaxed atmosphere, no pressure or anything. Just working on a song or two. But at some point I would need to lay out my expectations and set some standards and boundaries to hold people accountable. 

Lots of good advice already.  My feeling, though, is that if God is calling you to start a worship team, then when you look for members you will find them.  Much of the time I have found that the best way of figuring out what God wants you to do, is to look around and see what resources he has provided, and who is around you.  So, for example, I started a youth band when I saw there was a good group of talented teenagers. There was no point starting a youth band when there were no suitable youth.... Having said all that, occasionally I think it is true that you start something in faith, and then the resources appear. But more often, start with what you have.

I wouldn't have an application form. As Toni says, no point in making unnecessary barriers.  I would audition, as a rule, but keep your minimum standards as low as practical (e.g. can they sing in tune?, can they play enough chords to get by and keep in time?).   But maintain that standard.  I find a relaxed audition is a good chance to get to know someone, and find out what they are capable of. Occasionally it means you have to say no, which is unpleasant, but needs to be done.

And, if all you have is one instrument and a singer, start with that and see (i) who else shows up and (ii) how the congregation respond.  Maybe aim for a song or two in some of your services, and build up from there.  It is not only about starting a group, but also about gaining the trust of the congregation to lead them appropriately.

Hi Daniel,

thank you for your advice. I like what you said, "if God is calling me to start a worship team, then when I look for members I will find them. That is true, God already knows my heart and I've been praying and asking Him to open up a door, even if it's just one other person. I play the keyboard, if I can find a vocalist that's a start. I also like what you said, "Start where I'm at." Great advice! Thank you!

A couple of quick thoughts (which may be echoing others as I haven't had time to read the responses).

1) Don't "recruit"  People are recruited into the military.  Instead, "Invite".  People are invited to the party.  It might not seem like a big deal, but the words we use affect how we go about things.

2) Good musicians attract good musicians.  Good music attracts good musicians.

3) Set up an audition process.  Chris From Canada has some great thoughts on his blog.  http://www.chrisvacher.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Audition-for-...

Hi David--

There are many ways to honor God with your individual and collective musical gifts. You need to make decisions that are fully in line with your pastor's vision for the church. I say that for reasons of spiritual and musical styles, song selection, whether or not you're liturgical or whether or not your selections will be inline with the pastor's sermon series, etc.

But I also say 'fully in line with your pastor's vision' because sometimes the reality is that there is a) no vision or b) they don't really have much input into what the music should be or c) you and him are truly on different pages and that's just the way it's going to be!

It set's the tone for how you might make decisions. I wrote a little mini-book called Establishing a Culture of Lead Worshipers: Worship in Spirit and in..., but even then it's really only as I see or have seen things. There is so much that I don't know and that only you and your pastor together should explore in order to serve God in the best manner as you both have been gifted.

There are so many items I agree with here from the other people, but there really is no more important thing to do that to establish a culture of worship and make that the priority over music. The story of Matt Redman's song The Heart of Worship is exactly because the church band he was in at time sat for a season. The senior pastor told them to stop allowing music to take the front seat.

I agree with what Nathan said about invitations and let good musicians attract good musicians. Be a top-level worship pastor and musician with an audition process and build the music ministry to last past your years.

But always keep the heart of worship the priority of all involved. It's not because the church needs to be a 'country club', but rather a hospital where all are welcomed. But those up-front should be strong or reaching for stronger faith to help guide people.

Have a great day,

Steve

David,

There's lots of solid advice here for sure. 

As a drummer, I started off with a handful of kids who could not play anything. We even had someone with a trumpet!

But here's the thing...one of kids who wanted to play drums and his sister (vocalist) brought their uncle in. 

And guess what.

He was a Berklee College of Music grad and a former member of "The Blue Man Group" band.

Wow, we grew into a great youth-based worship band!

So, just start planting seeds because you don't know who's going to show up.

I noticed you said some of the talent had problems at home. I don't have to tell you we all have problems that's why we're called. Being involved in something like a worship group might just give them the stress relieve they need.

One other point...are you a musician yourself?

If not, pick up an acoustic guitar and start searching Youtube for some of the basic worship song forms to play with.

If you'd like I could send you a handful of song titles that would be easy to start off with.

John,

thank you for your advice and input into the discussion. I really like the thought of planting seeds. That is so true! I know we all have problems & issues. I think my Pastor is concerned that if I recruit the wrong people that there would also be issues in the worship ministry. But I agree with you, the worship ministry might be what could turn them around. I think I just need to go with what we got. I play keyboard and I'm wanting to start using mainstage as well. I'm already playing during altar call, just don't have a live worship team yet.

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