If you’ve spent any time leading worship in a church, paid or otherwise, you’ve probably spent some time thinking about how to add musicians to your team. Maybe you’ve even thought about how to recruit other worship leaders to help ease the load and grow the team with. In that light, I thought I would offer a 5 tips based on my experience.
Although this is not my exclusive source of information, this mostly mirrors the guidelines we’ve come to use at Vineyard Community Church. I can’t take much credit for putting these in place, but I’ve had the opportunity to see them work in action and I fully stand behind them.
1. Value Character over Gifting
I first heard this from my pastor, David Stark. He’s a fan of acronyms, so I’ve heard COG over the years. This comes first. I don’t think it’s any secret that fame can bring the worst out of people, no matter how pitiful the level of fame involved. Sometimes just giving someone the opportunity to play an instrument or sing publicly can bring out the worst in them. It’s not that I don’t have grace or understand the insecurities unique to musicians – I’ve lived out most of them, probably – but sometimes, the stage can cause someone’s good heart to be obscured by their own need for recognition. In other words, I don’t care how good a musician someone is, or even if they can lead a great time of worship week in and week out. If they’re mainly out for their own glory, or in general, have an ego that can’t be reined in, they probably don’t belong on your worship team. I will take someone with very undeveloped talent, but a truly humble and teachable attitude any day. In fact, that’s the type of person who really is a good candidate for leading a worship team someday.
2. Look for people who are plugged in to your church – i.e., are they known by you?
I think there are exceptions to this rule sometimes, and it may be much more difficult if you’re dealing with a very small church or a new church plant, but in general, I think it’s safest to find musicians among the people already connected to and committed to your church body. This will help you achieve the goal under heading #1, because it’s much harder to hide your issues when you’re well known by people in your church. The way we do this in our church as of now is by requiring that anyone interested in being part of our worship team has to have been a part of our body for at least 6 months, and they either have to be an active part of a small group or otherwise personally known by someone in leadership. Of course, this assumes your church cultivates a culture of honesty and openness. If it doesn’t, you have bigger problems and may want to pray about moving on. If you’re so small as a body that you can’t grow the team at all without bringing in new folks, I would be praying a lot for Jesus to send you the right people. Don’t get desperate and put someone brand new to the church on the team unless you really think God told you too. As the saying goes, it’s easier to lay hands on someone than to lay them off. Or something like that 🙂
3. Look for people who buy into your vision as a worship leader
It helps at this point to have actually spent some time considering what’s really important to you when you lead worship. For instance, I believe very deeply in the value of creating space for intimacy and I believe without a doubt that the Holy Spirit is actually interested in meeting with the church. In light of that, I tend to lean toward songs with a personal tone – songs that could double as a prayer, and probably tend to be quieter over all, rather than being upbeat and celebrative. This is not to exclude people with a different point of view – I also believe we need to cultivate different perspectives and make room for stylistic differences within a team, but the core vision should be common to the team.
4. Look at your current musical needs
In other words, don’t load up on guitar players if you’ve already got more than enough. I would, however, be actively asking interested parties if they’re willing to fill others spots, at least for a while. We did this recently with one of our bass players. He had been on the team for about a year or so, but we ended up losing two drummers. He was willing to give drumming a try, and even though it’s a stretch for him, he’s been able to fill a very important role for us. This also helps increase my confidence that he’s on the team for the right reasons. If there’s a person of character and gifting you would like on your team, but you just don’t have a place for now, see if you can find another place for them. Our church has small groups that meet during the week – many of which like to include a couple of worship songs as part of the time. See #2 above. I wouldn’t ask a team member to continue on an instrument they have no interest in, however – at least not for very long. That will only end up frustrating everyone.
5. Look for people who can grow as musicians (at least to a certain point)
This is a tricky one, and all depends on the type of team you’re going for and the many variables involved in leading a volunteer team. The fact is, most people will end up simply not having the time to grow beyond a certain level of mastery. I would include myself in this category. The fact is, I have more responsibilities and demands on my time than I have time or energy to become the musician I think I could be. This is a conscious choice for now. I don’t expect it to always be the case, but I think this has actually helped adjust my attitude with other team members and has helped me have grace and value them much more than I would if I was simply looking to play with the best musicians around. On the other hand, it’s also a fact that sometimes, some team members may not actually be capable of growth beyond a certain point because, as bad as they may want it, the talent just doesn’t seem to be there. In reality, at a certain point, you will probably end up raising the minimum skill requirements as you grow as a team, so it helps to have musicians who can grow with you.
I hope you’ve found these helpful, but I’d love to hear how you do it too. What have you found it helpful to look for when building your own team? Anything I missed?