david santistevan

worship.leadership

How To Audition Worship Team Members (without losing your mind)

I know you’ve been there. You’re the worship pastor, the worship leader, the music minister, the architect of spiritual atmospherics, and you have some people on your team that can’t cut it. Their attitudes drain the life out of rehearsals, their musicality is poor, they show up unprepared, late, and with a Big Mac, super-sized extra value meal that they proceed to eat during rehearsal. And they just don’t seem to take instruction or work with a team very well.

How did you get here?


I think we’ve all been in this place where we either inherited a worship team mess or we created one ourselves. I’d like to help you with some tips on how to go about auditioning worship team members in a way that will help you, not paralyze you.

1. SET HIGH STANDARDS

It is better for your worship team to consist of you and an acoustic guitar than with a harmonica enthusiast, drunk percussionist, horn section, rain stick amateur, 7 year old drummer, pot-smoking dulcimer player, and someone who likes to sing. OK, that was a bit ridiculous. But it’s better to have a smaller team that is tight than a massive team that doesn’t know what they’re doing. Build your team slowly over time. You don’t need 40 acoustic guitar players like Hillsong. Start small. Create quality environments with less.

2. AVOID MASS AUDITIONS

Now, I know many churches hold auditions. My philosophy here is that it’s difficult to say no to that many people. Rather, engage with your congregation. If you encounter musicians, invite them to hang out at your rehearsals a couple times. Don’t say, “Hey bro come join our worship team. Wanna play next Sunday?” Keep it casual until you know for sure this person is a good fit.

3. ASSESS, BUT BE HONEST IMMEDIATELY

If you assess someone who wants to be on the worship team, be up front immediately about what you’re going to do. Don’t beat around the bush and say you’ll get back to them. You won’t. It’s confrontation we all like to procrastinate on. Just tell them. Trust me, they’ll appreciate your honesty up front. Suggest ways they can improve. Tell them you’ll listen to them again after a few months of hard work. It’s not that you enjoy turning people away, it’s that you want a skillful team that knows how to minister worship music. You need a certain degree of musical skill.

4. SUGGEST OTHER MINISTRIES FOR THOSE YOU TURN AWAY

People are very self-conscious and emotionally attached to their musical skills. You will quite possibly offend some people when you turn them away. Maybe they were the “main drummer” at their last church and feel they should fulfill the same role on your team. Don’t just turn them away but suggest other areas in the church where they could serve. We always suggest the choir for those who want to be on the worship team but don’t have the skills to be that front-and-center.

5. LOOK FOR PERSONALITY, HEART, & HUMILITY, NOT JUST SKILL

You need people who are fun. You need people who have a heart for God and for music. You need people who are humble and can take instruction without ‘knowing it all’. Learn how to see that. I’ve worked with musicians who were a little weak  but because they had personality, heart, and humility, I was able to train them to be better. If someone already knows it all, you probably want to suggest another area of ministry 🙂

WORSHIP LEADERS, What did I miss? What are ‘auditioning practices’ you have tried?

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December 17, 2010 - Posted by | Worship Leaders

4 Comments »

  1. I am on the fence with this. As a worship pastor I know that I can’t give anyone a microphone who tells me they like to sing. But if someone comes to me with a genuine heart to worship God and lead others, I am not going to turn them away. Being a pastor is not just about building an excellent ministry. It’s about investing in people to connect them with God. You’re a great pastor and I know you know this. I guess I’m just trying to say that having an excellent worship team is only a small part of my job. I have a singer who when he gets so passionate his voice starts to go hoarse and he goes off key. Nobody on the church cares because all they are all being led into some serious depths of the spirit by a kid so passionate he can hardly sing or stand anymore. I’m not saying that the pot smoking dulcimer player who loves to worship should be allowed on stage (and I suppose he shouldn’t for other lifestyle reasons too lol). But I don’t think you should have to be the best and win an audition to be able to minister.

    Comment by Grace | December 17, 2010 | Reply

    • Grace, thanks for your thoughts. Great stuff. I agree that ministry is about investing in people and connecting them with God; however, worship ministry is a very specialized area. I think standards need to be in place for it to be effective. Not everyone is supposed to be on stage on the worship team. That doesn’t make them any less a minister, it just may not where they’re gifted or experienced. Also, someone’s skill level may not be ‘Sunday morning ready’ but they’re able to lead worship in a different setting other than the Sunday morning worship team. Maybe within small groups, youth group, etc. I like to maintain a high standard of excellence among our Sunday team. But that doesn’t mean we completely exclude people. We just point them in a direction that’s in line with their gifts. Make sense? I really appreciate your thoughts.

      Comment by dsantistevan | December 20, 2010 | Reply

  2. In small churches, I think it is good to have some of the young guys be on the music team that arent fully “mature”. It gives them a purpose to go to church and keep coming, to hear the word, and set the direction for their wives and babies. They probably wouldnt show up if they didnt have a purpose. I liked Grace’s terms of investing in people to connect with God.

    Comment by marsha | December 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Good word, Marsha. I totally agree!

      Comment by dsantistevan | December 21, 2010 | Reply


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