How to recruit new musicians

Posted by Lex Buckley on 10 June 2014

Recruiting new musicians
One of the main responsibilities a worship pastor has is to recruit new musicians into the worship team. For some this may seem like a straightforward task – if they can play music, they are in! However, being a musician or singer on a worship team is not just a servant role, it’s also a leadership role. The worship team members are usually in a prominent place in the church; not only are they setting an example to others, they are also representing the values of your church. So it’s crucial that you bring musicians into the team who are not only musical but who uphold the values of your church and set an example that you would encourage others to follow. As a worship pastor, it’s important to know who is being put in that leadership role – for everyone’s sake, the individual’s, the worship team’s and the church’s. In order to help you recruit musicians that will be a blessing to your worship team and your church, I want to share with you the qualities that are important to look for.

But first…

Get to know them!
Many musicians move to a new church enthusiastic about getting involved in the worship team, and they are likely to approach you as the worship pastor and let you know they are interested in joining. It can be tempting to let them start playing up front straight away, particularly if they are a great musician or if you really need that instrument in your band. Even so, it is my advice that you let them be part of the church for four to six months before they get involved. This is something that my husband and I have found to be wise, and it’s a boundary that we put in place for four reasons.

First, it gives us a chance to get to know them; we aren’t going to be able to answer any of the other questions we may have if we haven’t spent any time with them and got to know them!

Secondly, it gives them a period of time where they can attend church with no responsibilities. Musicians are often burned out from being involved in church services week in and week out, and so when someone begins attending our church we want to bless them and give them time and space to rest and be filled up again.

Thirdly, in my experience some musicians move to a new church with wounds they have received from their time on other worship teams. So this brief stretch of downtime is a great opportunity for them to receive healing and freedom. If they were to jump straight back into up-front ministry, those wounds may not get dealt with. It is better for them and for the team if they begin the journey of healing before joining.

Finally, this time period also enables us to see whether they are committed to the church. Are they involved in the church in other ways. Are they part of a small group? Do they attend church regularly? Do they attend church-wide events? It’s important to have people on the worship team who are committed to and excited about the vision of the church.

Here are some other questions you may want to ask yourself as you search to find musicians and singers that will be a blessing to your worship team.

Are they true worshipers?
Along with the worship leader, the role of the worship team is to lead God’s people into His presence, so it is vital that the people on the team are passionate worshipers. This is what you should look for first. It can be tempting to compromise your values to get people involved because of their musical skill, especially if you are lacking a musician in one particular area. But I believe it is better to, say, have no drummer at all, than to have a great drummer who is not passionate about Jesus and worshipping Him. You can often tell whether someone is a passionate worshiper by observing them at church. If they are keen to play in the band but during times of worship are consistently standing there not singing and twiddling their thumbs, I’d probably wonder whether they love to worship, or whether they just love to play music. Mike Pilavachi puts it this way: “If they can worship at the back, they can worship at the front.” If someone truly worships and engages with God when they are part of the congregation and out of the public eye, then they can probably be trusted in a position of leadership.

A perfect example of this is one of the worship leaders at my own church. This guy loves the Lord and loves to worship Him. No matter where he is in the congregation, whether he is standing in the front row, on the balcony with the youth group, at the sound desk doing sound, or in our staff worship times, this guy is always engaging with God. He serves whenever needed, never pushes himself forward and is just so kind. He is such a blessing to have on the team. He is a true worshiper.

Are they servants?
Using our gifts to worship God and serve the church is an incredible privilege. Being part of a band means remembering that you are there to give and to serve. So although it is often someone’s dream and passion to be on the worship team, they still need to remember that they are involved firstly to serve – it’s not about them.

When my husband and I moved house after we were first married, one of the worship leaders at our church offered to drive a removal van and help us put some of our things in storage. He spent a whole Saturday with us just to help us out. And it wasn’t just on that occasion – he was always giving of himself to help other people out, whether that was at church or during the rest of the week. His servant heart wasn’t just switched on for Sundays. He was a great asset to that team and set an example for the rest of us to follow.

Are they humble?
It says in Philippians 2:8, ‘And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!’ As Jesus humbled himself, we must also humble ourselves. Many musicians have learnt to play or sing in an environment where they were encouraged to perform and show off their skill. However, worship is not a performance, or a place for any of us to draw attention to ourselves. This doesn’t mean that those on your team can’t play or sing to the best of their ability, or use their creativity, because skill and creativity are incredibly valuable and bring glory to God. But their hearts must be in pursuit of Jesus being lifted up, and to serve the congregation in leading them to Him.

Are they teachable?
It is so important to have a teachable heart. It is amazing to be on team where the musicians want to grow and improve their skill. However, not all musicians are active in pursuing this. So as a worship pastor you may have to encourage them to get lessons or to keep practicing, and this is why it is really important that the people on the team are teachable. They need to be willing to receive any constructive criticism you give them and actively respond to it. If you say to someone ‘that guitar sound is great but I am not sure if it works well in this song… would you be able to use a more clean sound?’ the person with a teachable heart will receive what you have said, whether they agree or not, and will respond gladly to your request.

This applies when attitudes and behavior need to be challenged too. If you feel someone’s attitude conflicts with the values of your team, you may need to address the issue with them. At these times, it’s crucial to know that they will receive what you have said and will take it on board.

How do they work with others?
As the cliché says, there’s no ‘I’ in TEAM, so it is really important that the band consists of people who are team players. It is so much fun and such a joy to serve in the band when everyone is ‘for’ one another and encourages one another. It is not for us to be desperate to be heard, but instead we need to prefer one another.

Some musicians have responded to this by saying, “Why can’t I play the way I want to? This is how I express my worship to God!” But there is a difference between personal worship and leading congregational worship. When my husband Paul plays drums in his personal worship, he can do as many fills and complicated rhythms as he likes. In these times, as he is pouring out his heart to God, he has total freedom to play ridiculously loud if he wants to! But he plays very differently in congregational worship. It’s not that he isn’t creative, or that he doesn’t go for it, but he recognizes that he is there to use his instrument to lead the congregation in worship and to complement what is being played around him, not to overpower the rest of the band. He is aware of what the bass player is doing, what the electric guitarist is playing, and he is listening to the worship leader. He is being a team player. Good team members will be listening to what others are playing or singing and will be sensitive to this, not being a distraction to the congregation. They will know when to back off and when to play strongly.

So how in practice do you recruit new musicians?
Now that a potential new recruit has shown that they are committed to your church and has displayed the qualities we looked at previously, you will need to hear them play their instrument, sing, or mix sound.

Here are two options that I have seen work well. One option is to use the traditional auditioning process, where a potential new recruit will play or sing on their own in front of their worship pastor, and their musical ability will be assessed in that environment. For many, this has proven to be really effective.

Another option is to hear the musicians play in a group setting. This is what we have chosen at our church, and we call it the Worship Jam. It is an evening at the church where any musicians interested in being part of the worship team, or who simply love to play music and want an opportunity to ‘jam’, can come and play in a non-threatening band setting. We usually get a few of our regular team members to attend and go through a couple of songs in a specific arrangement, and then we interchange the musicians and singers and give them an opportunity to play with the others. This enables us to hear them play or sing and see how they work in a band setting.

Because it is a live setting, this is a great opportunity to hear someone mix sound as well. We have chosen to do the Worship Jam because it’s a fun environment, and because it’s a church-wide event that is not just for auditioning new worship team recruits. And so it minimizes the whole ’rejection’ aspect that auditioning can bring.

In the end, of course, each church is unique, so the way you choose to hear people play their instrument or sing is going to depend on how you feel it would best work at your church. There is no right or wrong way – both work great!

New recruits
When you have decided to ask someone onto the team, one thing we have found really helpful is to create a Worship Team Values Form that each team member must read and sign before they commit to the team. This is in no way a binding contract or anything! It’s just a way for us to know that they understand and are on board with the values of the team. It means that all of us are on the same page, and that they know what the expectations are, avoiding any confusion down the road. The form also outlines our commitment to them: to serve, train, develop and encourage them as best we can.

In addition, we give each new worship team member a three-month trial. We put this in place so that both we and the new member can see whether the worship team is the right ministry for them to be involved in. Almost every time we all agree that it’s the right place for them to serve. However, the three-month trial period has been really helpful in those rare circumstances when we have needed to re-assess their involvement. Having this trial period just gives the new team member a ‘heads-up’ that we are going to meet with them after three months, and we’ll all have space to voice any questions or concerns, as well as encouragement of course!

More like this

WeAreWorship USA Podcast #18: Covenant Worship - Making A Live Worship Album

On this episode, we are joined by Josh Dufrene and DLO of Covenant Worship, to discuss the process of writing, producing, and recording a live worship album.

WeAreWorship Birthday Giveaway

It's WeAreWorship's 4th birthday and to celebrate we want to thank our community by doing a giveaway! We will choose one grand prize winner for an Amazon Echo, 3 CD's, and a WeAreWorship t-shirt.

Weekly Spotify Setlist: August 1, 2016

Our new "Weekly Spotify Setlist" playlists are built to help you discover new songs to use for your church. We have two playlists: Modern & Blended.

Free Songs