How We Add New Musicians to the Worship Team
When a talented musician begins regularly attending a new church, it is second nature for them to desire to serve on the worship team as soon as possible. I believe this is a natural desire, something that God creates within people that have a particular skill set. If you’re a Christian and a good sound guy, you’re going to want to serve your church with those skills, if there is a use for those skills. If God has given you a gift for working with kids, you’re going to naturally want to serve in the Children’s Ministry. Similarly, musicians can visualize themselves serving on the worship team, and their desire to join the band as soon as possible is not an inherently bad thing.
Unfortunately, I believe one of the most common problems in modern American worship teams is that they are sometimes filled with people that don’t have the most noble intentions for playing or singing on the worship team. There is something more “cool” or “glitzy” about serving in the very visible way that a worship band does then serving in the background as the guy who vacuums the church on Monday, or the team of people serving in the Children’s Ministry. So worship bands tend to attract some people that may be glad to help people worship, but that’s not their sole reason for wanting to be on the band. Other less noble reasons are usually fueled by pride. They want the opportunity to show off their musical skills, and since Christian musicians are rarely in gigging bands, worship teams are one of the few outlets to use their ability… and to show other people that ability.
At Free Grace Church we want to create a system that lets people use their gifts to the fullest in serving the body, but limits the elements of pride that can so commonly creep in. We also want to attract and equip musicians that are committed to FGC’s overall mission and philosophy rather than just looking for a performance outlet. We want them to fall in love with the people at FGC, most of whom will be new faces for a musician who has signed the membership covenant after only visiting for a month. In fact, we want them to fall in love with the people of Free Grace Church before they fall in love with being on the worship band.
My responsibility as a worship leader is to invite new singers and musicians into a community, not a ministry. I want them forming relationships with the people of FGC. I want to see them involved in a D-Group, where deeper relationships are formed then the friendly greetings and short conversations on a Sunday morning create. I also want them to serve in less visible ways than the worship band first, where I can see that they have a servant heart for this church regardless of how visible that position is.
Once I knew I didn’t want to bring new members of the church on the worship band as soon as possible, the question left to answer was, “how long should I wait before bringing them on the band?” A month? Should there be an arbitrary time limit, or should it based on the person achieving certain goals, which will be met at different speeds by different people? So I started seeking for wisdom on this question, both from other worship leaders at Acts 29 churches, as well as my personal worship mentor, Gary Molander, an author and a former pastor and worship leader. His advice took me by surprise. I’ll paraphrase him, as our meeting about this subject was face to face:
I think you should draw the line at 3 months. I tried different things when I was a worship leader, especially bringing personal friends of mine onto the worship band quickly, because I had a previous relationship with them. In my history as a worship leader, every time I put someone on the worship team earlier than 3 months after they began visiting, I regretted it. But every time I made someone wait at least 3 months, it worked out great.
That’s enough (admittedly anecdotal) evidence for me to draw the line at 3 months, and during that time, I’m going to do things purposefully to prepare the potential worship team member to join the band. (Assuming their motivations are pure and their skill level is high enough to not distract the congregation during the musical worship times on Sunday.) Some of these things will include:
- Meeting with the person one-on-one to discuss FGC’s worship philosophy, and to answer any questions they have about worship at FGC;
- Inviting them to watch FGC worship rehearsals, to become familiar with the songs and how we rehearse, but more importantly, for the opportunity to form relationships with the rest of the band;
- Inviting them to serve in less visible roles, like on the sound team, running the media software during service, and potentially other roles less directly-related to the worship services;
- Inviting them to participate in a D-Group.
After a period of 3 months, Pastor Matt and I will meet to discuss what we’ve observed and decide whether or not it’s time to bring that person on the worship team.
This may seem to some to be taking the worship band too seriously. Perhaps this is true, but I’d rather fall on the end of taking this part of the church service too seriously instead of not taking it seriously enough.
For better or for worse, the members of a worship team have influence over a congregation during the worship time. I’ve played on at least 20 worship teams in my life, from the smallest of church plants, (30 people) to large arena venue’s leading worship for 3,000 and everything in between. I’ve seen too many musicians that play on worship bands to receive a paycheck or show off their ability to play cool guitar solos. Lord willing, Free Grace Church will be known as one of the churches that take worship seriously, where the members of the worship band are not just playing music, but are genuinely engaged in responding to God in joy and reverence.
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