Every now and then I’ll get asked about how we do worship team auditions at my church – this post is a current description of that process for us and if it helps you figure out how to do auditions at your church, that’s great!
To say we “audition” people for our teams is actually inaccurate – we don’t do solo auditions in front of a panel. In our worship team setup it is very rare for anyone to play a musical solo on a Sunday morning so it’s actually not all that helpful for me to only hear them play or sing on their own.
Our entry process to joining our worship team actually has three main components –
(Look at that – I even managed to use three words that sound the same! Coffee must have already kicked in.)
At the core of this process is a care and concern for discipleship – that’s what we’re about, that’s what we do, that’s what we’re focused on, that’s where our priorities are. If the worship team audition process is not about discipleship (for the joiner, for the others on the team and for our congregation) then it doesn’t fit. Joining our worship team is not about finding a place for your creative expression (although we do that), playing music with your buds (we do that, too) or showing the church how you can belt a high C (every now and then we need that!) – it’s about discipleship. It’s about you growing in your walk with Christ, learning how worship is an expression of your love for Him and how leading others in worship is a great act of service for our congregation.
So here’s a bit more on each of those three steps –
If you come up to me on a Sunday morning, tell me it’s your first Sunday at our church and you want to join our worship team, you’re not getting a “yes” from me. You’re getting a “Well, the timing’s not great for us right now, we’d love to talk in a few months…” I (and others on our team) need to observe that you are committed to a few things – Sunday morning attendance, the singing/worship portion of our service as well as developing relationships with others in our congregation.
If you aren’t regularly attending our church on Sunday morning, you’re not joining our worship team. This doesn’t mean we require an every Sunday attendance (I know churches who do) but if you don’t believe in the priority of Sunday morning, why would you be placed in a position of leadership during that time?
Also, if you come on Sunday morning but are disengaged, disinterested and not singing during the music/worship time, you’re not joining our worship team. Part of our role as worship leaders is to inspire worship in others and part of that inspiration is physical – what we do with our faces, our hands, our bodies while we are worshipping communicates our love for the Lord. (This doesn’t mean we’re mechanical or forced or smile because we have to – we clap our hands because scripture describes that as a way of worship, because it encourages the congregation to do the same, because it shows that we are engaged in the singing beyond simply the words coming out of our mouths.)
So the first stage of our process is simple observation. I (and others on our team) want to see that you are committed to our church, committed to Sunday morning, committed to worship – all as an outflow of your commitment to Christ.
People who ask to join our team usually fall into one of two categories – eager beavers or humble hedgehogs. Eager beavers want to join the team yesterday and would like to know what songs they’ll be playing next Sunday. Humble hedgehogs want to know if maybe, possibly there might be a chance for someone like them – although they’re not that good – to have a place, only if they’re needed!
Part of the pastoral role of worship leadership is recognizing pride expressed by either of these two kinds of people. Pride can be displayed as zealous overconfidence but it can also be displayed through an “aw, shucks” false humility. We want people who are confident in their ability, humble in their faith, confident in their salvation, humble in their walk. Yes it’s a tightrope and a balancing act but dealing with issues of the heart like pride before the person enters your team will save you much grief and embarrassment down the road.
Once we’ve observed a person’s commitment level and feel like they’d be a good candidate to join our team, I will usually schedule a meeting with them either at the church or out for coffee. (It goes without saying, of course, that you need to use your brain in when/where/how this meeting happens depending on your age/gender and the age/gender of the person you are meeting with. Use your brain.) During this conversation I ask the person to share their testimony of salvation to see if they can express that clearly. I’ll ask them why they want to join the worship team, what worship is all about for them. I may ask them to describe some meaningful moments of worship that they’ve been a part of – either as part of a worship team or as part of a congregation.
During this time I’m trying to see if they have a heart and a passion for the Lord and His work in their life. I want to hear a heart for the people of our church, that they would grow deeper in their understanding and pursuit of worship. I’m also trying to get a sense of whether or not the person will mesh with our current team – Will they get along with the people who are already serving? Will anything about their personality clash with some other personalities on our team? Is this person going to be a team player? All of those questions are running through my head during these conversations.
Out of these conversations, I may ask people to read a book related to worship (the “Healthy Tensions” portion of Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin
is a favourite of mine to pass along). Generally the conversations go very well and we are ready to invite the person to a worship team rehearsal.
This can be the longest step of the process but it is very important – it’s important for the person joining the team, it’s important for the current members of the team, it’s important for you as the worship pastor/director and it’s important for your congregation. There are all kinds of ways to do this. We have not struck some magic formula, we’ve just found a way that we’re happy with and that works for us.
First, we’ll invite the applicant to come to at least two rehearsals. We rehearse as a full worship team (singers, musicians, sound/projection techs) on Thursday night for two hours. We’ll set them up with everything they need to feel confident when they come – they know the songs, they’ve got chord charts, we explain how rehearsal is going to happen. They will be a full participant in our worship team at the rehearsal – the only major difference is that we don’t run their instrument through the house.
We use the Aviom
system for our monitors and all of our band is on in-ears. We set up the applicant with their own Aviom, make sure they get a great mix in their ears so that they can hear themselves play. We don’t
put their instrument in anyone else’s mix – what the other singers/musicians hear is what the team will sound like on Sunday.
As we go through the rehearsal, I will occasionally bring that person’s instrument/voice in and out of my mix so I can hear a few things – How are they playing with the rest of the team? Are they listening to what others are playing? Is there a nice mix with the rest of the band?
At the end of our rehearsal, we all make sure to be very encouraging and I’ll invite them back for a second rehearsal. Even if I know at that point they aren’t ready to join our team, I want to give them another opportunity to be a part of our rehearsal – they may have played nervous, they may have been getting used to in-ears, they may not have been as familiar with the songs as they thought, they may have had a bad day at work. All kinds of reasons why it may not have gone well.
During this stage, I never make the promise that coming to rehearsal means the person is joining our team for Sunday morning. I try my very best to be explicit (several times) that we are asking them to come to rehearsal only and once they’ve done a couple of rehearsals we’ll evaluate whether they are ready for Sunday morning. Yes, this comes from a bad experience where I wasn’t clear enough with someone and they came (very prematurely) to our Sunday morning call time, ready to sing with the band that morning. Not a fun conversation out in the foyer of our church that morning!
Even though I didn’t include this in the list up top, evaluation is the last step of the process. Over the course of getting to know this person, hearing their heart for worship and having them join our team for rehearsals, I am constantly evaluating. At this point, the applicant deserves a fair assessment of whether or not they are ready to join our team on Sunday morning.
Typically, the answer falls in to one of three categories –
- Yes, you’re ready. You’ve shown a commitment to Christ, a commitment to our church, a love for worship and a heart to see people grow. You have musical ability at an acceptable level for us and we’re excited about how you would fit in our existing teams. Let’s get you scheduled on our Sunday morning rotation.
- You’re almost ready, but… I need some more time. I’m concerned about any of these things – a character issue, your understanding of worship, your motivation for being part of the team, your level of musicianship, etc. I can see you being a part of our worship team in the future but just not yet. There may be a way for you to be involved in leading worship for our kids or student ministries, we’d love to see you continue to grow in your understanding & ability and then we’ll come back and reconsider at a future date.
- No. Serving in worship ministry is not for you. You may love Christ but you can’t hold a tune. You might run musical circles around everyone else on our team, but you’re a jerk. (Thankfully I’ve never had to say that one!) I appreciate your desire to serve and every follower of Christ is called to serve in some way but the worship team is not a spot for you.
If you are interested in pursuing this a little more, here are some other blog posts you may be interested in reading –