Friday, January 6, 2012

Auditioning/Recruiting Worship Musicians

I was recently asked this question by a local worship leader:

I'm working with a new worship ministry through [for anonymity...I'll not disclose the name of the church], and they are asking me to audition band members. I have met with some of them and have reviewed their applications, and while they may be talented musicians, some of them lack the spiritual maturity I was asked to discern. I was wondering if you have any suggestions as to how you respond to applicants who may be talented but not as spiritually mature as you would like, when auditioning for the worship team.
Some leaders might not be too thrilled about the prospect of auditioning worship team members. Before Hope College, I had never formally auditioned anyone. There are several liabilities in the audition process that I'll let you imagine for your own circumstances.

I'll point out a few benefits however:

First, over the years, the process has clarified what it is that we need in each musician and team. It is one thing to have a working definition of what a church musician is on paper. It is another thing to see these expectations actually lived out in real people. It is both sobering and inspiring.

Second, auditioning raises the level of commitment, my commitment to each person and their respective commitments to the ministry. A thorough audition process earns you access into each other's lives both to encourage and also to bring correction when needed. It is difficult to challenge people to grow in their character or musical abilities if you have no relationship with them, no trust. I strongly believe in beginning relationships well. If you begin with each person well, you will ensure a steadier and substantial learning curve.

Third, the audition process has forced me to become a better leader. If I pry into each person's life, question their gifting and character, then I must be someone who deserves their trust. Who am I? Why should I have the power to recruit and reject people? Why should I have the right to correct someone's artistic sensibilities or challenge their spiritual growth? This is the humbling/sobering part: I have to continue to be strong enough, to love well, to serve, to be patient and kind yet decisive and consistent.

I realize I haven't yet answered the question posted above. What I've shared so far is the context--some assumptions that I need to explain in order to give a more substantial answer.

So this is some of what I can put in print to describe what I'm looking for in worship musicians:

We should call all of our musicians to worship leadership. They should at some level desire to not just play music but to also want to direct that music toward God. We don't need warm bodies who can ice the guitar riff; we need willing hearts.

Now with that said, I don't expect all of my musicians to be to most spiritually mature students on campus. In fact part of my joy is watching many deepen their faith from year to year. Being on the worship team is hopefully a life changing experience. It is okay for people to be on the team who are struggling in various ways. A good audition process allows me to name those struggles and enter into them with each student. If during the audition process I discover that a person is not interested in growing spiritually, if there is not an inkling that this person could at some point be able to ask for and receive prayer, then they will probably not be a good fit.

You will need a good core of strong believers, people who have a proven track record of consistently practicing their faith. You'll need the help of these stronger leaders. Perhaps you invite these persons into a smaller core leadership team to pray and plan. You need to have team members who can give you reliable positive and critical feedback on song selection and your leadership among other things. You need to be teachable yourself and without a strong contingent of reliable people, you won't be able to continue growing yourself through the accountability of these core leaders.

Ideally, you'll have a healthy balance of more mature Christians and others who are on the journey.

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