Regardless of the size of your worship ministry, I recommend having a process for auditioning new members of the team. You do not want people in your band who lack the competence, character, and chemistry you desire. Here is a 4 step process for vetting potential band members and making sure they will be the right fit.
Step one - Create a clear vision and expectations for your ministry
Document your vision for the worship band and expectations for its members. You may need to consult with other leaders at your church. Maybe you want to have strict standards about who can play on the team, but your senior pastor expects that Mary-Lou, the long time member with organ experience should be allowed to play piano or keys in the band despite the fact she has no clue how to play with a contemporary band. Write down your expectations for how much band members should devote to practicing every week, or if they are expected to memorize music. Document your expectations for yourself as the leader. Over the years I have learned that a lack of clear expectations leads to a lot of awkward conversations and conflict in the future. Have a crystal clear vision of who your band is and the priorities in your ministry. It will help you give clear judgment on who will be a good fit.
Step two - The online audition
Have a web page on your church website dedicated to receiving inquiries from people interested in joining the band. Ask for basic information such as their name, phone, email address, and their instrument. Ask them to send you a link to a Youtube video of them singing or playing their instrument to a worship song you select. This video recording is “round one” of your audition process. It should give you an idea if they are a good fit. If they are not skilled enough, send them an email or give them a phone call and thank them for their interest but tell them their skill level does not reach what is necessary for joining the band. It is not easy to do, but learn from my mistakes. I hate telling people no. Instead of biting the bullet and enduring temporary short term awkwardness, I said yes and eventually regretted it. In one case, I let someone sing on Sunday once but then had to tell them they no longer could be in the band because they were not able to perform up to par. I wish I would have been honest with them earlier.
Step three - The in-person audition and interview
Once someone has completed the online form and has made it through the online audition, it is time to schedule an in-person audition and interview. Provide a list of three or four songs to prepare to play and let them know what gear they will need to bring to the audition. Have them play a song or two and analyze their musicianship. If you want, record them so you can refer to it later when you make your final decision. Hopefully, if they made it this far they at least have an 80% chance of making in the band. During this meeting make time to ask them questions to ensure they will align with your expectations of character and chemistry. This is different for everyone, so you will need to come up with your unique questions. Explain to them the expectations you have for worship band members and tell them you want them to take a few days to consider whether or not they can meet those expectations. During those few days, you will also think and pray about their audition. Delaying the decision and notifying them by email will allow you time to make sure they are a good fit and say no if necessary. Do not feel like you need to give them an answer on the spot.
Step four - Assimilate them into the team
When someone makes it onto the team, do your best to make them feel a part of the family. It starts with making time to meet with them one-on-one so that they feel like they know you as their leader. When he or she arrives at rehearsal, introduce them to the rest of the band. Invite them to any social events you host for your team. Consistently develop relationships with all of your band members and remind them of the expectations for being in the band.
This audition process might sound a bit overboard to some. You might think it is unreasonable at your small church. I disagree. Putting a system like this in place will allow you to properly vet potential band members and save you a lot of headache down the road. At first, it might be a slow road building your team. You might say no to more people than you like. Over time you will gain momentum and attract the right volunteers to your ministry. Those who make it on the team will be committed to excellence, and they will be your most valuable asset as a worship leader.
What does your worship team audition process look like? How do you feel about the one I described? Share your thoughts, love, and opinions in the comments below.