The time has come; you have finished bible college ready to take on a new leadership role as a worship pastor. Or maybe you have recently planted a new church or inherited a struggling worship team. Whatever it may be, you find yourself starting a new worship team.
It’s exciting and maybe a bit overwhelming. Where does one start? In this article, we will talk through how to build and lead a worship team!
Some topics we will cover in this article are:
- Establishing Guidelines For Your Worship Team
- Worship Team Auditions
- Worship Team Training
- Tips For Leading Worship Teams
Back in 2011 my husband and I had just moved to a new city. We were eager to find a new church family, so for a few months we tried different churches. We had heard of a new church plant that had just started and we were eager to try it out.
After the first Sunday morning we attended, we were hooked. We knew we had found our new church family. It was a young church with a group of about 40 people. The service was a little rough, but there was an authenticity that we loved about it. We were excited to join this new worship team in our new church.
Fast forward 6 months and the senior pastor sat my husband and I down and asked us if we would create and lead a worship team. Whoa! Talk about pressure. I had been involved with training and leading worship teams in the past, and had attended Bible College, but was I really equipped to start from scratch with a 4 person team?
Establishing Guidelines For Your Worship Team
The first thing I had to establish was, what culture did I want for this worship team? What was my vision for the team? And what expectations did I have for this team?
As a worship pastor, your first priority is to lead your team well, and a huge aspect of that is creating the culture of the team. The culture of the team determines the effectiveness of the team. If you create a culture of camaraderie, connectedness, and encouragement, your worship ministry will be much more effective.
The first step in creating a culture of camaraderie and connectedness is to communicate clear guidelines and expectations right at the start.
Clear expectations are actually comforting for team members. Knowing what’s expected allows the worship team to relax. There’s nothing more frustrating for a volunteer than committing to something and then finding out they’re expected to do things that they aren’t prepared or qualified to do.
What Worship Team Guidelines Should Cover
Some topics to cover in your worship team guidelines are:
- Your team’s mission statement
- Your vision for the worship ministry
- Expectations around commitment and attending rehearsals
- Rehearsal schedules
- Standards for musicians and worship leaders
- Skills and responsibilities
- Dress code
- Communication tools that the team will use, such as Planning Center
If you want to see some more samples or download a worship team guidelines template, check out my article on how to create worship team guidelines.
Worship Team Auditions
Once I had established the guidelines and expectations for being involved in the worship team, it was time to grow the team.
In some circles, auditioning for a worship band has been a taboo concept. There is an argument that worship bands don’t need perfectionism or professional musicians, and that it's about our worship to God, and that we need to look at the heart, not about how skilled we are on a Sunday morning.
But is that really true? How does God really feel about the quality of our music? Does He care about skill or talent during a worship service? Does He care if we can't play the worship songs well?
Many don’t think He cares at all. Many people believe as long as you are singing good theological songs, nothing else matters. "Let the Holy Spirit do its thing" is what I have often heard. This argument will often arise when people are being pushed past their comfort zones and don’t want to deal with all the practice and rehearsals. I have seen this many times, as not everyone wants to put in the hard work.
Holding auditions for your team is a really easy way to understand and observe a musician's skill level and desire to serve. It’ll help connect people’s skills to where they can best serve in the church. The end result, a growing and thriving worship team that is passionate about the presence of God, is worth it.
The most important thing to remember when you audition musicians is that it is always easier to add a member to the team than to remove them from the team. No one wants that awkward conversation—been there, done that, never want to do it again.
Take your time in adding members to the worship team. Thankfully, the Lord doesn't expect a certain sound or instrument to be playing when we are praising him, so we shouldn’t feel any pressure to add a bass player or drummer to the worship band as soon as possible.
Finally, a worship team audition should be a fun experience. It's important that everyone who auditions feels encouraged, no matter how well they have done or how successful they were.
For more ideas on how to audition your worship band, see my previous article here.
Worship Team Training
Now that you have created your worship team, it’s time to do some training. Wait? Training? If we have set a standard of expectations and you held auditions, why do we need to train?
Training a worship team, whether it’s musical or nonmusical training, is an important aspect in leading your team.
Leading worship, as you know, is not just about singing. There are a lot of balls to juggle. Just because the team has the musical ability and all the skills to sound great does not mean that the team has the skills to lead worship. The opposite is also true; if they are not the strongest musicians, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t lead worship.
"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16v7) In the same way, worship leaders should look beyond just talent and look at the heart of their musicians. That being said, the more skillful the team is on their instruments, the more comfortable they will be on a Sunday. This will also draw the congregation into worship more effectively.
If the musicians and vocalists are having to think too much about playing their piano or guitar, or which chords to play, then they're not going to be able to fully worship God and lead people to Him as easily. Training and practice will assist team members in this, and if they are constantly improving on their instrument, they will be able to focus more on worshipping.
For more on how to conduct worship team training, read my article here!
Tips For Leading Worship Teams
Here are my top three tips for leading worship teams effectively and with grace.
1. Build Relationships
Relationships are a huge aspect of your role in building a worship team. Be intentional about developing strong relationships with not only your senior pastor but any support staff as well.
I can not emphasize this enough. Build strong relationships with your worship team. When tension and storms come to your church and ministry, which I am sorry to say will come, a strong relational connection will help weather those storms.
At my church, we would hold a team night once a month, where we would come together as a team to share food, pray together, and just have some fun. It was a great way to break through relational barriers and to get to know the team members in personal ways.
Ask them about their families, how their jobs are going, and their hobbies. When your team feels cared for, the bonds between them will strengthen. If they are only looked at as a drummer for Sunday service and as having no value outside of that, this will cause resentment and hurt feelings.
Although completing tasks is an important part of the worship leading process, it is secondary to relationships—first with God and secondly with each other. If we miss this, we miss everything.
Let’s be honest, there is nothing more annoying than a person with bad communication skills. A great way to honor your team is by practicing good and clear communication. If the idea of phone calls and emails stresses you out, take steps to move past this.
Promptly returning emails and phone calls is such an important tool in building trust and cohesiveness with your team. Set aside time each day to check your emails, respond to worship team members, and clear your inbox. Don't allow it to pile up. Focus on this as an utmost priority, because it is.
Stay connected by keeping your contacts organized with these tools: 10 Best Church Contact Management Software 
Serve your team well by being organized. Have the schedule nailed down on your communication or team management software, plan out rehearsals in advance, and have the setlist out early enough so the team can practice.
A lack of organization can be frustrating to your musicians and singers. So jump into the organization aspect with excellence. Your team will love you, and thank you for this!
Related Read: 10 Best Church Management Software For Small Churches
After all this, the hard work begins. Probably not what you want to hear, right?
While many musicians excel at being relaxed and carefree, the job of the music director or worship pastor can be quite stressful sometimes. There are a lot of moving parts in the worship ministry, and many people to lead and care for.
While being prepared and organized is an essential part of the role, remember that there are times when it will be necessary to relax and have fun! After all, your volunteers are there because they love music and using their talents to serve.
You want to preserve those passions and foster a team that people are excited to be a part of. As a worship pastor, you will have many moments of exercising your patience. In times of frustration, remember why you are there and why you took the position in the first place.
If you have any other suggestions or tips for leading a worship team, put them in the comments below, I would love to hear what has worked for other people!
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