Michael Gonzales is a columnist for Worship Musician! Magazine.
When is it time for new players and singers to become part of a worship team? One of the most difficult tasks for a worship leader is making tough decisions that involve people. I remember when I was asked to take over a worship team at a church and that first meeting was uncomfortable.
For one, several worship team members didn’t know that the worship leader who had been there for years had abruptly resigned. When they showed up for rehearsal, they discovered moi! I’m surprised none of them had PTWLS (post traumatic worship leader syndrome), because I came in with a whole new operating system and new songs but one of the ways I won them over was how I developed new talent.
First I had to understand who had giftings in what areas. I quickly discovered who were my soloists, who were my prayer people, who could sing lead, and who should be on rotation. Those people who could sing, I would let them lead a church service. What? Never been done before. They all thought that was my job. No, it was my job to lead and a good leader raises others up to lead as well. Second, I started looking at the younger up and coming players and singers from college and high school. I knew that the college musicians were not going to stay in college all their lives (well, most). So I realized there was a pool of talent waiting to be developed from that group. There were also a couple of prodigies in the high school group who couldn’t wait to be on the main worship team.
What I did was invited them to rehearsal and told them to bring their instrument and play with us. One of my guitar players, for example, was assigned to mentor an up and coming player. This arrangement worked out well until every week the young guitar player kept asking, “Am I going to play this week?” One thing I learned quickly is to communicate every detail with your pastor. Why? Because he usually knows things about people that I don’t. I did put in a young player once without consulting the pastor. I didn’t know the young guy was seeing a staff counselor for a serious offense and the pastor later told me he felt uncomfortable seeing him on the worship team in front of the church. After talking with the young man he understood, continued to show up for practice, and eventually was put into rotation. This was also a good test. I wanted to see how committed he was and if he would be willing to submit to authority.
Singers are dealt with the same way. Who has lead singer potential? Are they willing to be faithful to show up for rehearsal? Are they learning the melodies and the lyrics? I would start by putting them into rotation then eventually making them regular singers. If your church has room for only four lead singers each week and you have 12 strong singers, I recommend putting them all on regular rotation. There is nothing in a rulebook that says you have to have only four people. Maybe have five or six. I scoff at the person who says, “Michael, four singers is the optimum vocal presence to fill the four parts and besides, that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
The final note is regarding what you are missing. If you only have one mediocre drummer, then ask your worship team do you know of anyone else who can play drums? Usually, if they are true musicians themselves, they know several people. What if that person doesn’t go to your church? It doesn’t hurt to ask, especially if they are not serving anywhere. What if that person isn’t a believer? That’s a tougher one, because I came to know The Lord by being on a worship team. You have to have discernment and trust that God’s Spirit will guide your decision making in that area. I know one thing for sure, whenever I encountered someone on one of the many church worship teams I’ve assisted and I find out they are not a believer, I just love on them the same as I would anyone else. Would I be judgmental towards that person? Not in the least. I do know if it were my worship team member that person wouldn’t be leading the Bible Study.
Today there are many opportunities to develop talent. Invite those people whom you are considering to develop to your outside events like barbeques, picnics, and outreaches. Lead by example and love every member of your team as Christ loves the church.