Worship Team: Open Mic Night or American Idol?

It seems that most churches fall into one of two categories when it comes to adding people to the worship team: it’s either “everyone is welcome” or “by audition only.” It would seem that both sides have their merit, but let’s take a closer look.

Everyone is Welcome (a.k.a. “Open Mic Night”)

This comes from the misguided belief in humanity that not only are people aware of whether they possess adequate talent or not but also that those who don’t possess adequate talent will not participate. Oh, if only it were that easy! It also stems from a desire not to hurt any one’s feelings. Unfortunately, an awful lot of people seem unaware of their actual talent (or lack thereof). Having this policy in your church can be damaging in several ways:

  1. It puts the individual in a position to fail. As the person responsible for the music department of the church, you have a responsibility to each individual you place in front of the congregation to help them to succeed. If you put them in a position in which you know they are not capable simply so “spare their feelings,” you’re actually not sparing them at all. They could face embarrassment from others in the congregation or even become upset at you for placing them in that position in the first place.
  2. It creates barriers to worship of God. One of the things all worship leaders and pastors should strive to do is remove as many barriers for worship as possible. Those barriers can come in the form of distractions (like poorly operated sound system or a flickering light in the room), errors (like typos in the program) or assumptions (like assuming everyone knows the words to the Lord’s Prayer or that we stand and sit at certain times). Adding a worship team member who is not suited to their role is the same thing. It creates a distraction that can cause some people to miss out on worship because they’re focusing on what’s going wrong.

By Audition Only

It’s easy for people to picture something like the first few episodes of American Idol when they hear the church is having auditions. No one wants to have Simon yell at them or think that they’re not the next great singer. At Journey, we use auditions for our worship team for several reasons:

  1. It sets a standard of excellence. By virtue of their just being an audition process, you automatically set a bar. It says that we value worship and we desire to give God the best because that’s what he deserves.
  2. It creates a level of expectation for team members. I know that everyone on my team is capable of certain things and has a certain level of proficiency in their area. Those levels are different for each part, but there’s a minimum requirement that they all must meet.

Having auditions are certainly not easy – especially because there’s always the chance that you’ll have to break some one’s heart and tell them they’re not ready. (More on that in Part 2 where we’ll get into the actual process) Yes, I’ve had to tell people “No” before and no, they didn’t run crying out of church.

The first step toward an audition here at Journey is by completing and turning in the Worship Team Application and the Worship Team Guidelines. Feel free to check these documents out and use them at your church. If you use them, let me know what you think and what changes you would make. I can also send the Word Doc files if that would be helpful. Just a leave a comment below.

What is your church’s style when it comes to adding people to your worship team? Leave a comment below and join in the discussion!

About Matthew Starner

Matthew Starner is pastor of Journey of Faith Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they help people take their next step on their journey with Jesus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *