By Jason Houtsma
I don’t know a single worship leader who doesn’t want more solid musicians on their worship team. Identifying those musicians through an audition process is the first step to getting them there. But how can you set new worship team members up for success once they’ve made the team?
Set clear expectations
A new team member is a blank slate. Setting clear expectations from the beginning will benefit you and your new team member. They don’t know the culture and are looking to you, as the leader, to define it.
Think through answers to questions like these:
- How often do you practice?
- What time does practice start?
- When can they get in the building to set up?
- How well should they know the songs when they show up?
- Do you send out practice materials in advance?
- If you do, when should they expect them?
- What does a typical practice consist of?
- What should they wear on Sunday?
Offering this information before it’s asked will communicate your expectations and build confidence in you as the leader. Both are important to your new team member.
Facilitate team relationships
Depending on the size of your church, your new worship team member may not know anyone on the team. Building in time for them to get acquainted can go a long way in settling nerves.
Don’t just invite them to practice and start playing music; properly introduce them. “Hey everyone. Before we get started, I’d like to introduce you to Jenny. She’s going to be playing piano with us.” Go around the room and have your members introduce themselves and answer a few icebreaker questions. Their name, how long they’ve been on the team, and what they enjoy most about playing for worship should be enough.
This information can make a new team player feel more at home. Bonus points if you share a few words about what you believe Jenny will bring to the team!
Be a trustworthy guide
Even after introducing them to the team, you are still the person new worship team members have had the most interaction with. Don’t leave them hanging—keep them close.
Do they seem uncomfortable? Offer some encouraging words. Make sure they are seeing your cues. If they’re missing them, pause and take time to explain what you’re doing.
Can they hear okay? Often new musicians don’t want to make waves and don’t take the time to set their monitor mix properly. Nothing undermines musical confidence like not being able to hear well. Take the time to help them get it set. They’ll thank you for it.
When practice is over, take some one-on-one time to debrief. These sessions are your opportunity to listen, encourage, and gently critique (make sure you go in that order!).
“How was that for you?” Don’t just wait to talk—actively listen to what they are saying. After responding, take some time to praise the good things you saw. When it’s time to critique, be honest but kind. “I love the voicing you used on that chord going into the bridge. Just watch your tempo, and try to lock in with the drums.” If they didn’t meet your already-clearly-set expectations, a gentle reminder is fully appropriate.
Lower the stakes
Even with a ton of practice and prep work, chances are your new player will have some first-time jitters. Keep their responsibilities light for the first few sets. Don’t ask your new guitar player to kick off the first Hillsong tune with a big lead riff or your new vocalist to nail the high note like Kari Jobe. Give them small responsibilities first, and as they are successful with those, your confidence in them and their confidence in themselves will grow!
Care for the person over the player
One thing I’ve noticed over 20 years of leading worship is that I have to pace my players because they rarely pace themselves. It’s only natural to want to play with the best drummer all the time, but even the most enthusiastic and committed team member needs rest.
Keep communication lines open. Regularly check in and make sure they can handle the workload. If you suspect they are burning out, they probably are. Don’t be afraid to force a little time off. Just make sure they know you are doing it to protect them and give them rest, not because they’ve done anything wrong. This will not only protect them but also let them know you have their best interest in mind.
Every new worship team member is a worship leader, so support their musical and spiritual growth. Share worship podcasts and devotionals that encourage spiritual discussion. Provide them with tools and song tutorials to help them grow in worship musicianship. The happiest worship musicians are the ones who feel like they are answering their call to worship with passion and can express their hearts through their music. Investing in your team members’ confidence and ability will pay dividends for years to come.
You have more influence over your worship team than you do anyone else in the congregation. They are your ministry. Genuinely care for them, lead with humility, and together lift the name of Christ. That is the mark of a successful worship team.
Jason Houtsma is the cofounder and guitar teacher at Worship Artistry, where he is helping musicians of every level answer the call to worship with passion and confidence. Jason has been leading worship and writing music since he was 15 years old and currently serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA. He is husband to Alli and father to Bjorn and Asher.