Not too long ago I received an e-mail from someone whose music team has grown, resulting in less-gifted musicians still on the team. He asks:
Do you set thresholds for talent/ability that must be met in order for people to participate in the leading worship? What about ‘good people’ who don’t meet your thresholds? As a corollary, how do you manage multiple musicians who ‘pass muster’ wanting to play the same part? In other words, do you have 4 guitarists every Sunday, or do you rotate your players?
Every growing church will eventually face the issue of too many instrumentalists and/or vocalists. Here are a few suggestions and ways we’ve addressed that issue:
- I think of three standards for musicians – godly character, natural expressiveness, and musical skill. I generally rank them in that order. Where those lines are drawn depends on the size and maturity of the church. Obviously, I’m looking for people who excel in all three.
- Be honest with people about their gifting. I told our musicians at one point that it’s okay to be a “B” vocalist. They just need to be the best “B” vocalist they can be, for God’s glory! Many sports teams have more than double the actual number of players needed for a game. But everyone has a part to play on the team.
- If you’re in a situation where you know some people shouldn’t be on the team, I’d recommend gathering the whole team together and laying out the standards. Let them know that as the church grows, more gifted people will come in to take the place of some people currently on the team. If that happens, God will provide other opportunities to serve. Our desire shouldn’t be to prove we should have a place on the team, but to gladly welcome and encourage those who might replace us.
- After a group meeting, you may want to have a musical interview for everyone on the team to get a better idea of where their skills are at. If you have four guitarists, but only two good ones, you may need to release the less skilled musicians. But remember that weaker musicians can sometimes fill in for more gifted members. So don’t release them too soon! Obviously, if unrepentant sin is the problem, it doesn’t matter how gifted they are. Their participation will negatively influence the team and, more importantly, dishonors the Savior they claim to worship.
- I’ve often found that when the bar is raised, people will often realize they shouldn’t be on the team. If they don’t see it, I need to be a faithful leader and let them know. In my 30 years or so of leading teams, I’ve only actually had to do that a handful of times. But, when I do, I emphasize that God has a unique place for them to serve, and that there will be more joy in serving with the gifts God has given them, than trying to prove they can be on the team.
- We mostly rotate our instrumentalists and vocalists, combining different players at different times, although our singles band leads twice a quarter. We schedule musicians for the coming quarter. The advantages of rotation are many: more people can serve, you can adjust to people’s schedules, people learn to be better musicians by playing with different people, it adds variety to the sound. Of course, there are advantages to having the same musicians each week as well. But, rotation works best for us at this point.
- It’s always good to remind our folks that we serve for God’s glory, not our own. Encouraging others, expressing gratefulness, and being faithful are three fruits of the Gospel that help fight our ever present tendency to complain and compare.
I’d love to hear your comments on what you’ve done to address this issue, or any follow-up questions.