Worship team auditions – a guest post from Kim Gentes

Worship team auditions – a guest post from Kim Gentes

Advice on worship team auditions

For years, I worked through how to build a team in a “worship band” format. I tried volunteers, training up musicians, bringing in friends and many other things.  After a while, I settled on the realization that recruiting for worship and music is something that can be helped by developing a good process. This format is one mechanism that can help in building a worship team.  Auditions aren’t for every one, or every church.  But where they fit, they can be very helpful. Below is a method I developed from years of pastoring worship teams.  I don’t expect people to use this method exactly as is.  Use what you can, and modify it to fit your church.  Each situation will require different understanding and application of God’s wisdom.  I hope this is helpful in helping you to develop your own method that can work well in your local church. – Kim Gentes

The PDFs below are a presentation note set that can be used used along with the audio.  Select the PDF file (“Worship-Team-Auditions.pdf”) below and open it up to viewable size on your computer.  Once you have it opened, select the mp3 file (“worshipauditions.mp3”) below and listen to the audio presentation as you follow along in the PDF notes.  The remaining files are support documents (an evaluation sheet and an excel results sheet) that are used in this method. The session is 1 hour long, with 15 additional minutes of Q&A from the live presentation audience. Total listening time is 1 hour, 18min.

To download the mp3, powerpoint, PDF and excel spreadsheet by Kim on this topic, you can do so here:


HOLD ON: Before You Do Auditions!

If you decide that using worship team auditions may be for you, you might want to think about some priliminary concepts to make sure your integration of auditions flows with the vision and direction of your church. Below I have written some thoughts on what you might consider before using auditions. Using auditions assumes that you know that auditions will fit with the vision and philosophy of your church leadership.

Its important to develop a philosophy of ministry that helps you ensure that any guidelines or criteria you use for people fits in the vision and setting of your local church.  The best way to do that is to make sure you understand the goals of your local church and its pastoral leadership. In other words, the most important thing to start with is to know the goals of  the pastor and church in terms of the what they are trying to establish with the music.  Basically, what level of music performance is expected and what general goals for worship ministry are there.  Knowing this is essential to team guidelines or auditioning, in my mind, since it forms the basis for where to set the bar on performance, on expectations and on personnel that are on your team.  Having some clarity on that from your pastor here is essential.

What I often hear back from worship leaders or music directors is something like this:

From a philosophical level I believe at this time we need to add to the team in numbers without lowering the quality. We need doubles of each position (minimally) for consistency, to be fresh and so we don’t grow control issues.  Here are our two essentials we think are important for our church worship ministry-

  1. Have a heart of a worshipper – not just a performer
  2. Are minimally as good as what we already have – Ideally, for future auditions we would seek only to add those that would add to or raise the bar of what we have but for now I think more of what we have would be a positive.

At this point I would ask two specific questions:

  • Are you re-auditioning current team members?
  • Point 2 (above) indicates you will accept, as a minimum, the quality of your current players/vocals. Is this correct?

For example, perhaps you drummer is your weakest player, musically.  But he is a worshiper, and you know he fits as a team member with a good workable heart.  You need to determine what you expect to get out of an audition, so that you can reach it.  Would you accept another player at that skill level? Or would you look for someone who could improve your team?

Conversely, you (the worship leader) might be the most proficient musician on the team. But it would seem clear that you would likely not expect another musician to match your level of skill.  The point is this- you may need to know not only what your goals are for the team in general, but (if those goals are related to improving skill) you might want to  look at each position you have, and ask what goals you have for each position.

For example, below is a chart I made up for an imaginary team-

Minimum Level for Auditions
Lead Vocals 8 7 Add
Acoustic Guitar 7 7 Add and improve
Background Vocals 6 7 Improve
Bass 8 7 Add
Drums 8 7 Add
Electric 7 7 Add and improve
Keys/Piano 8 7 Add

The “Skill” column above represents the current people on the team. The “Minimum Level” column represents the skill level you will accept of musicians who audition to be on your team. The point of these is to articulate your concepts and goals in real terms, and what specifics you plan on improving. However, I wouldn’t even bring this kind of chart to an audition or show it to anyone, other than you or the pastor.

But I would use a tool like this to help communicate to your pastor and clarify for yourself how you actually “feel” about where your team is at.  An audition could be used to populate the data for this type of chart, but if you play with your current team / people a lot already, you likely already know that data.  Either way, its a good tool to organize thoughts about what you intend on doing.  This way, you and your pastor both understand where things are and where the leadership wants to go.

I know, more than anyone, that using numbers like this seems harsh and impersonal.  We do not use numbers (even from an audition) to value people as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Even allowing for the use of them in an audition is only to measure actual musical aptitude, not issues of the heart.

Yet, if you actually want to improve on musical presentation, you must somehow be able to think and communicate (with your pastor) what that actually means in real terms. I.E. We want to add and improve on Background vocals, we want to add on electric, we want to improve on drums, etc.  Most people do all of that thinking, but never collate it into numbers and clear statements.  That is ok, and it can work, as long as everyone understands there is some unstated goal that is reasonably accepted by the leadership and all the parties who need to know, all do know and agree.

I encourage you and your pastor to think about these things because they help to clarify and propel your goals into actual activities, like recruiting, auditioning, training and growing a worship team.

From point 2 (far above) that the typical worship leader might make as part of their philosophy, this may essentially be communicating that the first audition would have a chart such as the following:

Minimum Level for Auditions
Lead Vocals 6 Add
Background Vocals 6 6 Add and improve
Bass 5 5 Add and improve
Drums 4 4 Add and improve
Electric 8 6 Add
Keys/Piano 5 Add

The above chart says that the church knows they have a week drummer and are ok with that being the minimum level of qualification, since they want to keep the current musicians on the team.

For auditions that they might do later on,they are saying they would be looking for something like–

Minimum Level for Auditions
Lead Vocals 6 Add
Background Vocals 6 6 Add and improve
Bass 5 6 Improve
Drums 4 6 Improve
Electric 8 6 Add
Keys/Piano 6 Add

The point of articulating all this in numbers is for you to think honestly about your direction and how you are going to handle improving the worship team you already have at your church. If you are going to try to improve, you must recognize that it means you must be honest to communicate that information and be truthful about the reasons you are requiring auditions.  If you say you have a goal of improving the music, but don’t want to replace poor musicians with better ones, then you are not following your goals.  If one of your goals is keep the current team in tact, you must be honest as to whether you can then accomplish the goal of improving your team musicially.

Perhaps this is something you and your pastor have already talked about, which is great. The essential thing is talking about your real goals and communicating them and agreeing on them together before using a method (such as auditions) to help you acheive that goal. To start off a process of getting those foundations in place, you may want to schedule a meeting with your pastor and discuss the following topics:

  • What is the primary role of worship in the church, according to the Bible?
  • What is the pastor’s goal for worship ministry in our local church?
  • What personal character maturity is needed for a person to participate in worship ministry?
  • What qualifications (other than character) are required to be a part of the worship ministry (IE. time, groups attendance, etc, age, etc)
  • Who are the primary decision makers that determine the roster of the worship team?
  • Can the worship leader assign a person to the worship team ?
  • Does the pastor approve selections to the worship team?
  • Can the pastor assign a person to the worship team?
  • Does the worship leader have the freedom to veto selections from the pastor?
  • What style of music do we want in our local church for the next 5 years?
  • What instruments will help us accomplish that style well?
  • What level of musicianship is essential for our local church to play the style of music we are striving for?
  • Do any of the current musicians not meet the level of musicianship we know is essential to meet our goals?
  • What churches in our area are already excellent at doing the kind of music we would like to do? (go visit them)

Asking those questions between you and your pastor will begin a dialog that will help you see music more clearly where each other is at. Once you have a good idea about the philosophy and goals of music and worship ministry, you can develop guidelines fairly quickly to help you meet those goals.  Even just walking through those questions will have you well on your way to being able to outline your philosophy regarding worship ministry.

Once you are completely comfortable (and in agreement) with the vision, philosophy and goals of worship/music ministry in your local church then you can proceed with using auditions, if it will help to accomplish the goals you have developed.

May God bless you as you follow His direction


Kim’s blog can be found at http://www.kimgentes.com

(c)Copyright 2009 Kim Anthony Gentes