Red Flags

When I arrived at my church five and a half years ago, I inherited a worship team of about 15 instrumentalists and singers. Since then, some have remained on the team, some have transitioned off either because of other commitments, moving away, or having children, and some have been asked to step back. New members have been added as well, and now the worship team looks very different than it did in 2004.

Adding members to a worship team is one of the most important and consequential jobs of a worship leader. It requires patience (when no one is stepping forward), discernment (whether or not someone is gifted), wisdom (is this person suited for a leadership position in the church?), and leadership (am I building a team or expecting it to fall into place?)

I have made some wise decisions regarding who to add to the worship team, and I have made some not-so-wise decisions. I’ve learned that there are some things to look out for (i.e. red flags) when considering whether or not someone should be asked to join the worship team.

Here are ten red flags to be looking for (in no particular order of importance):

They speak bitterly about former churches
You will not break their cycle of joining a church, being on the worship team, and then leaving and trashing that church to the next church. Instead, you will probably end up joining the club.

They “need” to be on the worship team
Be wary of someone who approaches you about joining the worship team after only weeks at the church, someone who seems overly eager to sing or play an instrument on the team, or someone who is putting pressure on you. Instead of looking for a place to serve, they are looking for a source of self-validation. Watch out.

They really just want to play music and leave the worship leading to you
I tell my team quite often that I am not looking to build a team of back-up instrumentalists and singers. I am looking to build a team of worship leaders. If I’m auditioning someone and they just seem to be interested in playing music and unable to articulate a passion for helping people encounter God in worship, I would be hesitant to add them right away.

They aren’t committed to the church
Before someone is in a position of leadership at a church, they need to be committed to that church. Set a high bar of expectations for the members of your worship team. You won’t regret it.

They say something like “I worship most easily when I’m leading worship”
This is usually code for “when I’m not up front I’m uncomfortable because I’d rather be up front”. People who really want to be up front shouldn’t be up front. (See my post from August called “Do You Worship When You’re Not ‘Leading Worship’?”)

They can’t articulate a vibrant faith and trust in Jesus Christ
Before you ever hear a potential singer sing a note, a potential guitarist play a chord, or a potential drummer hit the snare, ask them to tell you their story of how they came to know and trust in Jesus Christ.

They are over-confident
I once had a woman come up to me after a service and say “I would love to join you on the worship team some time. I used to sing many years ago. Feel free to call on me anytime. I don’t need to audition or anything like that. I’d be fine.” Pass.

They are already over-committed
I’ll always ask a potential worship team member “do you have space in your life for another commitment?” Then I’ll tell them what is expected of worship team members. If they seem excited about making this commitment and able to fulfill it, that’s an encouraging sign. If they seem burned-out just thinking about it, that’s a red flag.

They don’t enthusiastically participate in singing from the pews
Look for them on a Sunday morning when they’re in the pews. Imagine they’re the one leading worship and you’re the one looking at them on a platform. Whatever message they’re sending in the pews will be greatly magnified on stage.

They take it lightly
I remind my team quite frequently that being on the worship team means being in a position of leadership. Make sure that any person you add to your worship team feels that weight and takes it seriously.

Add to your team slowly, intentionally, and wisely. Look for red flags and don’t just hope they’ll disappear. They hardly ever do – and they’re a whole lot harder to handle once you’ve already taken the plunge.

2 thoughts on “Red Flags

  1. Zac Hicks December 29, 2009 / 10:29 am

    Wow. Thanks for this great post. I’ve thought these things many times but never synthesized them in this way. I’ve encountered some form of almost all of these red flags. I know this is a hot debate in worship leading, but personally I’m a bit more willing to incorporate individuals who can’t articulate a vibrant faith or who have the more play-music-leave-worship-leading-to-you attitude. I do it for missional purposes because I’ve seen in the past how God has used the close proximity to other vibrant worshipers to bring people to a first-time or deeper faith. I’ve had dialogue with worship leaders who think this is a suicidal and spiritually dangerous philosophy. My response is that I’m careful and discerning, and I pray for wisdom. It has to be the “right” type of person. Cantankerous and mocking pagans won’t do. They need to be respectful. I just feel the compulsion, because of the mission of God–even in something as central as leading worship–to leave the door open and not shut it entirely. I experienced such a case of working very well with a non-Christian for years in a previous church. People continually tried to bring this up, but as long as I or another person were officially leading the band and congregation, it didn’t pose a problem on our end. Anyway, just sharing some personal reflection, knowing that probably a majority of people who read this blog don’t agree with me. 🙂

    • Jamie Brown December 29, 2009 / 5:44 pm

      Hi Zac.

      You make some good points – thanks by commenting, by the way – particularly about how being in close proximity with other people who are vibrant worshippers can bring someone along.

      I don’t think your approach is suicidal or spiritually dangerous. I would just say that it’s very risky (you probably know that) and it could either work very well or end very badly. Your being careful and discerning will help the latter outcome be less likely – as will your avoiding including cantankerous and mocking pagans. Good idea. 🙂

      Each worship leader operates in a unique environment with their own set of challenges, opportunities, goals, personalities, and priorities. We all have to make judgement calls about whether or not someone is a good fit, whether someone needs to step back, and whether there is underlying potential which merits taking a risk. It sounds like you don’t make these decisions lightly.

      My feeling is that a worship team is most effective when it exists for only one purpose, and each member is signed on to that purpose. Worship leaders lead more effectively with worship teams – not back-up bands.

      But I also know that a body is made up of many members, some stronger and some weaker. And every body works differently. The worship team “body” that I lead will look different than yours. I pray that the body you lead, as arranged by God, functions as healthily as possible.

      Jamie

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