I’ve found it’s very tough to have a worship band without worship band members. Acoustic environments are nice, but sooner or later, as your church or ministry grows, the need will arise to add instruments and form a band. The question then becomes, once you’ve gathered a pool of potential prospects, what are the things that we look for and value most in a band member? The following are, by no means, law, but some simple suggestions from someone who, several times over, has gone through that delightful process of auditioning and selecting band members for worship.
1) He or she must be COMMITTED.
Nothing will ruin your band’s esteem heading into a night more than the drummer or lead vocalist not showing up. You wanna talk about a bummer! And you laugh, but, undoubtedly, somewhere in the world that happened at a church last Sunday, and I can guarantee you they weren’t laughing at all. It may seem like an obvious first step, but when you’re evaluating potential band members, be sure to give a careful and accurate gauge as to what their level of commitment would be to your band. We had a problem once with a band member who was perpetually thirty to forty minutes late for practice. Week in and week out, it almost became comical, it was such a sure thing. Practice time is precious, however, thus when it came time to re-evaluate and select members for the next year, he was one cut we were forced to make. You too may have someone with the most amazing heart and breath-taking skills imaginable, but they’re of no use to your team if they don’t value practice or can’t make it to gigs consistently and on time. You can press your luck, but better to follow this principle now than wait and learn the hard way- trust me.
2) He or she must be HUMBLE.
This fundamental almost goes without saying, as well, but it’s just so important it had to be included as one of the five. Obviously, you want worship band members that possess a humble spirit- both on stage and off. And I’m not saying that we play with our heads down, standing completely still the entire time. Not at all! This is church we’re talking about, a place where people are alive; it’s not a funeral. However, it goes both ways. I recently opened up for a pretty well known Christian rock group, and their stage presence was so “rock-show-like” that it just came off as silly and, worse, distracting, in my opinion. Worship is all about us decreasing and Christ maximizing- in our songs, in our hearts, even in the way we carry ourselves. How do you measure this? Well it’s tough. I compare it to the position of offensive line in football. If you aren’t being noticed (accruing penalties as in the football scenario), you’re right on. When that lineman gets called for a false start, that’s when he’s in trouble. The attention is bad. It’s similar for a worship band. I, personally, find it quite liberating that the focus isn’t on me when I lead, though. I mean, how freeing! People didn’t come to see me, and they aren’t listening to hear if every note lands on pitch. Their focus is on God; so should mine be.
Equally as important as manifesting that humble spirit of leadership in a general sense, is finding band members who are team players. There’s no place for a musician convinced he or she is better than the rest of the band. That type of attitude and thinking will show in your sound, I guarantee it. The thing I love most about my electric guitarist is the fact that he absolutely hates guitar solos. Strange right? Well, not really. He just knows the music we play is not about him. He’d rather blend in and add texture, filling out the sound, not dominating it. Christian music is different than every other type of music in the world in that way. Our mission as a band, then, is to produce one sound that lifts high One Name- the name of Jesus above each of our temporary names and the fame of Jesus above any fleeting fame that charms us for a season. Competition is the antithesis of humility and an outlaw from any truly successful worship band.
3) He or she must be TEACHABLE.
This plays right into the point we were just on about humility and being a team player. When bringing in a new band member, I always look for someone who is coach-able and willing to learn. If someone resists correction, or even the slightest suggestion, their growth as a musician, a teammate, and, greater, a disciple, will be noticeably stunted. It’s important that you seek out band members who are slow to speak and quick to listen. This humble-openness, as I call it, will reap a great harvest in time, as many quarrels and disagreements will be bypassed because of it.
4) He or she must be, to some degree, TALENTED.
Notice that it’s not a prerequisite for them to play half a dozen instruments (although that doesn’t hurt does it?), but a certain measure of skill is necessary. Check out Psalm 33:3… “Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” Skillful playing is required to lead others in maximum worship. But why?Because you don’t want to distract! I’m not saying you’ve gotta possess the guitar competency of Eric Clapton or the vocal madness of, say, Bono, but you must be able to play and perform in a way that doesn’t inhibit others in worship. We’ve all been in an environment where the band was so bad you couldn’t focus on anything but the missed notes and the bad transitions. I assert that, first and foremost, that is not a lack of spiritual focus by the attendee, but rather a lack of responsibility by those leading from stage. Excellence in our music pleases God. And playing skillfully should be a desire of ours too. Colossians 3:17 says that whatever we do, be it things we say (think: words we sing) or things we do (think: strum a guitar), we’re to do them all in the name of the Lord. Another plus to being skilled on your instrument or voice is that it gives birth to a humble confidence that, in turn, frees you up to focus on the most important thing- that being following the Spirit in leading others in worship. If I’m fumbling through tough chord changes and a bridge that’s without question out of my vocal range, these things pose a real distraction to leading others. When I know I don’t have to worry about the technicalities of a given song, it allows me to give the Holy Spirit my complete attention.
5) He or she must be a WORSHIPPER.
Because worship is our chief end as a worship band, this is a real “duh” but it’s a nice point to end on. If it comes down to two guys who are both equally as qualified and equally as committed, the heart of worship should always be the tie-breaker. They say worship is a lifestyle, and it’s true. If you pick worshippers over band members your impact will extend well off the stage and well beyond the 1 or 2 hours you meet for corporate worship every week. God, give us the people we need to carry out the task You’ve given in the timing You ordain.