Our standard for minimum age is:
vocalist: high school
instrumentalist: middle school
This has worked out pretty well for us. And everyone auditions.
For your struggling singer, what if you gave her the name of a vocal coach and told her that you'd like her to get some lessons and work on her skills and confidence, with the goal of rejoining the team in six months or so? So you haven't closed the door, but you're also protecting your ministry's effectiveness. Just a thought.
I'm with Eric Frisch on this one. While we don't have any standing "age cutoff" one thing we have generally stood by is that they need to be able to transport themselves as it cuts back on a lot of hassle (and tends to help with the maturity factor).
I am starting to work in some positions that I won't require this for though. For example, we have a kid who is maybe 11 and is pretty talented on the drums. We're starting to get him playing djembe on the side during our practices. While he is not old enough to provide his transportation, the role he is playing is also not vital, so if he can't make it from week to week it's not as big of a deal as say the drummer or a lead vocalist.
Also, if you're up to it, I know it's tough but just keep encouraging here. Speaking from experience, it's amazing as a Worship Leader when you get to watch someone who is timid grow in their confidence not only in themselves but in serving the Lord up front.
When I was 5, the pastor, who also led the music, asked me to sing impromptu for the church on Sunday night. Mother whispered a song in my ear and told the pianist what song it was; the pastor set me on the pulpit on my knees, and I sang, not a bit timid or hesitant.
From that point on, I have never been afraid to stand in front of the people and sing or lead them.
In the last church I served as WL, there was a middle school girl who asked if she could play her violin in church, so I let her play during the evening offertory. You could almost make out the melody of "Amazing Grace," and when she finished, she received a hearty round of applause (even though it was pretty bad.) Before she played again we did some coaching, and had the pianist accompany her, and she did very well. The point of this is that by letting her do her thing, she gained confidence and the desire to improve.
Another girl liked to sing for the church, sometimes accompanying herself on guitar. Today, at 16, she is the WL for the youth meetings.
All this just to say, each person has their own path to becoming an accomplished musician/performer. The girl originally talked about in this thread will find her way there, too; the important thing is to not let her become discouraged or hurt-- her time will come.
I have really appreciated all the responses here and I have taken them all to heart. Here is what I am doing for now:
She and the 16 year old bass player I also mentioned have started a band with two teens from other churches. There goal was to start playing concerts in a few months. Like every new band, their aspirations greatly exceeded their abilities. They came into the first practice with 30 songs to practice.
I was there because they needed our sanctuary and the sound system to practice. So since I was there I asked if I could help them out - which they gladly accepted. I think they went through four songs in that session. My girl held the mic but didn't sing through the whole thing. However, I discovered that the bass player did a passable job singing.
That was about 4 weeks ago I think.
They are planning their second practice next weekend (Feb 26). So I presented a plan to them and they agreed. I'm going to meet with the singer and the bass player an hour before practice and I'll work with their singing. No sound system and no instruments other than my acoustic guitar. I'll try to draw her out in this informal environment. I'm really hoping that this will enable her to sing out, and maybe I'll finally get to hear her.
Then we'll put it together with the other musicians. By the way, their guitar player is pretty good. But although their drummer seems to know his rudiments has no idea how to put it all together. So I'll have to work a little with him as well.
If we can get two songs done it will be a great session.
If this works, then I'll try the same thing with our Sunday music.
As I said before, I'm concerned with the reaction of the congregation to this non-performance. But I have asked the Wednesday night prayer group to include her each week in their prayers - so they feel like they are helping with the problem. And another positive thing: whenever she is on the platform, she generally brings a lot of her friends with her that wouldn't normally be there. That is really a big plus since we are a very small congregation.
It really isn't about age, but experience, and heart. Some have the gift to stand up and sing in front of people, some don't, and with some it is a learned behavior. I am of the latter category, and understand fully the fear of being on the stage. To this day, I need a few moments of quiet with the Father before worship to focus on Him and not me (and my weakness).
I made a mistake early in the evolution of our band by giving a young girl a lead part in a challenging song. She has a wonderfully strong voice, expressed lots of confidence, and did great in practice, but on stage she got lost, and ran off the stage in tears. I listened to her youthful exuberance, and ignored the time honored practice of start small and go slow. She has yet to fully recover from that, and I grieve that I caused harm by moving too fast.
Worship band is not a club or hobby. It is a dedicated group with a purpose - to lead worship. At the same time, I think there has to be some other venues or opportunities for people to work into the mix. Small groups, specials, jam sessions, etc. all give a place and time to try the wings. Encouraging people to participate is important and necessary. At the same time, we do not want to do harm, or cause a problem.
I also agree with Ursula, in that prayer is essential. God is asking you to lead. He also has a few things to tell you, and you need His help. Expanding the prayer circle is also a good idea, as long as it does not decsend to the level of gossip. Broader encouragement can be very helpful, but a few poorly chosen comments by someone can be very harmful.
Best wishes as you lead and encourage.
Blessings and peace...
I agree with Dave above in that age is not the criteria to measure things by here. When I first read your post, I was thinking the problem you mention really is not limited to age at all. We had an 18 year old bass player that was incredible and worked out for a year or so until he determined watching The Office was more interesting than coming to rehearsal. Then we had a 50 year old bass player that had depression get the better part of him. (Hmm, is there something about bass players?)
You have received some great advice to which I really cannot add anything. All the best; I hope things work out.
To B-3 or not to B-3, that is the question.
I am realizing now that age really isn't as big a problem as I thought. I only started down that road because my pastor told me that at his last church the worship leader had an age limit of 18.
We've never had an age limit. My son plays bass; he's 16, and has for close to a year now. We had a guy a few years back who played and led a few times. Back then, when he was 16/17, he played lead for us and had a sensitivity beyond his few years. He's in the big-time now. I'm glad we don't have that rule and that people who are gifted and motivated can serve. Maybe kids like that one would have become discouraged or found another outlet for his talent.
On a separate note, practice is what you do at home. Rehearse is what you do as a group. If you're spending a good portion of rehearsal on training people on the basics of music or coaching them to sing/play out, then maybe they're just not ready for the team.
Despite us, and through us, God moves.
I've decided to no longer have an age limit, but I have made the decision to audition all new people from 2011 onwards. I'll make the decisions according to talent, skill, maturity, and most of all, heart.
Please check out my Christmas Blog at www.12daysofjesus.blogspot.co.nz
I had a new member come up to me today - he's probably around my age or younger - and after complimenting the music he told me that he plays guitar. I've been praying for a second guitar player, but I'm taking everyone's advice and going slow and I will have some kind of audition.
I should also say that the young girl this post was originally about did much better last week - I was very hopeful. Then she sent me a text message last night saying her mother just told her they weren't going to church today. I told her we would miss her. But I think things will be better with her - thanks to all who offered advice here.