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Six Lousy Ways to Get More Musicians

One of the most often asked question I get as I talk with pastors, worship leaders and volunteers is “How do I grow my team?” What they usually mean is, “How do we find more musicians?” Here are six ways not to do it:

1. Rely only on Sunday morning announcements. 

This is the “shot-gun” approach or the “let’s throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks” method of recruiting. It’s OK to use your church’s forms of “mass marketing”—Sunday morning announcements, bulletins, website—but recognize this type of passive promotion works best to just raise awareness or pique curiosity.

Here are a few tips for using mass-market advertisements to grow your team:

An Opportunity versus a Need

Announce the desire for more musicians/techs, etc. as openings or opportunities—avoid the needy plea. More on that in a moment.

Call to Action

Point people to the next step by giving them a clear and tangible action. “Pick up an info sheet in the foyer” or “Sign-up at the welcome center” or “Contact so-and-so” or “Scan this QR code to sign-up online.”

Each of those ‘next steps’ should have another tangible step that moves them closer to the interview/audition process.


Be clear about minimum qualifications. We fear, especially in “needs-based” ministries (e.g., we don’t just want another bassist to fill our fifth Sunday team, but we just don’t have one), that we might discourage people who under-estimate their abilities. But honestly, you honor your time and theirs by being upfront about what’s needed on the team.

For example, I’ve learned the hard way to be specific with potential piano players: “You have to be able to read leadsheets. We don’t provide full piano arrangements.” If she looks at me like I just told her to stop believing in the Virgin Birth, I pretty much know where this is headed. I’ll even offer to teach note-bound pianists to read chords. If they submit to that process, awesome. If they don’t, that’s fine, too. But the minimum qualification has just saved me from buying another 1,000-count bottle of Walgreen-brand ibuprofen.

Recognize that once you’ve posted your flyer, ran your bulletin blurb or made your announcement, the easy part is over. Relationship-driven recruitment is work. Take the time to develop the “next steps” in the process. Cultivate word-of-mouth promotion with your team and key leaders in the church. Be bold and personally ask people to tryout, without guilting or other emotional manipulation. Speaking of…

2. Show desperation.

“We NEED people for our worship team…”

Desperation for Jesus, good. Desperation for a drummer, icky. If you’ve got a solid musician hiding in the pews, she’s likely creeped-out by your desperation. And if someone does respond to neediness, he’s probably one of three things: a narcissist, a co-dependent, or someone who knows three chords and has the gift of “helps.”

(A side note: I’m convinced that most struggling ministries in our churches are made up of well-intentioned people with the gift of helps. They see unfilled holes. They’ve been gifted with this self-denying desire to help. So while their passions and experiences and strengths may lie elsewhere, they jump into whatever void they find. Sometimes this is necessary, but only for awhile. People can’t sustain long-term ministry with only a desire to “help-out.”)

3. Let Your Non-Musical Pastor Do the Recruiting.

Senior pastor to me, the worship leader: “Say, Jon, there’s a new family that just started attending and I heard that the wife played piano and sang at their last church. Incidentally, they sat behind us last week, and she does sing nicely. During the greeting time I told them you REALLY needed people for the team. She acted excited. I told her you’d call her this week.”

Where’s a cliff I can jump off?

Sometimes a scenario like this can surprise us for the better. Other times, not so much. This is sticky. If your senior pastor is recruiting for the worship team, at worst, it’s political. At best, it’s just his way of genuinely trying to help. In most cases, it’s the latter. If you’re not sure, assume the best. But you still need to have a conversation.

Before you go off half-cocked and confront your senior pastor for meddling (not a good idea), consider doing a few things first. And regardless, if your senior pastor is actively recruiting for your team, these are good steps to take:

1. Communicate to your senior pastor the kind of musicians you’re looking for and the minimum qualifications they need. You might get push back, and that’s OK. He may point out some rigid, overzealous or overly-idealistic thinking on your part. We artsy-types sometimes need the perspective of non-musicians to bring us back to reality.

2. Seek weigh-in and approval from your senior pastor for your audition process. You want the senior pastor to have your back when it comes to who gets on the team. You’ll make it tough for him if he’s blind-sided.

You don’t want this to turn into a bureaucratic mess with an entire board needing to discuss and vote. But you do want wisdom, discernment and biblical authority on your side.

Here are two ways to approach this:

The senior pastor or elder leadership gives ‘final approval’ to a person who you recommend. Hopefully, they’ve bought in and can trust your process, so they won’t be concerned with musicianship. Their focus will be on heart and character. They might know or discern something we don’t. I want the leadership above me to give their approval and blessing. It keeps me under the cover of Christ’s delegated authority.

Include in the audition process a recommendation from the senior pastor (or elder, or small group leader).

This accomplishes three things:

1. It streamlines the process by avoiding the bottleneck of board approval.

2. It encourages accountability and mutual submission in the church, and…

3. It creates a self-disqualifying step. In other words, if the applicant, for whatever reason, doesn’t take this step, you’ve just saved yourself time and energy and probably some Advil.

I think it’s worth addressing: Some of you non-musical senior pastors are in a situation that you HAVE to be the one who recruits. In that case, seek out somebody with musical experience, even outside your church, to help you assess people’s musical ability.

And lastly, if you’ve taken the three steps listed above and your senior pastor still operates “outside his gifting,” it’s time for a heart-to-heart. However, be prepared to learn something about yourself and your process that you maybe hadn’t seen before. And he may see one of his own blind spots. A little mutual understanding goes a long way

Jon Nicol is a worship pastor, guitarist, songwriter and all-around-lover of helping people use their gifts and abilities to worship Jesus. Having served in smaller churches and now working on staff in a multi-campus church, he has a heart for ministries with limited resources and staff. That passion pours out at www.WorshipTeamCoach.com, a resource Jon developed to help churches to do great ministry with what they have right now, while preparing for more in the future. Learn more about me. This series originally appeared on www.worshipministry.com.