Tips for Training in New Worship Team Volunteers
As a worship pastor, you deal with people of all sorts of skill levels. Chances are if you’ve worked in churches for long enough, you’ve seen people volunteer to help out who can hardly play an instrument, as well as volunteers far beyond your own skill level.
That’s the nature of working in a church – you see a very wide array of skill and commitment levels in volunteers. And while most people understand that volunteering to play on a worship team requires a greater deal of excellence in a particular skill set than, say, volunteering to help serve coffee or greet on a Sunday morning, you will still get people who want to join the team that are not quite up to par.
Training in New Worship Team Volunteers: Tips
If there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s that training people in takes time, effort, and resources. You can’t just “tell” someone the right thing to get them up to speed – it requires a lot of investment and work. But as a pastor and/or worship leader, that’s what it’s all about. Investing in people and growing them to better serve the Kingdom of God.
If you are currently dealing with new worship team members that aren’t very skilled or maybe don’t understand how to properly prepare themselves for rehearsals and Sunday mornings, here are a few tips:
Build an Onboarding Process and Schedule
If you don’t have an onboarding or tryout process and schedule, it’s going to make awkward conversations much more frequent. without having an onboarding process, you may end up overpromising a spot on the team to someone who’s not up to par.
Make sure you build an onboarding schedule, so when someone wants to join the team, you can layout what the process looks like. Maybe they show up to rehearsal two weeks in a row to play for 30-minutes with the team. Then their first Sunday starts on week 3 if you think they’re ready to go.
This sets expectations up front, makes sure they understand that they are being held to a standard and need to adequately prepare to be brought on, and helps you to avoid awkward conversations later on.
Offer (and Encourage) Lessons
This is just a great thing to encourage everyone to do – not just those who aren’t up to par. Put it this way: in the same way that a pastor continues to study the Bible and theology due to their responsibility to lead and develop a congregation, as musicians we should continue to hone our own craft and improve for the sake of presenting the best we can to God and improving the worship experience for the congregation.
If you’re personally capable, offer to give lessons to new members who need development on their instrument 30-minutes before or after rehearsal. If you’re not able and your team member’s financial situation doesn’t allow them to afford lessons, consider adding that to your worship team’s budget. Footing the bill for your worship team members’ music lessons is a great way to show that you support and appreciate them and want them to grow on their instrument.
Even if your church doesn’t have a lot of money, there are tons of online resources for lessons on each instrument – cheap subscription sites or even free YouTube series that can be incredibly beneficial. If a worship team member is really struggling to hold their own on their instrument but really wants to stay on the team, perhaps make lessons a condition for their involvement.
Setup First Month Workshops
There’s probably a ton of things aside from just “showing up and playing” that worship team members are responsible for. Is your church using personal mixers and in-ear monitors that new members need to learn about? Are you running tracks and click that they should understand how to operate? Is the team in charge of turning on the sound board, setting up mics or running cables? What does time commitment and expectations look like long-term for worship team members?
It’s probably a good idea to setup some sort of workshop night for new team members within the first month of their onboarding to make sure they feel comfortable with how rehearsals run. It can be intimidating to walk into a space where it feels like everyone understands everything when you’re brand new to the team.
Create a Feedback Channel
Make sure that new team members feel comfortable providing feedback. If they’re struggling to understand something or don’t like the way you’re communicating with them, you need a feedback protocol setup to allow them to express those things, otherwise they’ll stew on it and you’ll never learn or improve at your own training abilities.
The first few months are the most critical time for establishing a good relationship with new team members. Make sure that you check in each week with them. Ask them how the workload has been with playing on the team. Ask them if they feel like they understand everything they need to in order to succeed at their role. Ask them to be transparent about how you have made them feel – do they feel ignored or improperly trained? Do they feel a lack of or overabundance of direction and communication?
The important part about opening a channel for honest feedback is that you need to have thick skin and a humble heart. Recognize that they are in a totally different place than you, and while you may think you’re knocking it out of the park on your training process, be fully prepared to hear difficult feedback. That’s what learning and growing looks like for you as a leader!
About the Author
Chris Fleming is a professional musician from Minneapolis, MN who has played with artists such as Big Daddy Weave and Jason Gray. He is actively involved with the CCM worship scene and has contributed as a drummer, music director, song writer, and producer for various worship artists and churches locally and nationally. Chris serves as the Creative Director at Motion Worship, helping to write various blog posts and tutorials on production, stage, Ableton, music, design, and tons of other topics.