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How We Audition

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I think one of the most important points I can make in starting this article is this: how we audition, and the audition processes are unique to the organization in which they take place and the people they serve. What may work for me and in my church may not be applicable in yours. So keep in mind that a carbon copy of this article might not be a great idea, but I hope it will give you a jumping-off point and something with which to “compare notes!”

A couple of quick pre points. Firstly, read my previous article about why we audition at all and make sure you’re ready with your explanation as to why you’ve put an audition process in place. Secondly, make sure everyone is very clear on the expectations and what your audition process is hoping to find. If you don’t want kazoo players, make sure people know you won’t be accepting any kazoo players.

The following points are the steps of our audition process, in order and in detail.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Consider the merits to recruiting people personally, face to face, making open calls to your congregation, or just letting people come to you. What will work best for your church? For us, a little of everything has been successful. Mostly, we let people come to us – musicians know that if they want to play music in church, worship team is how you do that. They see me on stage every week, so they know I’m probably the one to talk to. In times of “desperation” we’ve put out an open call (making sure to communicate that there is an audition involved). Keep in mind that when you publicly ask people to join your team, you will often end up with people who may not be a fit for that ministry. I’ve also asked around to find out who the musicians are and approached them myself – this one has the best success rate. Pick one, or pick them all!

Character

Our audition processes always begin with a discussion of heart & character, far before anyone sings a note. This could look like a form that asks strategic, open-ended questions or an interview or just a chat over coffee. Whatever method you decide works best, figure out which character qualities you’re looking for and find those before anything else. If you assemble an ultra talented team of people with pride issues, your team is going to implode pretty quickly. I look for a humble spirit and a team-player attitude first and foremost. People who are honest about where they really are with God and the struggles they have are so attractive to me as a ministry leader. God can work so easily in the broken! We have definitely turned down some crazy talent because of heart issues, and we are totally comfortable with that.

Faith

This is a sticky issue for us, and I have vacillated on this a lot. What is your conviction about the faith situation of people on your team? One thing that I believe is non-negotiable is that singers should be believers. They are professing statements of faith about God’s character in front of a congregation and there needs to be full integrity there. But when it comes to musicians, I’ve done both. I’ve said only those who follow Jesus, and I’ve also said that worship team presents an awesome opportunity for those who haven’t yet made a commitment to see faith up close. This is a matter of prayer, considering what’s suitable for your congregation, and discussion with your leadership, but make sure you’ve made a decision one way or another.

Talent & Experience

After we’ve established a person’s character and discussed their faith journey, then we get to the musical audition. This often just looks like a jam session with myself and maybe one or two other members of my team. I look for basic skill & musicality, but also for an ability to fit into a group groove, follow a leader musically, etc. If you need people to be able to read sheet music or chord charts, make sure they sight read something for you. If you expect them to be able to improvise, make sure you give them an opportunity to do that during the audition.

NOW GO DO IT!

The following points are the stages of audition I have used in my ministry and have found very effective!

RECRUITMENT

Consider the merits to recruiting people personally, face to face, making open calls to your congregation, or just letting people come to you. What will work best for your church? I find that a combination of everything can be successful.

Wait to Be Approached

•Make sure there’s general information about the process of joining your ministry somewhere public (website, church blog, etc)
•Make yourself extra visible and available on Sundays so you are easy to find and approach.
•Set out some action steps for your team members and empower them to engage interested parties & answer questions

Casting Calls

•Make a public announcement yourself – be engaging, upbeat, and encouraging!
•Communicate clear and simple action steps for people to follow
•Have any materials, applications, or music available for interested parties to take with them in hand when they come calling

Face-to-Face Engagement

•Ask around the congregation on Sundays or any time your church is together.
•If people aren’t musical or interested, ask if they know someone who is.
•Be direct, make eye contact, & smile.
•If you get referred to someone, walk right over and talk to them immediately – don’t wait!
•Have any materials, applications, or music close by just in case you find someone interested!

No matter how I find myself in conversation with interested parties, there are a few things I always look for right off the bat:

•Do people look me in the eye when we talk?
•Do they engage me in easy conversation or do I have to pry basic information out of them?
•Do they seem like someone who would be comfortable on stage or talking to congregants after a service? 

When someone is throwing their name in the ring, I like to, in that first conversation, get a feel for how this person views them self. I’m looking for people who are willing to submit to an audition process, but I’m also looking for people who have confidence in their abilities. The most important thing I am always looking for is honesty. People who can look me in the eye and be real about where they are at. We don’t need perfect people, we need broken & honest people.

INTERVIEW

My audition processes always begin with a discussion of heart & character, far before anyone sings a note. I see two options here, those being an application form or an interview. Either way, here are the questions I believe need answers and have proved to be most effective for me:

How long have you attended this Church?

Have you served anywhere other than worship team?

Why are you interested in worship team?

Do you have any history with musical worship?

Tell me about your church background and experiences.

Would you say you have a personal relationship with Christ? Why?

What does your relationship or walk look like?

Are you struggling through anything or asking any hard questions right now?

What do you feel you bring to the table as a member of worship team?

Any weaknesses you feel are important to note?

What do you feel is the most important quality of a worship team member or leader?

I look for a humble spirit and a team-player attitude first and foremost. People who are honest about where they are really at with God and the struggles they have are so attractive to me as a ministry leader. God can work so easily in the broken! We have definitely turned down some crazy talent because of heart issues, and we are totally comfortable with that. When it comes to a walk with Christ, I’m also just looking for honesty. From there, its discretion. For vocalists, 100% they have to be walking solidly with the Lord, but for musicians, if they are seeking and trying, but having doubts or figuring it out still, I’m often comfortable with that.

MUSICAL AUDITION

Vocalists:

•Have another vocalist there if you are not a vocalist
•Have the applicant prepare one fast and one slower song (Just a chorus/bridge is fine)
•Have them sing alone, have them sing with your vocalist in unison
•Have them sing with the vocalist and change harmonies part way through or from melody to harmony and back (Test their ears)
•Have them sightread sheet music (if they will need to do this) or sing through something they aren’t very familiar with (Can they catch on quickly?)
•Have them stand on stage with a mic and sing as though there’s an audience there (Get a feel for comfort on stage).

Musicians

•Have the musician learn one fast and one slow song, ask them to learn it according to the recording (Test for following directions & willingness to fit into the mould)
•Have them improvise a song they aren’t as familiar with (Can they make things up as they go?)
•Play through a song they know with them and move things around, repeat things at different levels of intensity and volume (Can they follow the leader & change on the fly?)
•Have them stand on stage and play (Get a feel for comfort on stage & “performance” ability)

The most important part of the process is of course, prayer. Before we make a decision, we always pray over it for a while (I tell the applicants they’ll hear back within 10 days). Once a decision has been made, we communicate it to the applicant as soon as possible. When I have to say no, I am always sure that my reasons are valid & clear, and deliver the news in person. When its yes, we make a stink and celebrate our new member!

I truly hope this is a real help to you! Are there any questions you would add the the interviewing stage? Anything you’d like to see in an audition that wasn’t listed here?

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3 Responses to “How We Audition”

  1. Love, love, love this whole article, Molly. Thank you for sharing, as I feel like auditions have always been the most stressful part of worship ministry.

    In my experience, it can often be very difficult for people to understand when we say “no”, specifically when it is due to them having a different level of talent, skill or ability than what the team is requiring at the time. Sometimes, by turning people away I’ve hurt their feelings, and knowing that has caused me to question my process every single time.

    1) What are your thoughts on a volunteer team having a standard of musical talent and ability, in order to be able to lead worship with excellence and execute the kind of music that speaks to and engages the congregation?

    2) In order to adhere to a standard, inevitably it will mean me saying “no” to some people, which makes me the “bad guy” :). I’m thankful for the way that kind of situation forces me to check my heart, my motives, and my method. But even when I’ve been prayerful about my decision, and gentle and loving in delivering the bad news, I’m still the bad guy, and I’ve still caused major disappointment for someone else. Is there another way? Or at that point, is it a matter between that person and the Lord?

    3) What about those who really desire to be part of the team, and who even feel as though the Holy Spirit has called them to serve in the worship ministry, who just aren’t able to sing/play at the level needed?

    • Hi Adriana,

      Thank you for your feedback and questions! Agreed – this is a stressful issue for so many of us! My encouragement to you is, and I apologize for sounding self-promoting, to read the other part of this article – Why We Audition. I think that will answer your first question and maybe give some insight for the second and third as well. http://thechurchcollective.com/worship-team-building/why-we-audition/

      Saying no is hard. It really is. But, I think two things are important – first, to know why you’re auditioning in the first place (again, see above article). If you are coming at it as a conversation about gifting, I think that’s a great way to “soften the blow.” Enter into a conversation of “I don’t feel that this is your area of gifting, but I know that the Spirit has gifted you – let’s find out what that is together.” The second thing that is important is to yes, leave it up to the Lord, as you said. You have to do what you do faithfully and leave the rest up to God. Faithfulness is our responsibility, success is the Lord’s!

      Lastly, I think if you’ve got someone who feels honestly that the Spirit has called them, it’s tricky! I personally don’t feel that God calls us to things he has not gifted us and equipped us for. That’s completely MY conviction. So you could engage them in a conversation about that – you could also find something not stage related for them to do. Can they help with admin? Can they serve in the tech area? Can they help with planning worship events? If they aren’t willing to do anything off stage, that might be a good indicator that perhaps this is more about pride than an actual servant’s heart. I know that sounds a little judgy – I say that as lovingly as I can!

      Does that help? Feel free to look me up on Facebook if you’d like to talk more or if I can give you any more insight!! I am praying for you as you work through some of this stuff – It is definitely not for the faint of heart! Blessings!

  2. I appreciate your response, and encouragement Molly! I didn’t mean to give the impression that any of this was current. But I have experienced it in the past and will probably encounter something similar in the future, and thought your article was a good platform to get some feedback from fellow worship leaders on the topic.

    Personally, I fall right in line with everything you said, and I don’t think that suggestion was judgy at all. 🙂 Our worship pastor has done a great job of developing a standard and expectation for the team according to the Word, including the passages you mention in Part 1, and that has really helped us to keep a steady focus on why we do audition.

    It’s good to hear how others work through these kinds of things. Thanks again for your feedback and insight. 🙂

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