The audition is over and your new team member is ready to get started on the worship team. You plug them in and, after their first week, you realize they weren’t as ready as you thought they were.
Your first indication is that their initial rehearsal with the team keeps getting halted with constant IEM adjustments, awkward questions, wrong charts and overall tentativeness. Then on the weekend, you notice that they are sweating bullets right before the service and look like their going to blow chunks the whole time they’re leading worship.
How a new team member adapts to the worship team depends on several factors. Some come in with previous worship team experience and others with none. While different, each face their own challenges.
Symptoms like the ones described above can’t always be eliminated, but there is one thing that’s proven priceless to me as a leader in helping a new team member transition in with as much ease and confidence as possible: An ORIENTATION PEROID.
The length of the orientation period depends on the new team member. It can range anywhere from 3-6 weeks depending on the person. Many times, I’ll leave it up to the new team member as to whether they believe they are ready to lead after their initial orientation period. We have an honest discussion and if both of us agree, the person either moves on or they continue the orientation period until we both agree they are ready.
Here’s how it works:
Each new team member comes to rehearsal and prepares as if they were going to actually lead worship on the weekend. I send them Planning Center invitations just like the rest of the team but rather than assigning them a position like “Vocalist” or “Lead Electric Guitar”, I assign them as “New” and explain to them that they will prepare just as if they were going to lead worship on the weekend but won’t actually participate in the worship service. At rehearsal, they bring their instrument, rig, earbuds and whatever else they normally would. We hook them up but don’t put them in the FOH. This gives me the opportunity to listen to them in rehearsal, see how they’re fitting in and offer feedback without it affecting the music or tech teams as they prepare for the weekend. Once the orientation period is complete, I change their position in Planning Center to their permanent position so they know they will actually be participating in the worship service.
This orientation period accomplishes four things:
1. New team members discover whether they are willing to make the commitment.
We’ve all had new team members who participate on the team for the first month and then for whatever reason we never see them again. Having to prepare for a worship service that you don’t actually participate in is a great revealer of one’s motives for leading worship. If a person has a sincere desire to worship and senses God’s call to lead worship, they will persevere through the orientation period. If not, it’s a great way to weed out those who will most likely end up dropping out down the road anyway.
2. New team members get to know who they’re playing/singing with.
There’s nothing more awkward than trying to make music with a bunch of people you don’t know. Because our musicians serve on a rotation, by allowing new team members to go through an orientation period, they get a chance to know pretty much everyone on the team before they lead worship with them. Since there is typically more time for socializing before and after rehearsals, it ends up being a time where bonds are made and friendships are developed.
3. New team members get to see my leadership style.
When our team comes to rehearsal, I expect everyone to have already practiced. We typically do seven songs per service and when rehearsal is going on two hours because someone didn’t come prepared, the weak link becomes quite obvious. While encouraging, I’m usually pretty up front with our team members about expectations and how we want everything to sound in the end. While expectations are explained at the audition, if a new team member is not used to this type of environment, it can be very upsetting. Orientation gives new team members a chance to see how I interact with the rest of the team and, more importantly, how they respond.
4. New team members get an idea of how we do songs at our church.
New team members coming from a previous music/worship team can come in with expectations based off of their previous experience. It’s always interesting to see the looks of confusion and horror when we start rehearsing a common worship song and the new team member gets completely lost because it’s in a different style or format than they are used to. By coming to a few rehearsals prior to leading in a service, new team members get a chance to see how we make songs our own.