Recently I was talking to Jon Payne, the worship pastor in the Sovereign Grace church in Gilbert, Arizona. He brought up a question he had been asked about how to handle membership on a team. The particular issue was managing how long people should be on the team, given changing church size, addition of new members, seasons of life, and other factors. I thought his answer was worth sharing here at Worship Matters, so I’ve adopted it here.
Each fall we have a meeting where I “fire” everyone. I want them to know I don’t assume they should automatically continue serving on the team. I give them several weeks to pray about their decision, discuss it with their small group leader, and then get back to me.
I’ve seen a number of benefits to this approach.
- It forces people to seek faith to serve on the team—rather than assuming they should. Those that respond positively come back with more zeal and enthusiasm for the next year.
- It creates a natural time to add new people to the team, although people can still join mid year.
- It creates a natural time to remove people from the team. As everyone is evaluating, it’s a great time to approach someone and encourage them to take time off.
- It’s a regular reminder that no one on the team is irreplaceable. I joked with them this year that if no one responded I would be up there alone on my piano. A joke in the moment…but true. I don’t want people serving without faith. I don’t want people assuming that I would do “whatever it takes” to get a band on stage.
- It reminds everyone that there are other legitimate places to serve in the church that the worship team should be excited about and interested in.
- It reminds people that we won’t be here forever…sooner or later we will step down…
- It’s a great time to remind the team that we are just warming the seat for the next guy.
Those are Jon’s thoughts. Here are some of mine. Since Scripture doesn’t give us any specific guidelines for the tenure of the music team member, it’s wise to plan for the inevitable changes that come in you, your church, and the lives of your team members. Musicians can often carry the unspoken assumption that they have a lifetime membership card to the team, and are shocked/dismayed/disappointed/angry when they’re asked to step down or are moved to another ministry.
In the church we want to cultivate the model of the servant musician – those who develop their musical skills to the utmost so they can serve the church more effectively for the glory of Jesus Christ. But we also want people to understand that being a servant comes before being a musician. If there’s a better way for them to serve that isn’t musical, they should pursue it with joy and gratefulness.
It’s really helpful if these values are communicated before someone joins the team. You might hand out a team philosophy or even communicate these values at an audition. But if that’s not possible, it’s good to regularly remind team members that serving is a privilege, not a right. Stepping down from the music team to serve in another ministry doesn’t mean that an individual doesn’t want to worship God. It may communicate exactly the opposite. Worshiping God means obeying his will for our lives and seeking to serve others for the Savior’s glory. That’s something we can do in any ministry in the church.
“Firing” the people on your team and asking them to pray about their continued involvement is one way of keeping us humble and making us aware that none of us are indispensable. If you’ve thought of other ways, let us know.