Recruiting Musicians to Ministry: Success Brings Success

by vernsanders on March 27, 2012

Reading a post the other day entitled How to Build a Creative Arts Culture and came across this quote from a panel discussion:

Re: Is your band paid staff?
Taylor: No, because we don’t have the budget, and it wasn’t a possibility. We’ve grown our talent. Good musicians are attracted to good music.

I want to talk about the last sentence there…specifically as it relates to recruiting musicians to a ministry.

First, let’s be clear: I’m not talking about “standard” recruiting. You know, where you put up signs or announcements in the worship bulletin that say “Musicians Needed.” My experience is that in any church of less than 500, and in most churches of up to 1000, you, as a ministry leader, are going to know (or know someone who knows) pretty much everyone who is a potential music ministry recruit. This is true, in part, because musicians tend to want to “be on stage,” and because a music ministry leader is generally a well-known entity in any church. Accessibility to that leader may be a roadblock to recruiting, but my experience is that if someone wants to join your program, they seek you out, or someone tells you about them.

Instead I want to talk about musicians in the community (or the congregation) who are…how shall I say this…at a certain proficiency level. Not warm bodies, but well-schooled and/or very talented people. My observation and experience tell me that if a “good” musician is in the pews, it is probably because they either want a break from being a musician (sabbath at a church? what a concept!), or they don’t think the music ministry is a good fit.

The good fit can have a couple of manifestations: “I’m too good for you,” or “I don’t want to stand out because I’m better than the rest of the people in the group.” In the first case, there is little that you can do to persuade someone that contributing their gifts and talents will be a benefit for them. They are transactionally-driven (“I’ll sing/play a solo any time you want, but I’m not willing to be in the choir/orchestra…”), and my experience is that chasing them, hoping for an attitude change, is folly.

In the second case, though, a leader has all the control in the world. To be blunt, if your group sucks, and there is a “good” musician in the pews, you either need to enlist their help because you are incapable of making the group grow as much as the other musician, or you need to grow the group musically. This is another case of “teach your [people] well…” because if your group is musically literate, capable of stylistic authenticity, and flexible in repertoire, my experience is that the “good” musician beats a path to your rehearsal. They literally will show up one day and ask “Where do I sit?”

Has this been your experience? Let me know what you know, so I can learn from it…please…

Ipod shuffle status (What is this?): 3715 (Under the Boardwalk – The Drifters)  of 7875

Get my EBook The Choir in Modern Worship



Previous post:

Next post: