praise-bandFrom time to time, we are asked how to start  a praise team to lead music during worship services in churches. Below are seven lessons Dwayne has learned from several years of leading praise teams in the churches where he has served.  He has been involved with starting two successful praise teams from scratch as well as four choirs. He has also recruited and led several traveling praise bands that he has taken on the road with him to his many intinerant events across the country.

Please note that the methods and approaches Dwayne has used may or may not work for you — and certainly won’t work in every situation. However, we believe that the guiding principles highlighted below can be applied any where.

1. Is there really a need? The first question that must be answered is this one. If you already have a powerful and effective choir, why do you feel you need a praise team out front? Be careful not to think you need one just because it’s “the thing to do now.” Evaluate your present leadership style and effectiveness carefully. In most cases adding a small ensemble and band will greatly enhance your corporate worship. Nonetheless, don’t just assume that. Ask your pastor and other ministry leaders what they think. Ask yourself what you could do better or different with what you already have before you start something completely new. Know why a praise band approach is needed within your particular congregation.

2. Pray for wisdom constantly and fervently. There are many decisions and variables when recruiting a praise team, so stay on your knees for guidance!

3. Recruit carefully and slowly. Never lock yourself into people immediately. You need time to get to know them. They may have a reputation as being a “great guitar player.” But if you haven’t heard them play, how can you know for sure? And even if they are extremely talented, they may not be dependable and committed to rehearse from week to week, or they may have negative or arrogant attitudes. True, we all need to improve, but you have to decide what standard you will set up front. People you invite to be on your team must be team players in every respect.

4. Tell them up front what is expected and required to join. What I normally do is talk with a prospective team member and give him or her “the ropes” before they are even considered for our team. I explain our requirements and standards to them about anyone who joins our PT. Sometimes that explanation alone regarding their responsibilities  is enough to screen them, because they may just walk away on their own. NOTE: For a list of our requirements to join our praise team, click here.

5. Try them out before making them permanent. Once we have done the initial screening and explanations, what works well for us is to ask a prospective new team member to come to a rehearsal and practice a song or two with us. We keep it casual and simply say something to the effect, “Hey, I heard you like to play the keyboard. Why don’t you come play a song with us next Wednesday night during our rehearsal? No commitments on our part or yours. Just a great opportunity to use and bless us with your talent!” We find this approach works much better for us than the traditional “auditioning” process of a typical high school chorus!

6. Have other avenues available to those who can’t or don’t make your team. Just because people can’t participate regularly on your praise team doesn’t mean they should never have a place to use their talents for the Lord. At our church, for anyone who enjoys singing, we assemble a special volunteer choir about four times a year — a couple times for special holidays, but sometimes for special praise services that feature them. For more talented “solo” voices who are also passionate in their worship and devotion, we sometimes ask them to sing a song with our band as a featured soloist. It is a little more difficult to plug in instrumentalists. For example, we can only utilize one drummer during any given song! And most drummers don’t like to “switch out” in the middle of a service because of their personal settings and placement of the drum set. So, to allow other talented drummers to take part, we look ahead to when our main drummer will be out of town and we ask another drummer to play in his stead that day. Or for a guitarist, we might ask them to play one or two songs with us during a particular service, making it clear to them from the beginning that this is a unique opportunity, not a permanent position.

7. Finally, be sure to begin rehearsing several weeks in advance of when your praise band is to make their “debut.” This is very important for a couple reasons: First, by reheasing several times together you will learn each other’s playing styles and also become closer as friends and ministry partners. This will be very evident the first time you step onto the stage to play. Second, you want to set a quality standard from the very beginning. That first time to play for the congregation must be a win for your praise band. Do not allow them to play if they feel unprepared and uncertain of themselves. You will more quickly gain their respect and followship that way. Remember, leadership is earned, so earn your influence among them by properly preparing them each and every time they play and sing.