Thursday, February 10, 2011

10 Ways to Recruit Church Musicians

It's a common enough story. A faith community finds itself without an organist, and sets about advertising for a new one. In this community's mind the person needs to have the same or similar skills to the previous leader. After all, there is an instrument sitting there with no-one to play it. Right?

Wrong. This faith community is making the same mistake as has been made for generations. When musical leadership is posited as the realm of a chosen few, leadership is invariably polarised and participation inhibited. Rather than recognising the gifts of those within the community, the powers-that-be try to enforce the status quo, and miss out on what could be. This is explored in Virtual Music Barriers.

Each faith community is a unique set of challenges in this situation, not least the assumptions the community holds about music. These are often reflected in the response of potential new musicians.

Looking Beyond "No Thanks"
Fear is a potent deterent to musical leadership in the church. Here are a few common responses:
  • I am not a good enough musician.
  • I have no experience.
  • Others will think I'm an upstart because I am not skilled enough.
  • I can't lead every week.
  • You need someone younger.
  • You need someone older.
  • I'm not like X, I can't do X like he/she could.
  • I don't play an instrument.
  • I don't play the organ.
  • I can't sing.
Each of these responses is based on a perception of what being a church muso looks like. And what it looks like almost always limits possibility. I would argue the Key Selection Criteria for Church Musicians is somewhat broader than this.

My 10 Top suggestions for recruiting musicians attempt to squash each of these fears by providing a solution:

1. Allocate a budget
While this may be used to purchase new music, it can also be a means to invest in the skills of your people through personal development pursuits like...

2. Pay for a term of lessons
If you've a guitarist, singer, trumpeter (doesn't matter what they play) in your midst, your community could offer to pay for a term of lessons with a local teacher.

3. Establish a tutorial system
Those with less experience and expertise might be coupled with a mentor who offers one-on-one assistance.

4. Attend a workshop
Fill a car and travel to a workshop being offered in your state. Not only will you come back inspired with new ideas, but you'll do some good team building with those you travel with.

5. Look beyond your four walls
I have never met a community with no musicians living in it. They are there if you are willing to look. Seek them out and learn from them.

6. Listen beyond your four walls
Be open minded about the music styles that can be welcomed into worship. Listen widely and ask others what they like to sing and listen to. Find out what other faith communities like yours are doing.

7. Encourage your children
Are the children in your community singing? Find out how to get them involved.

8. Take baby steps
Don't move too fast. Be prepared to build slowly. If people lack confidence they will be more comfortable accompanying just one song each week for awhile.Use percussion creatively to accompany other songs.

9. Monster Music Night
Find out about your community. Hold a fun night and invite any kind of performance from groups and individuals in your midst. Be prepared to be amazed.

10. Think beyond the songs
Involve people in musical leadership in less formal ways by considering 6 Sound Innovations for Worship, use soundscapes, make your own instruments, play a music game at your next church meeting.

Effective recruitment is a perennial process. Where it is, most faith communities will find they are able to weather the comings and goings of musicians quite comfortably because they have nurtured and encouraged a community of people with various skills and abilties, and welcomed a variety of styles with grace.

You are welcome to offer your recruitment idea here for others to consider.

You may also be interested in:
How is the Church Accompanying Song in 2011?
8 Top Tips for Getting the Blokes to Sing
A Cappella Sunday
10 Ways to Improve the Band by next Sunday
10 Ways to Fertilise Your Community's Musical Life

And this article from the USA late last year: Tough Times for Church Organists 

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