How to Let Someone Go from the Worship Team
One of the most difficult parts of being a worship or production leader is having to let someone go from the team. There are a number of times and reasons why this may happen, and we'll dig into a few of those circumstances here. Church is supposed to be one of the safest places of healing for people to find hope and renewal. When a person puts themselves out there to be a part of a team, they make themselves vulnerable to either finding community and a place to serve, or hurt and dismissal. It's a conundrum. It's complex. Sometimes, it just sucks. That's why this topic matters. Let's dig in.
Scenario 1: Auditions
Your ministry is holding auditions. A person comes in to audition for the vocal team and pretty quickly it's apparent this person is having difficulty staying on pitch. You ask them to sing the alto part and their voice keeps floundering from the harmony note on up to match you on melody.
It could be a drummer who isn't able to stay on the click as you play together. It could be an audio engineer auditionee who is trigger-happy and can't help but touch all the bright buttons. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that this is not the person's next place to serve... yet.
One way of responding to a person in this scenario is to express that it's not a "no," but it's a "not yet." Provide them with some precise encouragement in what you see in them that will make them great for this (personality, go-getter attitude, energy, etc). Then provide a few data points as to why it's a "not yet." Give them some tools and homework to work on, such as inviting the vocalist to work on her harmonies and record herself singing it along to the original song. Invite her to spend a month listening back to her voice memos, identifying where she sings flat and keep honing it until she wants to come back and re-audition. Your job as the leader then is to check back in a month. Send a text or email and ask how it's going. Be there for the person who wants to be a part of your team!
If you find it is a clear "no," the most gracious thing you can do is to let the person know that you don't believe this is the gifting God has for them. You want to help point them toward the ministry place that is right for them. If you can identify a warmth and welcome in their personality, ask them if they'd be okay with you introducing them to the hospitality team lead. If the person has a huge passion for prayer, connect them with the prayer team lead. It would be a disservice to either bring someone on the team to sing or play guitar, and then mute them in the house. Why? Because God has clearly given them gifts to be used and if music or production is not it, then you, dear leader, are taking them away from the place they are supposed to be using their gifts. Help them find their place.
Scenario 2: Needing to Pull a Team Member Off
To me, this is the most heart-wrenching moment that can occur on worship team. I have needed to do this in the past and these moments still haunt me. I hate these situations. It may be that you have a team member whose ego has gone haywire and the person has become toxic on the team. You can sense the team dynamic shifting due to the attitude someone brings to practice and Sundays.
It could be that you have a teammate who is consistently late, cancels last minute, shows up unprepared and after countless chances to adjust, no progress has been made and it is not stewarding well the time of the other musicians and production members. It could be that a team member committed a moral failure that warrants deep care and attention on restoration for a season. Whatever the case may be, you might find yourself needing to let a team member go (at least for a season), and they may not want to leave.
What do you do? How do you love and lead well?
The best approach I've found is to be honest and clear about expectations for team members. I have found it helpful to have a vision statement and clear expectations/guidelines drawn out ahead of time and walked through with every member of my team. This provide the team an umbrella to stand under, together, united. Everyone knows what it means to be a part of the team and the rules of engagement. As a leader, this gives you something to refer back to when difficult conversations need to occur.
We want to care for people well. This may mean caring well for a toxic team member through truthfully reflecting a mirror to them in how their words and actions are affecting the team. It may mean caring well for the rest of your team by having the hard conversation with a team member.
If you sense that something is off, (the way the Holy Spirit often lets us know), approach an open conversation the moment you feel it. Start the conversation early. Do not turn a blind eye and sweep it under the rug if you feel something is unhealthy, or comments are turning sideways and passive-aggressive. Don't let it become a monster of an issue if you can help it. Make it weird. Embrace the awkward. Approach your team member with love, grace and truth. Be clear and draw it back to what God is calling your team to be about.
If it is a situation of restoration or pause from serving, make sure you check in with the person along the way. You are not responsible for their healing, but if the Lord has called you to be a ministry leader over a ministry they are involved in, you have a responsibility to pastor them well and check in along the way. Make a plan for re-entering the team and find ways to welcome them back in that are honoring to their personhood and a win for the team.
I hope this helps! I'd love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and tips you have learned along the way as well. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org