Question: My church is looking to hire a worship leader and we’re currently interviewing candidates. Do you have set questions you ask prospective hires?
Answer: I’ve been asked this question a lot lately, which at first surprises me given our soft economy. However, it’s also encouraging to know that many churches are still hiring in spite of these challenging economic times. Recent seminary and Bible college grads are hoping to land their dream jobs leading worship in a church. So I hope the suggestions that follow are helpful to church leaders as well as those seeking employment. I’ll assume that you’ve already scoured each candidate’s resume and observed him or her leading worship either live or on video. Now it’s time to learn more. I usually divide my questions into four categories: spiritual, musical, ministry, and leadership.
As you can guess, spiritual questions have to do with the candidate’s walk with the Lord, starting with the obvious: How did you come to Christ? After that, I ask questions like:
- Do you have regular devotions?
- What’s the Lord doing in your life these days?
- Is there any ongoing sin in your life? If so, how are you dealing with that?
- What’s your philosophy of worship and what Scriptures is it founded on?
You don’t want to hire a great musician who isn’t spiritually mature enough to lead your worship team.
Be sure to ask the candidates whether they sing and/or play, what they play and how long they’ve been playing, whether they write songs, arrange or can read music. Ask if they’re comfortable leading band and/or vocal rehearsals and how much experience they have doing each. Ask them what they perceive as their strengths and weaknesses musically. Not all these questions will be pertinent to your situation, and there aren’t necessarily any right or wrong answers, but the applicant’s answers should give you a clear picture of his or her musical abilities. Candidates don’t have to be experts in every aspect of music, but ideally they should be strong in at least one area that will enable them to attract and effectively lead other musicians.
When I’m interviewing a potential worship leader, I need to know whether the candidate will automatically, without being reminded, invest in the lives of ministry volunteers, or if he or she is only interested in playing guitar for an audience. The candidate doesn’t have to be a fiery extrovert to qualify, but needs to have a heart for people. So I often ask:
- What would you do to help our ministry volunteers grow spiritually?
- What would you do to deepen relationships and foster unity within the worship ministry?
- How would you go about recruiting more artists?
To be a worship leader in the 21st century, one must be an effective team builder—someone who loves people and is willing to invest time shepherding them.
Finally, you need to know how much leadership ability the potential hire brings to the table. It’s helpful to watch videos, but if you’re serious about hiring someone, be sure to watch him or her lead worship live, preferably at your church. Gauge the reaction of your congregation. Have the candidate lead your worship team in a rehearsal. Observe how well the person works with your people. Does the candidate exude humility? Does he or she lead strongly, but graciously? Are directions and explanations clear? Is rehearsal efficient, yet enjoyable?
Also, it’s important to know whether a potential hire is willing to lovingly confront negative attitudes and bad behavior on the part of team members. Those averse to conflict do not make strong leaders. I’m in the process of hiring a choir director. Over lunch, my top prospect mentioned a problem he was experiencing with an individual who is sowing disunity in the choir he’s currently directing. I asked him to elaborate, and the details he supplied assured me that he’s not the kind of leader who would let character issues sabotage our ministry.
Finally, ask for references and check out each one. Get all the information you can to help you make the right choice.
Rory Noland is a regular contributor to Worship Leader magazine. For more information on his ministry visit heartoftheartist.org.
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Rory Noland is the director of Heart of the Artist Ministries, an organization dedicated to serving artists in the church. He mentors worship leaders, speaks at churches, workshops, and conferences, leads retreats for artists, and consults with churches in the areas of worship and the arts. Rory is also a published songwriter and has authored four books, all published by Zondervan.