We’ve talked before about how to have a great audition process and how to get the best people possible on your teams. While this is important and definitely worth nailing down a great system, we can’t forget about what we should do when someone doesn’t quite make the cut.

Let me start by saying that I’m going to speak here pastor to pastor, music director to music director. I’m probably going to be blunt, but I believe that frankness with compassion is the best option in this situation. Don’t be too scared to be honest with someone.

Don’t be too scared to be honest with someone.

In my experience with auditions, there are typically 3 kinds of players/singers:

Come On In!

These people have solid auditions or show me enough in the audition to let me know that they would be a welcome addition to our team. We won’t talk much about these guys here.

Not Quite Yet.

These people show promise and potential, but aren’t quite ready to join the team for whatever reason. These people are likely to be surprised at your response, so you need to be extra compassionate in your conversation with them.

Maybe Not This Team.

These are people who either aren’t the right fit for your team (which is important to sniff out), or most likely just don’t have the ability to be up to par for your team. These people deserve the most of your respect and care with your response.

Let’s start with the “Maybe Not This Team” group. Some people might argue that there isn’t anyone who should be in this group, that anyone can and should be able to be part of the worship team. With respect, I absolutely disagree.

Would you let someone who is a poor or confusing teacher preach a sermon? Doubtful. Would you let someone who can’t relate with students be a 9th grade small group leader? I’d hope not.

Would you let someone who is a poor or confusing teacher preach a sermon? Doubtful.

My point is that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the teams we lead and the churches we serve. Part of our job is to cultivate excellence on our teams, and that means not allowing people without the necessary skill to be a part of leading worship from stage (see Psalm 33:3).

So with the people who audition and fall into this category, we must be honest and helpful. First, we need to be honest with grace in our conversation. If there is pushback, have specific examples that you can share with them to help explain your decision. This is why I record all auditions to use on the backend to help provide clarity.

Second, we need to be very helpful to provide real next steps for them with other opportunities. Hopefully, by this point, you’ve taken the time to really get to know these people and have a general understanding of what they’re interested in, what their personality is like, etc.

With all that in mind, when we bring them news that they aren’t excited about, we should have several options lined up for them that could be potential next steps. Are there other teams they could join? Is there a group that would be great for them? Be helpful and have some concrete next steps ready.

The “Not Quite Yet” group gets a different focus with our feedback. If we’re telling someone that they’re not quite there yet, we need to be able to tell them where they’re falling short, provide them with tools to close that gap, and communicate clear next steps for them.

If we’re telling someone that they’re not quite there yet, we need to be able to tell them where they’re falling short.

First, we’ve got to be able to tell them exactly why they’re not quite where they need to be. This requires us to not just be able to diagnose when something isn’t right, but to clearly explain to them why it isn’t right.

For instance, it isn’t enough for us to tell a vocalist that their intonation is off, but we should be able to communicate to them that they have a tendency to have issues with intonation when they push higher notes or strain for lower notes. The clearer we are with our critique, the better we set them up for growth.

Second, we need to provide them with helpful tools to help close the gap between where they are and where they need to be to be part of the team. This is going to be different for every person and position on your team, but it is helpful to have a bank of resources to pull from.

I’ve found that YouTube can be a great source to find lessons or tutorial videos vocalists and players alike can use to grow in their abilities. Search using keywords that have to do with the issues your potential teammate is having and you should be able to find a few videos that will be helpful. Find these tools and have them ready for your conversation.

Finally, we need to communicate clear next steps for the people in this group. This is imperative because if you’re honest with them and provide them with great tools, but you don’t give them clear next steps, they are not going to be able to make progress. Next steps provide forward momentum and will help close the gap between where they are and where they need to be to be on the team.

Next steps provide forward momentum and will help close the gap between where they are and where they need to be to be on the team.

For instance, you could set timelines for check ups. Maybe you want to meet with them again in a few weeks for a one-on-one conversation/mini-audition to see where they are, and then you’ll go from there. Or maybe the step they need to take is discrete and just needs to happen. For example, maybe you tell your potential drummer to come back and re-audition once they are comfortable playing with a click. This is a clear step but doesn’t put them on a hard deadline.

No matter the steps, be sure the conversation doesn’t end with a no. Offer hope for your auditionee and be clear in communicating what their next steps are.