Starting a Youth or Big Church Worship Band – Part 1

Starting  a youth worship band is going to be fun and it will help  your youth group fulfill one of the most important elements of our faith.  I want the experience to be fulfilling.  I have seen great start-ups as well as disasters.  In fact, if you are trying to achieve something that you don’t have the training or ability to do, you can leave youth in the dust of discouragement.  So, be sure to do a few things and put some important things in place before you dive into a youth worship band start-up at your church.  Remember that God is in control, you are a servant for his glory and prayer comes first in any effective leader and worship team.

First,  you need a strong singer and a just one good musician. Often it is best to have this person be a college student, a former worship leader with experience and someone who can lead and mentor the band and the other musicians.  The worship leader does not have to sing and play an instrument, but it makes it much easier on the whole team if the lead vocalist is also playing an instrument (guitar or piano is best).

Second, you need about 10 songs picked and charted. 6 fast, 2 med, 2 slow.  Or a mix like that.  Stack it heavy with up-beat songs that the youth will relate to. Make sure that these songs have accurate charts that are in the key that will make it comfortable for the lead singer to sing.  THIS STEP IS HUGE!  Without the right charts, you will most definitely fail at making any type of band.   So spend some time behind the scenes making this happen.  Use easy guitar or piano keys like G, C or D when charting for a youth band.  Even in Tomlin’s song in in Eb, you should chart it to D and make it easy for the new musicians by using capos.  But be sure to spell it all out very clearly.   My ebook, Transpose and Play, will help you simplify any chart.  You can also get accurate easy charts for many of the best worship songs in my worship guitar songbook 8chords100songs.

Third, make a packet of the charted songs and a CD with all 10 songs and pass it out to the students and band members.  This will give them time to learn and listen to the songs.  Give them the CD at least 2 week prior to the first practice.  This is a very important step for any worship band.  Let the band live with the songs and learn them before any practice.

Fourth, put together a basic sound system, stage setup and SOUND TECH. Get a few people who have experienced with sound and tech and get them on board early.  If you do not have a good sound man, you are in big trouble.  And by big trouble, I mean countless hours, days and months of complete frustration and the possibility of never reaching your potential and leading effective worship for your youth!  Sound serious?  It is.  So pray for and pick a sound tech very carefully. Teach them early that they are a member of the band!  They are no less important than the drummer or the bass player.  Remember, they control the entire sound of the precious band and they figure that out quick.  What the people hear is heavily reliant on this one member of your team.

Fifth, you are ready to launch a series of rehearsals and/or auditions. You can do this all in one step by having a few open auditions with any of the kids who are interested or you can set up specific times to audition the students for specific parts.  A good starting band line up is as follows:

  • Drums
  • Bass
  • Accoustic Guitar
  • Electric Guitar
  • Keyboard/Pad
  • Worship Leader
  • A few backup singers

In my experience, less is better in the beginning.  Just drums, bass and acc guitar will do fine for a band startup.  Then you can add electric guitar, keyboard, backup singers.  Take a look at some of your favorite bands and decide what you NEED.  Start with that and grow as you go along. If you have made the correct preparations, you should be able to start playing and become successful in this early stage.

It is important to have a specified leader/mentor for the band and work to a level of excellence.  There are so many elements to making a band work and it helps to have a point person with experience in the process.  If you don’t have this, find a fellow church worship leader to help you start-up and or consider a worship training consultant.

Start out with the easy songs, start by playing and singing and work together to become a great youth worship band.  I will follow up with details on how to run a rehearsal in part 2.

2 thoughts on “Starting a Youth or Big Church Worship Band – Part 1”

  1. Should my church buy the instrument I will play or should I supply my own?
    If I supply my own should they pay for the upkeep of the instrument. Should they pay for lessons? Please give me as much information about this. Thank you

    • I think it depends on the church and the worship leader. I supplied instruments for my bands in some cases but if the church budget isn’t there, I think it is your responsibility to have a good instrument to play for worship. I think that the individual should pay for lessons. I believe in studying and putting your money and heart into the ministry. The church may pick up some of these costs, but lessons and good instruments should be a top priority regardless of money.

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