Great music can really enhance your youth event, retreat, or camp, but before you book Chris Tomlin to be your worship leader, here are some things to consider:

Make sure you get someone who is actually a worship leader.

Just because he is a Christian musician does not mean he knows the current Top 10 worship songs. She may have a rocking concert but may not know how to lead and guide youth in worship. Just because he can play the guitar does not mean that he has a relationship with God that will allow him to model godly worship for your youth.

Work with someone who you have seen lead worship before.

If you have never seen her lead worship, then you don’t know what you are getting. The Church is divided in wide varieties (denominations) and flavors (contemporary, traditional) and worship leaders come from all these traditions.
If you are going to spend money to bring someone in to lead your students in worship, you want to make sure she is a good fit for your group.
Many a worship leader has been known to launch into his or her own mini-sermon or theologically questionable prayer or even her own altar call.

Don’t over spend and don’t be chintzy.

Worship leaders come at a variety of price ranges from your friend with the guitar who will do your overnight retreat for $50 to David Crowder who is going to run you $20,000 plus travel and sound. If you are taking 30 kids on a retreat, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a worship band. I usually tried to book someone for $10 to $15 times the number of youth participating for a weekend retreat. So if I’m taking 30 youth and 8 adults, I’ll look to book someone for $400 to $600 for the weekend. A $400 budget meant that I was looking for a worship leader and not a band. You should also budget to pay for their transportation to and from the retreat and room and board while at your event.
Bands who travel regularly and do youth events will typically cost you $1200 to $2000 for a weekend.
Please don’t be chintzy. Whoever is leading worship for you in this price range has another job and is taking time away from his or her family to be in ministry with your youth. If you book a band, do the math. $600 divided by three days divided by four members = $50 per person a day. Would you give up your day off for $50?

Do you have a sound system that will meet the band and group’s needs?

All sound systems are not created equal. Talk with the band to make sure that you have a sound system at your church or at the retreat center that meets their needs. It doesn’t matter how good the band sounds if you can’t hear them. Some bands travel with their own sound systems. You can rent a sound system from a sound company in most major cities, but it’s not cheap.

Have a contract

Don’t be scared about a contract if the band requires you to sign one. Keep in mind that the contract is negotiable until you sign it. After you sign it, you can be expected to be held to the contract. Band contracts are called riders.
Riders typically contain information related to payment, both how much and when you are to pay. They contain information about who pays for travel, lodging, and food. They also typically contain information about sound needs. Finally, they might contain information about helping staff the merchandise table. Riders can be intimidating. Know that you don’t have to agree to everything on the rider.
I highly recommend altering any rider with an addendum (an attachment that explains how you will meet certain expectations or alters the expectations). For example, if we are staying at a camp, then I don’t want to pay for a hotel room, so I will note in the rider that we will provide room in a private cabin at the camp for them instead of hotel rooms. I want them to know they will be eating camp food and if they go out to eat it’s on them. And I especially want to outline the sound equipment that we can provide which may not meet their rider standards. This way they know what they are getting into and we are clear about expectations on both sides. Sign the rider contingent upon the addendum and have them sign the addendum acknowledging the changes.
If the person you are working with doesn’t have a contract or rider, then I highly recommend creating one. You don’t need a lawyer to create it. Simply outline the agreement and who is expected to do what and when. I like including a schedule so that it’s clear when they will be leading worship. If you expect them to eat and hang out with youth, then say so. Put it in writing so that everything is clear.

Communicate, communicate, communicate about worship

You’ve gotten them lined up, sound is taken care of, and worship starts and you think “What is this song?” Don’t neglect the most important part: communicate with your worship leader about what needs to happen in worship. What is the theme for the event? How will he be integrated into each worship? Do you want her to play during the prayer time at the end of the service? What songs do your youth know? Is there a song that you would like him to learn that ties into the theme? If you are having a speaker at your event, he or she may want to connect with the worship leader so they can talk about movements during worship.
I recommend giving them a detailed order of worship for each worship on the retreat and then contacting them in advance to the retreat to make sure they got it. Finally, at the retreat set up a meeting at least an hour prior to worship to make sure everyone is on the same page about what is happening.

Where to find a good worship leader of band at an affordable price

  1. Talk to the worship leader at your church or at a larger church in town
  2. College ministries often have student praise bands that are pretty good and affordable.
  3. A musically gifted fellow youth minister
  4. Talk to summer camps or conferences about worship bands they have connections with
  5. Get referrals from youth ministers you trust

A great worship leader can really add to everyone’s overall experience. Make sure you do your part to make sure you hire a great worship leader for your group.  A lot of this advice comes from learning the hard way. Click here to read the companion to this article, How2 Book a Speaker.
What have you learned about booking a worship band?