Overseers Adam Diehl & Jon Paul Robles

Recently I was asked by the pastor of a smaller church in my community if I knew of any drummers that might want to come play at his church. I totally understand that issue! Drummers make or break the ‘pop/rock band’ sound and without one, it really does limit the style you can do. Nevertheless we need to work with what God provides us, and that includes people. Below is a heavily-edited-and-revised-for-this-blog response to the message I sent back to the pastor. I include several alternatives to a drummer as well.

Dear Pastor,

Drummers are one of the hardest things to come by in a church. This is not a problem that only the small church faces; two other large (400-600) churches in our area have similar struggles.

From my perspective – drummers (and others in the worship band scene, but mostly drummers) are in high demand and often flip flop to get in a band that’ll sound good. I have a problem with this because they’re really flip-flopping churches. That’s not good discipleship¬† – so for their sake I don’t let them do it. My policy is to require anyone that wants to be on stage to sit in the pew a few weeks until I believe they’re locked into THIS CHURCH rather than into the “worship band club.” That’s SO hard… I know. A couple years ago I had a very great guitar player politely threaten me with, “There’s this other church that wants to use me over there. . .” and I told him to go! (He didn’t). It’s hard to go without, but in my opinion, it’s worth it to preserve the spiritual integrity and character of the band. It’s not worth ANYTHING having a showoff on the platform who enjoys taking glory for himself. And that’s often what you get when you let musicians flip flop like nobody’s business.

But at the same time – if you’ve got other volunteers that want to sound good, drums are kinda necessary. So… it’s a double wammy. I get that.

Here are some ideas:

Have you tried using drum loops? [A large church in our area] does this sometimes. You can get decent loops in Apple’s Garage Band, or a number of other programs (but if you know anyone with a mac, Garage Band comes free). Many guitar pedals and keyboards have built-in drum loops. The key is to find one that you can work with that sounds as legit and non-cheesy as possible. IN MY OPINION the drum loops would be a good thing to fall back on and be the “steady” choice.

Consider trying alternative drum methods. Like a Tambourine and Shaker with a djembe or Conga-type thing (you’d be surprised how many people have a djembe, or can borrow one). You can do some really modern sounding stuff with that… and there’s a lot more people that can play those things great than who can play a drum kit! If you decide to ‘use what you got’ – this is definitely a great option. I’ve intentionally chose this once in a while just to get a different sound for the weekend. This isn’t a bad option at all.

Try advertising on Craigslist. I’m dead serious. Musicians that want to play go there! If you do this, I strongly recommend that you have a conversation with that drummer about his faith and motives for being on the team. You will never know what you’re gonna get on Craigs list. This is the best way to find a diva who wants glory for himself – but you also might find a great gem if you’re willing to pour the time into someone’s life to ensure their heart is right before they step foot on the stage. Hope this helps.



ps – oh this should go without saying, but I’m saying it anyway. PRAY for a drummer. I’m amazed at how often God comes through when I stop trying and I just pray!

2 Responses to "Surviving Without a Drummer"

  1. This post is INSANELY relevant to me and my church. We’ve struggled with the lack of a drummer for over a year now, and our worship team members have shuffled around quite a bit because of it.

    I used to lead worship with a bass guitar (which isn’t as hard as people make it sound), but switched to djembe to add rhythm in lieu of the drummer. THEN we got another bassist, so I continued to play the drum, and hopefully we’ll get a full-time drummer soon (keep praying!) and I’ll be able to lead without an instrument!

    God is so good!

  2. These are great ideas. Can’t believe I haven’t thought of using a hand drum! I might try drum loops but it’s tricky to improvise with a loop… I’ll definitely see if any of my singers can play a hand drum!

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