Get Paid to Go to Church

Published: 14th December 2009
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Today more than everyone at the church is on salary at church. The pastor takes home a check. The musicians take home checks. Next the ushers will be getting paid.

What do you think about church musicians getting paid?

A lot of megachurches have tons of musicians waiting in the wings just for the opportunity to strike a chord. Although the megachurch phenomenon is growing, small ministries are still dominating our street corners. For them, there seems to not be enough musicians in the whole city.

Given the choice, many musicians choose playing 30-minutes in a club for $300 a set over taking a $50 "love offering" at their family church (playing 3-hours of shout music). If you had the choice, which would you choose?

But it seems like all of those years of playing in clubs is now benefiting the church. "Sacred" music is now jammed packed with secular riffs and beats. But now the church wants their musicians back and 50-bucks won't do. Now the musicians say they are too busy, too tired, or are already playing for the highest bidding pastor.

Why isn't the church an opportunity for skilled, professional musicians to be well paid? What does this say about the economy of the church?

One might say: If the churches are feeding these musicians spiritually, the musician would be convicted not to play in clubs and solely reserve their gift for the Kingdom.

The economy of the church is a major concern for me. That is why I work so hard to get churches to a healthy place administratively.

Let's say the whole church took a vote and agreed that it was justified to pay the musicians for their services. The next point of action would be how much they should be paid. Well, most churches believe that the amount should depend on the budget of the church and what they need them to do. For a brand new church with a small congregation, even $30-50 a week is more than they can afford. There are larger churches that are paying around $350 and more per service.

I live in Kansas City. The majority of our musicians feel underpaid. And many of the good ones move to other cities.

What city are you from? On average, how much do your musicians make?

Every now and then, there are musicians that don't want to be paid. Playing for the church is there "reasonable service." I am sure pastors wish all of the musicians felt this way.

Then there are other musicians who just choose not to play in the church. It is often said that many of the best singers and musicians are sitting in the pews. I can understand this though. If they are professionals and they do music all week for a living, perhaps they would like a break from that in their spiritual life.

I am in the marketing field however I don't do marketing my church. I like being a regular person there. However, I love doing marketing and development for everyone else's church.

We all have varying ideas about whether musicians should be paid. Regardless, most churches are doing it today. So, maybe now the discussion should be focused around who to pay and why.

A good reason why churches should pay their music staff is for security. Check out this insert:

I was talking to a former worship leader and asked him "do you miss it?" He answered, "well, I sure don't miss worrying whether the bass player will show up Sunday morning or not." You pay when you want to be sure people show up.

Do you think that paying a musician makes them more loyal?

Sometimes with volunteers, there is no real obligation (besides integrity) to show up to church on time or even at all. When money is involved the agreement is taken more seriously. Most of us go to work every day solely to get paid. And we know if we don't show up, we wont get paid. Well the same thing is true here; if you pay the musician, he or she will at least show up because they need to get paid. Acapella Sunday is not an option!

Do you think security is a good reason for a church to pay their music staff?

Is there anything wrong with paying just a core band? You know the piano, bass and drum players? For a full sound, these are the three key instruments needed. Or perhaps instead of a pianist, a guitarists. As a musician, I know how when I have a full band to work with, it sparks more creativity in me.

And if they are going to be paid, they need to be well trained. Sometimes when dealing with volunteers, they may not play the best but they are available and willing. But are we willing to take the time and resources to keep up with them, train them and work around their schedules. This can make for an unequal band from week to week.

Do you think it is rare to find a musician who is both talented and willing to work for free?

This has been a healthy discussion. There seems not to be a clear consensus on whether to pay or not. Let me throw one more potential reason out there as to why we might pay musicians - instant music.

If you are going to pay, pay for the best. Pay for real talent. Now, what is talent? Should they be able to sight read? Will they have to be able to play in all keys? Do they have to play perfectly?

In summary, if you are getting paid, you'd better know your stuff.

When deciding if someone with worthy of being paid, one can ask: does this person make their living doing music?

In the end, each situation is different. Some churches don't mind amateurs and welcome the opportunity to raise up a band of skill players. Others want an instant and faith band - and are willing to pay the price for it.

In all we do for God, we should offer our best. Pay or no pay, if the heart of the musician is not devoted to God, maybe they should stay in the clubs. Just a thought.

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