"Should our Church Musicians Be Paid?"
Rather than limit my discussion to my own personal thoughts
on this subject, I contacted a number of clergy and church
musicians around the country and asked them to share the best
reasons for and not for paying musicians in their churches.
The following is a summary of some of their ideas.
There are many churches in which this question has never
been pondered. Some churches believe that music is a ministry
therefore, it must be done with volunteers. There always seems
to be someone available who will play the organ or direct
the choir in the weekly anthem. We expect all of our congregation
to offer their time and talents to the work of ministry in
the church. We don't pay our Sunday School teachers, elders
or deacons. Even our church secretary, treasurer and financial
secretary are volunteers. Many of these people invest at least
as many hours a week as the church musicians.
There are other churches which maintain a prestigious standard
of either classical or pop Christian music. They expect to
pay a salary to maintain the standard repertoire of vocal,
choral and organ music. Often some large churches even employ
choral and instrumental arrangers on their music staff because
they do a great deal of original music in their churches.
The music budget is often quite large to make certain that
this great tradition continues. There may be endowments established
to help with the funding. Some even produce recordings and
charge admission to concert series to establish suitable level
of income. Not only is a director hired but also several instrumentalist
and choir members are hired to assist particularly for the
demanding music of the annual Easter and Christmas productions
as well as the standard weekly music. These people understand
the scripture about the workman being worthy of his hire and
that it's application is not limited to the preaching pastor.
We all understand that when a person is paid, the church has
a right to expect a higher level of commitment.
In order to answer the question title of this treatise, we
should indeed look at both sides of this issue and formulate
our position in light of our own theology and circumstances.
When the amount of time needed to do the work exceeds what
is reasonable for a typical church member to give, typically
ten to fifteen hours per week, and the church feels the particular
ministry is very important, many churches choose to pay a
person. This will help ensure that the ministry will not be
crowded out due to a busy schedule of a volunteer. In this
case the time often limits their availability for their other
When we hire someone as a choral director, organist or choir
section leader we are providing leadership to the congregation
to equip them for ministry and not just maintain a program.
They bring a significant historical perspective and vision
to our worship. Our music minister actually is much more than
a song leader. He spends considerable time selecting and music
as well as planning our corporate worship. He leads the worship
service. He is an initiator in ministry. Our organist works
with three others who are volunteer helpers. This means we
can always have excellent keyboard support throughout the
year. He identifies and frequently practices with a number
of brass and string players in the church, who volunteer to
use their musical talents in our music ministry.
We want to employ a wide spectrum of music in our worship.
We are called to be stewards of God's gifts to us &SHY;
music in particular. For that reason, we want to have the
benefit of people who have prepared themselves for the ministry
of worship and music just as we do in our preaching pastor
with the ministry of the Word. A good church musician is one
who has prepared for many years. The person usually has studied
music privately for ten or fifteen years investing thousands
of hours and dollars in education. Many times they have majored
in music in college. Many churches even require a graduate
level degree to be considered for their part time music staff
position. In addition to musical proficiency skills church,
hopefully musicians are expected to operate with a significant
theological perspective congruent with the traditions of their
particular church. Often seminary training is also expected.
These prerequisites require significant personal discipline
over years of practicing.
We use all the available people from our church in our music
ministry. However, there are some significant needs that cannot
be met from within our church. Therefore, we supplement our
work with professionals outside our church from time to time.
Sometimes we hire orchestral musicians for certain programs.
This actually strengthens our overall ministry and allows
us to attract musicians into our church, who might never otherwise
be a part of our ministry.
We are a small church with a limited budget. We cannot afford
to pay anyone. What is done here must be by a volunteer. We
do provide a great opportunity for someone who would like
to test their spiritual gifts in music.
Our theology of spiritual gifts brings us assurance that
God provides us with all the resources needed to do all that
he calls us to do as a church. Therefore, to go outside the
church to hire someone to make this happen seems to contradict
our theology of spiritual gifts.
We aren't looking for a "professional" church musician.
We prefer the old type hymns. We really like a full orchestra
for the choir so we use prerecorded accompaniment tracks.
We have invested a fortune in our great sound system.
Our church has a different emphasis, we concentrate on social
ministries. Because we have significant paid staff in these
ministries, we do not want to add paid musical staff to the
To us worship is an experience we share together. We want
our musical leader to lead us in that experience. We do not
want any choirs drawing attention to their performance. We
do not want music prepared in advance. Everything we do is
led by the Holy Spirit as he leads us.
There might be no universal answer to the question as to
whether or not the musician should be paid. However, evaluating
some of these ideas in light of your particular situation
may assist you in your decision. If Christian churches hope
to develop a celebration of worship, Christian musicians must
be able to spend the time necessary to provide this leadership.
If you want a full-time ministry you should expect to pay
a full-time salary. Such positions pay from 75% to 100% of
what the pastor is paid including benefits of up to four weeks
paid vacation, health insurance and continuing education time
and expenses. Part time positions generally pay a little more
per hour, comparable vacation and reduced other benefits.
Volunteers are paid only in satisfaction of their work done.
There can be an additional satisfaction in their sacrifice
of money to help bring about a ministry in a particular venue
that would otherwise not be there. For some people this blessing
of being able to minister is fully adequate. For others financial
needs means that they cannot offer ministry to the church
as they would like because they must work other jobs to provide
for their financial needs.
The temple musicians were called by God, gifted, trained
and skilled for their ministry. Hopefully, we desire and will
accept no less.
(By: Rev. Larry D. Ellis)