Musicians: To Pay or Not to Pay?

should church musicians be paid

Over the past several years, the question of should church musicians be paid in a worship environment has been a hot topic. If you ask churches who are paying their musicians, they have valid reasons for doing so. If you ask those who aren’t, they too have valid reasons. What is the best scenario? What is the ideal for the local church?

To answer the question of should church musicians be paid or not is a difficult one. There are so many factors to consider in every situation. For example: I have a rocking worship band in my church. We have set a high standard of musical excellence as well as a high standard of worship. Then one day I lose my piano player. Ouch! To make things worse, I have no one in the church that can play at the level needed. What do I do? Do I bring in someone with less talent and bring the level of music and worship down? What if there are no options but to hire someone?

This happened to me in my church. I lost a key player and had no one to bring in to replace the position. What were my options? To go without or to pay someone to help out. I decided to offer a stipend to an individual who lived in a neighboring city to come in and play. The amount was not much considering what we got. Now, was this the right thing to do?

Should Church Musicians Be Paid

1. Motivation

What is the individual’s motivation for serving? If it’s for a paycheck, you probably won’t get what you need from them. You may get great music, but the dynamic of the team will never gel when one of your key players is there only for the money.

2. Criteria

Set your own criteria for anyone coming in who play or sing in a paid position. Even though it’s easier to control a paid player, the sense of unity will be lacking if everyone is not held accountable by the same rules and expectations. Also, hiring those who are not believers for the long haul can bring done the worship experience in your church. We have to remember that worship is for the believer. Before I went looking for someone, I had my criteria in place. He had to be a believer, love worship, be a worshiper, and he had to be a team player. If he couldn’t meet all of these requirements, I couldn’t use him…no matter how good he may be. To make a short story long, I brought him in on a small weekly stipend that mainly took care of his gas and a coke. What was the result? We didn’t lose a beat in our music and he brought a level of worship to our group that was needed. I know that this is the exception to the norm, but God blessed in this situation by allowing us to pay for someone that had professional quality to help us in worship. He has since joined the church and is a contributor to many other ministries.

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snewman@churchleaders.com'
Stephen M. Newman is the author of Experiencing Worship, A Study of Biblical Worship, and Founder & Editor of ExperiencingWorship.com. Steve currently serves as Pastor of Worship, McKinney Memorial Bible Church, Fort Worth, Texas. Steve has extensive experience in both traditional and contemporary worship styles and has been serving in music and worship capacities since 1982. Steve earned a Bachelor of Music degree with emphasis in Church Music from Oklahoma Baptist University in 1986. He has also earned Master's of Worship Ministry and Doctorate of Worship Ministry from Christian Leadership Seminary, Elma, New York. Used by permission of ExperiencingWorship.