The Praise Band Paradox

I know of a megachurch with 10,000 people that has state-of-the-art everything… projection, speakers, music equipment and the same $ound board as the local arena. Their drummer is your typical middle aged guy who works a regular job, and probably hasn’t played drums since his high school garage band days. In fact, he doesn’t even own a drum set. Tempo fluctuations are so wild in the praise set that the singers sometimes can’t spit out their words (no click, of course, the drummer wouldn’t have it.)

How does a megachurch with 10,000 people end up with a lousy drummer who doesn’t even own a drum set? That’s like having a pastor who doesn’t own a Bible!

The answer is simple, my dear readers. It’s a syndrome I’ve identified and have named The Praise Band Paradox: The bigger the church, the lousier the music.

Here’s how it happens: small churches don’t have a large talent pool from which to choose, so they often pay for musicians. One small church I’m thinking of has the best music in town, and the best musicians. They’re not paid much, but they are paid.

When a church grows to a larger size, a non-musician in power can’t understand why the church is paying musicians when there are so many people in the congregation willing to use their “gifts.”

This explains why a good number of megachurches I’ve visited (not all) have music that isn’t so hot. Not that the music was horrible, it’s just that I remember thinking “wow, my little praise band (of paid players) in my 250 member church sure sounds a whole lot better than these guys.”

A famous worship leader I know who works at a megachurch of 6,000 told me they stopped paying musicians and now only use people from the congregation. The pro players were invited to continue playing for free, but instead moved on to other paying ministries in the area.

Before you judge, remember that a pro player is a professional, which means that playing is his/her profession. That’s how their living is made.

Also keep in mind that there’s quite a big difference between a person volunteering to wash windows and a person volunteering to play an instrument in church. How many years of lessons and practice does it take to wash windows?

And if a church has multiple services, the musician’s time commitment can sometimes be as much as a part time job (a friend of mine who plays at a megachurch that still pays musicians spends at least 15 hours a week in rehearsals and services.)

Should you pay your musicians or not? For that matter, just who should be paid in the ministry? Should the pastor? Should janitors? Or architects, landscapers, brick masons? Should you pay for electricity, water or air conditioning?

Should a church pay six figures for a state-of-the-art sound system to amplify… a drummer who doesn’t own a set of drums?