The Case for Part-Time

When I accepted my first music director ministry job, it was a part-time position at a church plant. They couldn’t afford to hire a full-time music person and, frankly, didn’t need one. The church eventually grew to around 300, and by then I had things running so smoothly at 20 hours per week, I still couldn’t see a need for going full-time.

In this economy, as ministries are cutting corners, many small- and medium-sized churches will look for part-time help. I believe a part-time worship leader can run a ministry of up to 300-400. Beyond that size, a church really should have a full-time position to manage the multiple services and ministries.

Let’s be honest here—artist types are not known for their organizational skills. Some can only exist at a megachurch where they can follow their muse and let their support staff plan and coordinate the particulars. If you’re a part-timer, you’ll need to learn the skills to do most things all by yourself as you won’t have a staff to help you (there’s also some job security in being one person doing three jobs!). What does a part-time worship leader look like?

The first few months of a part-time music job are the most time intensive. You’re getting used to the people and the ebb and flow of the ministry. You’re learning the favorite songs of the church and deciding which new ones to introduce. You’re buying or creating charts for the songs and assembling your music library. And you’re probably going to be cleaning up the mess from an unorganized lay person who haphazardly tried to keep things going before you arrived.

Once this foundation is laid, the job can run like clockwork—you’ll create maybe one new chart every week or three, you know Bob the drummer can only play the first Sunday of every month, and Jane doesn’t vocally blend well with Jim (so try not to schedule those two together).

Twenty hours a week will probably not be a constant—I’d work fewer hours in the summer when attendance was down due to vacations, and more hours in the winter and spring as Christmas and Easter approached. As long as the music was good and things ran smoothly, the leadership was lenient with my time.

Bottom Line: Once the foundation has been laid, a small- to medium-sized ministry can be easily managed by a part-time worship leader.  

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Arranger/composer Don Chapman is the creative energy behind several websites devoted to contemporary worship: HymnCharts, WorshipFlow, and He's the editor of the weekly WorshipIdeas newsletter that is read by over 50,000 worship leaders across the world.