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Should Church Musicians Be Paid?



Author: Joshua Weiss
Leadership Category: ,

Posted April 21, 2015 by


f you have spent any amount of time working on a church worship team, you have inevitably encountered the discussion of paying musicians to play. This is a conversation I have had more and more lately. I should preface this blog by explaining I have been leading worship at my local church for over 10 years. We run around 250 people each week. Our team has consisted of gigging musicians, born-and-raised at this church musicians, and relatively young musicians actively growing in their skills. So when is it appropriate to pay musicians in church?

There is not a criteria checklist to go down in order to determine this answer. So let’s begin by asking you some questions.

  • Is your church in a financial position that it is able to pay the musicians?
  • Are the musicians truly professional in their roles? (i.e. Are they on time, have they adequately practiced the songs on their own time and learned the tunes, is their skill worthy of compensation?)
  • Are their alternative options within the church body capable of filling the need?
  • Do you value them?

Because I am pulled a few different directions on this topic, let me first speak in favor of paying the team members followed up with the arguments opposed.

I think it safe to say we can agree that Sunday morning services are the most important service for local churches in America. As such, the efforts and skill of the Sunday morning team should be quality. No doubt there are many “musicians” who think they are great. All they have ever heard their whole life is mom or dad tell them how great they are. Let’s face it, most musicians are not as great as they think they are. Plus, unnecessarily arrogant musicians are kind of annoying – especially when they have a bad attitude as well.

As a worship leader who is also responsible for many other areas at the church, I have a plethora of things on my mind every week. I shouldn’t have to worry about whether the electric guitar player is going to show up or if the drummer has gone over the songs. We should be able to get together for a practice and already have a good baseline to go from. When it comes time for a sound check, there shouldn’t not be a need to constantly ask other musicians to stop playing while we are getting levels or dealing with other issues. I shouldn’t have to identify a poorly tuned instrument early in practice because that musician didn’t see the need to tune before we started. And the question, “will musician X be able to play with the click?” should not ever run through my mind. Nevertheless, these are the types of things that one encounters with unpaid musicians.

If you are capable of landing those professional musicians, there is also the ability to increase expectation since compensation is included. Furthermore, if their respective craft is how they earn a living, it is only fair to treat them as such.

Perhaps you aren’t aware, but a common problem within the church world is that people get ground up in the mechanical wheels of the “church machine.” The betterment of the church tends to supersede all else including the health of ones family, relationships, and sadly, their own spiritual wellbeing. I have seen this time and time again and it almost always leads to burnout or a callused view of church and Christianity. This primarily happens when one’s profession is able to be exploited by a church. You wouldn’t see a pastor expect a lawyer to give free legal services or an architect expected to design a new church building for free simply because they are a Christian who attends that church. But get a bass player, sound engineer or camera operator in your church and it is just a natural thing to ask them to use their craft for free in the name of “serving God.”

But does all of this argument mean we should pay musicians? Ultimately, the whole discussion comes down to a heart issue in my opinion. When I say “heart issue,” I’m referring to that of both the musician and the church.

Many of the paid church musicians that I know take the gigs simply as just that, a gig. I have rarely seen a true buy-in to the vision of the pastor or the other aspects of that church body. I never hear these individuals discuss attending a small group, Sunday school or even services that they aren’t on the schedule to play at. This is an issue for me. I want a high level of professionalism on the stage. And of course I want our Sunday service to be at its best. But where do I draw the line? Is there no value placed on those who serve on stage interacting and being in community with those who do not? The job of the worship team is to lead the congregation in worship and point them to the Lord. Something is lost when one who leads has no relationship with those he or she leads.

Is it possible that bringing outside musicians in robs existing decent musicians that already worship at the church from having an opportunity to use their gifts to serve the body and glorify God? I can envision the professional responding to this question by saying “The other musician is just not any good.” Likewise, that other musician, as previously mentioned, thinks they are great. I can actually recall times when team members have made comments along the lines, “We don’t even need to practice because we are that good when we get together.” These can be referred to as “Big fish in a little sea.”

Not paying musicians has put me in a bind on more than one occasion where I had to go without various instruments. How about when you don’t have a sound engineer? This is possibly one of the most important roles during a Sunday morning service. You can have the best musicians in the world but if the sound is bad, it won’t matter.

Our small church simply does not have the budget to pay musicians. So what do I do? How do I overcome this obstacle?

First and possibly most important, I try my very hardest to always appreciate those who volunteer. Whenever I am able to do this tangibly, I do my best. And when I am not, I make it crystal clear how much I wish I could. I look for opportunities to take members out to eat, do appreciation cookouts at my place, put gas in the tank, or find more specific ways to say thank you. I never blow up or act less professional towards them than I would expect them to act towards me. And I tout their praise to others as best I am able.

This is part of that “Heart issue” comment. I want the musicians to give their best and care about the vision and community of the church. But it is important that I treat them with the respect and appreciation they deserve.

The truth is, team members should take their role serious as if they were being paid top dollar regardless of their compensation. And I should treat team members with appreciation and respect as if they were top musicians offering their services for free. The underlying principle behind this thought process isn’t due to the Golden Rule either. It is because we were given our talents by God and if we are going to use them to worship and glorify Him, as we should, then He deserves our very best rather than our leftovers without thought of how we are compensated.

Going back to those initial questions, if you are a church capable of paying musicians and you have quality professional musicians who don’t just treat the church like a gig, then I think you should treat them just like you would the lawyer or architect. Don’t make exploitation a practice in the church. Conversely, if you are unable to pay musicians, there is still an obligation to appreciate those who serve.

For the musicians out there, never treat worship as a gig. Be genuine in who you are and recognize where your talent comes from. Use it to glorify God. Though you might do the same songs in service, don’t be lazy. Learn those songs. Practice those songs. Improve your craft and never stop looking for ways to serve the Lord. Your compensation is not in money even if there are times when money is involved.

How about you? What has your experience been? How do you feel about these things?

Joshua Weiss
is co-host and producer of CrossTalk International. He has also produced the Today With God and Wize Flix television series which broadcast both domestically and abroad. Joshua serves as worship & media pastor at Abundant Life Assembly of God in Grand Prairie, TX. Find out more at www.joshuadweiss.com.



    I love this article. I’m a sinner songwriter so I feel like I can relate. If you are a small church struggling to pay your bills then I believe a pastor or whoever hiring musicians should be upfront with the people they want to hire.

    Some churches show a bulletin of how much is made on the weekly. What’s wrong w showing, here’s a breakdown and this is why we currently don’t have the money to pay you??? The pastor should explain and prove why there aren’t any funds. It amazes me how many churches actually have the money but the pastors are hoarding the money so their families can live extravagant lifestyles.

    I’ve been a worship leader myself and still sing at numerous churches. I believe if you are an excellent musician and the church wants you to be on board every Sunday you should get paid even if it’s nothing but a love offering! If you don’t have the means then like this article says.. the least you can do is provide food or a token of appreciation.

    Thanks for offering a sounding board and an article of truth.



    Show me a without music, and I will show you a dead church. To pastors that my think that you can do with or without music then this is a church with no members. “NEXT”

    Bryan Ezell

    As a preacher’s son I grew up in the church and music was my gift from God and since the age of thirteen I have been playing the guitar in our small church along side other young growing musicians like myself and the organ player who guided us as we played and learned more. I played because I loved to play and I’ve never been big on getting paid to play at church because the ultimate goal is to worship the Lord with what he gave me to do it with and not have the attitude that man is doing anything for me for doing it because my playing is no more important than the preachers word, the choir singing to him, nor the congregation praising him. The point is everything that’s used for the purpose of edifying the church should be done because we love Him and want to do it from our hearts. And if you got hired to play for the Lord then why should you feel like “THAT NOT ENOUGH PAY FOR ME TO PLAY”. I will be blessed for my willingness to praise and worship him without being compensated by man and if a blessing comes my way because of it then thanks be to God. But that’s just how I feel.


      thank you for this post I don’t want to be entertained in church I like when people share their talents for free for the Lord from the heart. They don’t have to be professional.. when it is from the heart the Holy spirit shines brighter If I think I should be paid for singing a song on sabbathi becomes more about me than the Lord the Lord asks for our offerings we should share without expectation. My church is getting more world all the time and Im looking for a smaller one where life is a little more simple. church is a time to give and not take. of course pastors deserve to be paid of course


    Worship Leaders, I appreciate all of the comments on this site. Its refreshing to see how many of us are committed to worshipping God whether in our personal lives and/or in the corporate settings. I’d like to encourage all of you to do for the Lord Jesus what you are willing to do without compulsion. I went against my conscience and it backfired. If you absolutely believe scripturally that you should be compensated for your time of planning and rehearsals find a church that will meet your needs. If you absolutely believe scripturally that your worship planning and rehearsals should be freely given, give it joyfully. My failure to the Lord Jesus is that I felt one thing and allowed others to compel me to do it another way. Please don’t do that to yourself! God honors truth. Don’t deceive yourself. God be with you.

    Chris Kohinga

    Iv grown up in church most of my life, raised by born again parents who eventually went into ministry themselves. Our family congregated around music and especially worship. As believers our primary function is to ‘worship the Lord your God with everything you got’. A life of worship is directly linked to our relationship with God. Our love for one another and how we treat each other is what the world see’s. We dont serve a man, a church, a house, a denomination a religion. We serve a living God whose has prepared for us a house in glory thats beauty we couldnt dream about. Our reward is there, it awaits us. We dont build for ourselves a home on this earth for doing so only limits what we can do for His glory. Iv been a worship leader/ band member for a very long time in church settings, but Im a worshipper full stop. I dont need a stage or lights or a crowd to enter into His presence, I know His presence from my times alone with Him. Its fulfilling and special when ‘we’ come together as a body to worship Him, not a band playing worship songs to a crowd like so many church places have become. When we raise these type of topics for others to respond to I just think to myself ‘man what are you people on about’. Serve God in love for Him or just dont, dont serve man or yourself. Honestly if your eyes are not focussed on God full stop then they are on self and self stinks. Its the undoing of many a good person in the christian world. There are those who believe and feel like they are somehow entitled to receive for serving God. May I remind you that when you said yes to Jesus as your Lord and savior you gave up all of your rights. Your right to be liked by all your right to be heard and loved on your right to be acknowledged for serving thanked for sacrificing. Its the devil that sows the thought that you are more important than others. I hate to burst your precious bubble but thats not how the Kingdom works. The only right you have is the right to choose. To choose not to be offended or disappointed or embittered. If you choose to serve God then do whatever He asks you to do for its unto Him not others. And if you still feel like you ‘deserve’ then take a look at yourself in the mirror then slap yourself both sides and apologise to God for being a twit.


    Honestly, this has been a very sore spot for me. I resigned from being a worship leader after almost 22 years of requesting compensation. I’m a classically trained vocalist who also plays the guitar and keyboards. God has blessed me with the ability to write and arrange songs. I can read charts, run rehearsals, train the singers, etc. I’ve tried my very best to serve God and His church without placing undue pressure on the leadership. However, the periodic denials of my request for compensation left me deeply angry and bitter. I went through a very dark time as a servant of Jesus from November 2016 until just about a week and a half ago. I’m grateful that God rescued me from the sin of hatred and I’m meeting with my former evangelist tomorrow to discuss the matter openly and honestly. I can’t say that I intend to return to my old church. I feel used and my heart is fragile.

    Sue Seiffert

    Ive been a church musician since i was 12 years old…im an excellent pianist who plays by ear, transposes, creates my own arrangements…i can play any and every song u request of me… My specialty is christian rock…comtemporary christian and Hymns…im an excellent professional pianist in demand by everyone who has heard me play once!


    One additional comment: the difference between volunteers and paid people is this: the volunteers get to decide if and when they will show up. If the paid employees don’t show up, there’s no music on Sunday. We deliver a service even when the volunteers aren’t there.


    Thank you for addressing this topic. My husband and I are both lifelong Christians as well as professional and educated musicians. We love playing church. Our church loves it when we play.

    We started out as volunteers kind of experimenting with the contemporary genre, and then, after several years, we were offered compensation to play on a regular basis. I think that offer came after we started saying “no” — not as a strategy — it was just that we were accepting some very good paying gigs that conflicted with the church dates. So now we are the house musicians, doing 52 services per year.

    There is no question our band is a draw — it attracts people. We function as directors (the rest of the band is made up of talented but not professional level volunteers, so we also work very hard at teaching and training them). Like that other lady in the comments here, I pray, pray pray. There is no question in my mind that the Holy Spirit is working with us and through us every time. Every Time. Our end product (Sunday morning) is high quality and Spirit-driven praise.

    Here’s the issue: the traditional choir/handbell director and the organist are paid considerably more than my husband and I are being paid for Sundays. The lady who schedules the ushers gets paid considerably more. The janitor gets paid considerably more. I mean there is a nice-sized budget, but our pay is disproportionate to our skill level and output. At the same time, we are grateful and honored for the opportunity to lead worship in God’s house. Like your lawyer and architect analogy, I have wondered whether the heart surgeon in our congregation would be expected to perform surgery for cheap or the grocery store owner would be expected to feed the congregation for cheap or free on a regular basis.

    When I got the nerve up to ask for a raise last year, my husband and I got a small increase and were told the rest can be our offering (I already also give money on a regular basis, plus spend out of my pocket for many extras for the band). It felt like a slap in the face. I refer to it as “Here’s $10. Shut up and play.”

    I am led to count my blessings, which are many, but am still wondering how the church leadership can feel this compensation issue is fair or justifiable. One time they asked me to write down the number of hours we put in per week. It’s hard to quantify a labor of love, but between me and my husband, it’s about 40 hours per week for our scheduled Sundays.

    People often mistakenly think they are paying for the one or two hours on Sunday, that final product, if you will, and that all the rehearsal and preparation somehow doesn’t count. We did leave the church for about a year, and they hired a guy who produced lower quality, couldn’t keep the musicians after the initial honeymoon, and it all died on the vine. That was proof to me that what we do is not as easy as it looks. Then we came back, and here we are years later, feeling a bit like Sarah and Abraham.

    In all other aspects we love what we do at church, and we love the people, so don’t get me wrong. My comments here are with respect to that tricky pay issue. As my husband said, “I’ll play for free if everyone else plays for free.” Thank you for the article and thanks to all the others out there who have commented.


    Human nature is we don’t value anything we don’t have to pay for.

    Jeff Clark

    I’ve read this article before but haven’t left a response until now.

    I quit the worship team for a while. I was yelled at during a rehearsal, promised headphones were never purchased, and it was the worst performance I’ve ever had as a bass player. That all happened on the Sunday I quit.

    My parents did not get me through Up With People and Berklee College of Music to end up on a stage playing for free. I dishonor them if I do.

    God gave me the abilities I have as bass player. I have been called a “monster” by my colleagues more than once. I still believe I have more to learn and one must always strive to be better, but I also know what I do now is quality, professional work. If I give that away, I cheapen the gifts God has given me.

    I have returned to playing at my church only recently and am only doing it once per month as my tithe. I am only doing it for God. The schedulers at the church have tried to have me play more than once per month, but I keep explaining my position ad nauseum.

    I believe it is my calling to play bass for God full time, but it’s the people around me that don’t buy it. Consequently, I find myself working steadily in the bar scene. Some people call it a place of sin, I call it the Mission Field.

    Judy Rusconi

    I enjoyed your article. I play in our church band. I have been playing since 1995. I have always volunteered. Our whole band is all volunteers. We have a small congregation of about 200. I never thought about being paid. For me personally, I play as unto the Lord. I want to worship on my instruments unto Him who gave me the gift. I am a worshipper. I would pick up a rock if I thought it would play. I enjoy bringing people in to His presence. I enter into His presence when I play as well. I’m grateful. If we were able to be paid, I would have to decline it. This is my service unto Him. I was actually reading you article, as I was looking for information on worship leaders. Thank you though. Blessings to you!

      Thulani Michael Ndlela


    David coile

    I have been playing in churches a longtime most of them small so I never get paid but the bad part is everyone ignores you never say thank you never shake your hand I know I am doing it for Jesus but so is the pastor and they break their neck to shake his hand back when I played in bars I was at least appreciated and payed been playing guitar 40 years means nothing to church folk


    Great article. I’m totally a product of “burnout or a callused view of church and Christianity.” I hope that this article reaches many churches.


    To pay or not to pay: A musician’s perspective

    If the congregation is happy with the quality of music members of the congregation can provide for free, then great.

    The problem is that the same people who have an issue with paying musicians are the ones who criticize the “free” band.

    The sad thing is people stop saying thank you, they stop asking if they can help you take stuff to the car.

    The worst is when you hear them saying something bad about another musician/friend who has a big heart, desire to serve, and the willingness to memorize songs, spend their Thursday and Saturday rehearsing for Sunday morning worship.

    Just so you know, the people that are playing for free are working really hard to do so. They don’t have the chops and are aware of it so they spend hours practicing. Be good to them. Buy them a coffee, invite them to lunch, or maybe thank them once in a while.

    There are churches that want more for their worship experience. If a church expects the band to play along with a click or memorize songs or read a chart on the fly. Then they should expect to pay. I now play for a church with the desire for great music and the ability to pay and its really great. There isn’t any drama. Every one shows up ready to play. We have an hour run through before worship. And the congregation has an amazing experience.

      John joyner

      Thanks Josh I needed that I have been playing bass about 6 year. Just got serious about it the last three years. I worship with my bass I play with professional musicians. It bothers me at times mentally and spiritual. But I keep playing through good times and bad. All the other musicians get paid. But lately I have lost the desire to play. It seems like work now and it’s causing problems for me


    Thank you for this article Joshua. This is something that truly needs to be discussed further since music is vital to worship services.
    I grew up playing piano and organ in my local Pentecostal church and their policy was to never pay musicians regardless of their abilities, calling or profession. I spent many years doing this, and was glad to be able to serve. It has been my calling in life, and I have spent many years with no pay from some churches, and pay from others. The hard part came when in becoming an adult, and needing to feed our family and provide. If music is your profession, and your church expects you to use your profession with no compensation, it becomes very difficult to serve the church with the hours needed, and yet also work separately to provide a living for your family.
    My personal view is that music is key to ushering in the presence of the Holy Spirit to a worship service and it’s importance is VITAL. I would spend hours in prayer and in the choosing and practicing of the music for each service, as well as the amounts of money personally spent on private music lessons, book and sheet music as well as other things.

    I would pray over the music each week and choose the music accordingly, then to find out during the service that the minister was speaking on something that was in the words of the music that were chosen. It was fulfilling to say the least, to know that God was speaking through the music to help lift up what the minister was trying to convey through God’s leading. This happened almost weekly, and it ALWAYS astounded me, that God was so good, taking care even in the choosing of a song or songs.

    My husband is also a musician, with his BA in music education, MA in music composition and PhD also in music education. We both have served in many churches, and have loved doing so. We left the Pentecostal church because in wanting to help with the music we were told from the Music Leader, who happened to be the pastor’s son, that my husband “could not” participate because “Musicians should only play Christian music”, we were told. Since my husband went to music school, he HAD to study and perform all types of music.
    My husband has been a music professor now for years, and a music teacher for almost every grade level of students. He can’t be a music professor, and ONLY do Christian music, be expected to play for the church and on top of it, receive no money. How are musicians supposed to feed their families if churches expect their musicians to give their musical gifts, talent and professions with the many hours it takes with no compensation at all? It becomes a huge dilemma. In that situation, I believe some churches take advantage of their musicians, especially if the musicians are sincere in their desire to serve the Lord. We would see the other folks in the church be paid for their services, such as the janitor, secretary, grounds keeper and such, but yet musicians were expected to donate their talent.
    We also have seen and worked with many musicians who never picked up their instruments except on a Sunday morning, and didn’t prepare at all, which to us was not a good thing. It becomes very difficult in putting together those who prepare and those who don’t. I wish more churches and pastors were aware of this.
    Thank you again for this article and I hope this gets more attention and more discussion.



      I can’t believe that that the worship leader would say that. Turning down someone with a PhD in Music Education seeking to be on the worship team? That goes down on the list of all time stupid moves made by church leadership.

      People just don’t understand the sacrifice made by musicians for sometimes thousands of hours and thousands of dollars in advance. The very same musicians who prevent the church from having to play backing tracks get no respect in some cases it seems.

      I struggle with this myself. I am the only lead guitarist on my team (our other guitarist is busy with life and misses scheduled services), and I spend 15-20 hours a week practicing for services. I will grant that I asked for a volunteer spot on the team, but I would love it if my church leadership would offer to buy me strings or send me to a worship conference for dedicating so much time to the Lords house of worship.


    Love your article on this as it’s a subject that should be up for discussion in every church no matter the size. It’s really good that you are presenting both sides of the issue because in the end, it seems like it would come down to what the goals are for the ministry of the church, which of course influences what type of worship ministry the church has.

    I know of one worship leader who hired skilled musicians for his studio and would also hire them for the worship team on Sunday, using this as an outreach to bring them into the worship setting. Since he seemed to have the heart of worship he was able to lead effectively even though a few of the musicians in the band weren’t born again Christians. Some would say this will block the flow of the spirit of worship, but I’ve always felt that, in this case, he was tapping into the true heart of God for the lost. How else do we share the love of God if we don’t expose people to Him? And how better to reach a musician with the heart of God than in a musical setting which could open the door for further discussion as the spirit leads. Wouldn’t it be great to hear of testimonies of musicians who came to the Lord because they first were hired for worship services? I’m sure there would need to be relationship beyond the worship service for that to truly happen but it’s worth a shot if the Holy Spirit leads in that direction.


    I’ve been a volunteer and been paid in churches to lead worship. The money was never as much a factor as the experience. I completely agree that valuing those who serve is the best payment. There are churches I would volunteer at in a heart beat because they value what I do, and others I wouldn’t go back to for any amount of money.

    One thing most people who are not musicians do not realize is the amount of effort that goes into preparing for a worship service. They only see the few minutes on Sunday which was the result of hours and hours of practice and preparation. I’m talking about those musicians who take it serious and see it as a calling, some only play when they get to church.

    I’ve been playing guitar and singing for over 20 years and it takes constant practice to keep my level of ability up. It’s my honor to be able to use my gift for God, but I also know that since I work hard to exercise that gift it should be worth more than the guy who doesn’t touch his guitar except on Sundays. My heart is to serve, and I do so with an ability that the average person doesn’t have.

    Our skills as musicians seem to not be valued as highly as those of teaching and preaching pastors. We somehow get put into the same category as Sunday school teachers and nursery workers. I’m sorry but I just don’t see those as equal skill sets. I’ve volunteered in the nursery and children’s church, but I don’t remember needing to prepare for 10 hours before Sunday to get the job done. Those volunteers show up, do their thing and leave. I think it’s great that there are so many volunteers who serve in so many ways, and I enjoy serving, but there seems to be a difference between serving to serve and fulfilling a calling in my mind.

    Maybe the pastor roles should become volunteer positions also. That would be an interesting discussion…..


    Good article and I’m sure it will invoke many opinions on both sides of the fence.

    I am not a musician but I listen to music and read a lot – clearly in this case reading this article so I will ask a question in return that I asked a coworker who is a musician (but doesn’t play in our church) when we talked one day about paying musicians.

    Why should musicians be paid? If musicians are paid, why not also pay Sunday school teachers, including adult teachers, which I am? Teachers also invest many hours of time preparing for every lesson, and often provide snacks and coffee at their own expense. What about other ministries?

    Why not also pay people for other ministries? I have a full time job in IT – I lead prison and jail ministry in my church. I’m the volunteer chaplain with a team of volunteers at a local city jail, working together with a local jail ministry and volunteers both from my own, and other churches. I was on the board of directors for that ministry. I am in the jail up to 3 hours one night every week, as well as teaching a Bible study for men for around 2 1/2 hours another day probably 3 weeks out of every 5, with somebody else helping me when he is able to.

    I also have a different part of prison ministry with topical teaching letters to almost 200 people in 5 – 10 states which takes significant time each month.

    I do all this because it is *ministry* that I believe God called me to (as well as church safety and security). None of this is listed here to in any way show myself as any more righteous or committed than anyone else – but all of these take significant time, commitment and professionalism. I intentionally tell as few people as possible about what I do because it is between God and me. That’s why I’m even putting in just-me as a name – I would prefer not to be identifiable and publicly recognized around work, or church other than if I’m talking to people in an intentional presentation about any ministry.

    I don’t ask to be paid, and I don’t think I should be paid if I am a par time minister in any capacity. Why should a musician be any different? If they are employed by the church as a full time job, that’s different. If they are fully employed elsewhere, even as a musician – church is not just another gig. When it is another gig and they need to be paid for it – to my way of thinking they have moved from being in a music ministry to being paid to do a job. Big difference.

    Of course people in a full time music ministry capacity are different again – they don’t have a local job, attend their local church, and perform in their local church music each Sunday. They travel and minister through music as a full time calling just as missionaries and traveling evangelists do. They have expenses just getting to each venue. That is not the same as paying musicians who are in the choir/band/whatever every Sunday, business as usual.


      I can see you have a great heart. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this article shouldn’t be so much about if we should pay or not pay, but rather what should our attitude be. The church’s attitude from the top down should be appreciation and gratitude to all who serve. There should never be the automatic expectation the someone else should donate their professional services just because they attend.

      Using the approach, “God gave freely to you so you need to give freely to my ministry” just isn’t good.

      Likewise, musicians, or other people who serve the church, shouldn’t be so quick to just expect the church to pay them simply because it is their profession. There needs to be a healthy blend. If everyone was focused on how we could best treat others, this wouldn’t even be a question.


        Thanks Josh, I agree! And thanks for your contribution in ministry through articles, and to worshipleader.com for people like me who have no musical talent but pick up some free music and articles.

        I think I shocked many present one day initially at a presentation when talking of volunteers and said this (prison/jail) is NOT a volunteer opportunity, it is a calling. Realistically, it is not for everyone. We don’t need volunteers, we need people who are called and committed.

        I know the same is true of many other ministries as well, and some might say all, but I think that depends. 🙂

        E.g. If I volunteer to be physical labor serving food and clearing tables at a ladies night out seminar, that’s a ministry of a form, but not a calling.


    I have been on both sides of this and there are so many variables to consider. Would I hire Eddie Van Halen to come play? Let’s get more down to earth: your saved, church member bass player has a friend who is a gigging musician who he thinks would be great for the band. Try to meet them first before anything. They might not be in the place you would want them to be in their life, but are you called to judge the lost or reach out to them? God may be giving you a golden opportunity to bring someone into a situation they have never been in before. Check it out, talk to your pastor if you feel that would be appropriate, and invite them to play. Keep in mind that everything you are doing as a minister is about bringing the lost into the presence of Christ. I once knew a gigging keyboard player who was definitely good enough to be a paid player and a local worship leader gave him a shot. I knew from people who knew him better than I did that he was a partying dude, etc. Well, he really liked playing the church gig and through that experience eventually became a Christ-centered person. A few years later, the worship leader left and that formerly lost musician became the new worship leader! That went on for about ten years and then he had a heart attack and died. True story.


    A friend of says if a musician is essential to the worship service on a regular basis, pay him/her. So he has a core of essential, paid musicians, and plenty of room for volunteers who have a much more flexible schedule. I’m the paid leader of my team. We can’t afford to pay the others and so we treat them with tons of respect and give them the flexibility they need. I must say that I do not require a certain level of spirituality for participation. I do remind them we are modeling worship for the congregation, but I’ll take anyone with some talent and desire and trust the Spirit to take advantage of the opportunity. And, of course, I try to model good spiritual leadership for my team.


      I’m in a very similar position Gary. I have had people step off the team before though. At the same time, I have kept people on the team even when I knew they were struggling with drugs.

      I think it is important to try to identify the heart as best we can as worship leaders. Because these individuals may be seen by congregants out in the real world, it is important that it does not appear that we condone certain life actions by placing the individuals on the stage in a position of leading the congregation. It’s a fine line.


    This is an interesting commentary on whether to pay or not to pay musicians. I am sure each church has its own views on this as well. We easily get hung up on the musicians talent/professionalism and the heart issue. Ideally we want both. Rarely that’s the case.

    A secondary question should be, “do you want a musician in front of the congregation who is not on board with the vision/lifestyle of the church?” What if you could have Eddie Van Halen as your guitar player? Is that worth it or would the presence of individuals whom some/all of the congregation knows are not seeking Jesus be a detriment to the worship experience? I would certainly think so.

    I would not put a person in front of the congregation who is not filled with Jesus unless that is the purpose/vision of the church (“seeker-sensitive”).

    The Levites in the Bible did not get “paid”, but rather their whole life was supplied for by the church and they served the church. It’s hard to see that model working exactly the same in our culture, but if that was one of the original models for worship musicians, we should consider it.

    I wouldn’t hire a professional CEO to be a deacon if he’s not filled with Jesus … likewise, why would we hire a musician who is not directing/leading the congregation to Jesus?

    Jeff Deyo once said, if you want to give people the tour (lead people in worship to Jesus), you have to have at least been on the tour before.

    Kudos to the author’s last 2 paragraphs. They offer some great thoughts and guidelines not only for whether to pay or not, but how to go about being a worship musician.


      Thanks for the comment Nate.

      I will say that the Levites did get paid. Numbers 18 makes very clear shows that the tithe went to the Levites. If we give our tithe to the storehouse (the church), where does that money go? It covers the bills of the church, it pays the salaries of the pastors (or Levites), and covers the ministry that the church does. The worship a part of that?

      Should we carry that same line of thinking out when our A/C breaks at the church or when we need new architectural drawings made up?

      Just like the whole life was taken care of by that tithe in Numbers, those who serve the church pay their bills and their life is taken care of by the tithe today. It really isn’t that much different.

      Ultimately though, it comes back to what is our heart as the church leadership towards those who serve, and what is our heart as musicians towards serving.

      When I was hired on at my church, I knew the pastor was aware of my other professional skills. I made clear that I was agreeing to the position that was laid out for me and that there needed to be boundaries. I didn’t want him to ever place a weight on me or pressure me to utilize my other abilities for the church because that was not what I was hired to do. Nevertheless, I have used all of those skills and learned new ones, and have never held back from using them for the church. The difference is that it is my decision and my offering rather than someones expectation of me.

      The service of musicians on the team is very similar in my opinion.

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