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Some ministries do and some don't. But is paying your team the best way to get great members?

Over the past several weeks, the question of paying musicians and singers 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 whether a worship team member should 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 who 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 keyboard 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?

Before I went looking for someone, I had my criteria in place. He/she had to be a believer, love worship, be a worshiper and he had to be a team player. If he/she couldn’t meet all of these requirements, I couldn’t use them … no matter how good he/she may be. To make a short story long, I brought in a young man and put him 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 this is the exception to the norm, but God blessed us in this situation by allowing us to pay for someone who had professional quality to help us in worship. He has since joined the church and is a contributor to many other ministries.  

Stephen Newman Stephen M. Newman is the author of Experiencing Worship, A Study of Biblical Worship, and Founder & Editor of 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.

More from Stephen Newman or visit Stephen at

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  • audie

    I’d like to propose an idea. If you pay the pastor, you should pay the worship team, the tech team, the people who direct cars in the parking lot, the door greeters, and anyone else who gives their time to do things around the church. If you’re church is wealthy enough to have 5 locations links by techno-gadgets, you can afford to get past the “volunteer” mindset.

    • Andy Barlow

      The biggest problem with the “pay everyone” answer is that it’s not usually sustainable. If you paid everyone, churches budgets would
      look like that of our government; plus it adds pressure to those giving to your organization to meet & sustain a certain high level of income, regardless of their season of life (employed, unemployed, etc.). With tech/equipment purchases, the expense is coming from $ already received & it’s complete once the purchased is complete.

  • Andy Barlow

    Did I miss something or was the question in the title of this article never answered?

  • Bobby Isbell

    Once this young man joined the church, did you continue to pay him the stipend?

  • funkmaster777

    Musical and technical arts, if done well, require years of training and practice. Members of great bands have to spend hours playing together in order to not sound like a haphazard group of soloists. FOH duties require knowledge of hardware and software.

    Musical and technical arts are ministries, like teaching, where the volunteer cannot simply “roll in” with no preparation and give glory to God. Certainly, this should give pause to those in charge of limited church budgets, but is not necessarily cause to place musicians on the church’s payroll.

    Regardless of pay, musicians and technical artists must avoid a “volunteer” mindset. Jesus was a servant leader and those involved in one of the most exposed ministries must model that behavior for your church. Above talent, what do the artists’ relationships, life off the platform, community groups, etc. look like? Is their “home team” (spouses, kids) their number 1 team?

    Your music may take a step back initially, but is a “slammin'” worship set all God needs to keep people coming back to your church or pursue the lost? Once these priorities are set and your team has bought into the vision of the church, then it could be appropriate to initiate a discussion of allocating budget dollars to artists.

    • mkrab

      No one ever wonders whether to pay an organist or choir director. Shouldn’t this be handled similarly?

      • funkmaster777

        Our church does not have an organist and the choir director is a volunteer, so your context may be a little different. However, I would say yes… organists and choir directors need to embrace servant leadership first and be concerned with pay second.

  • ChicagoWorship

    So if a Sunday School teacher, nursery worker, greeter, etc. leaves or is sick would you pay someone to come and fill in–even a small stipend? “Audie” thinks you should–and if you did it for a musician, you probably should for any open position. But what does that communicate to your congregation? Well for one it says, “Your reward is here and now–really no need to sacrifice to serve.” Not sure that’s a message we would feel comfortable sending. And how about to the rest of the musicians on your team who week in and week out give of their time to serve? Probably says something like, “We’d pay you if we were in a bind–but since you’re willing to volunteer, we’re not. Thanks!” I don’t think we would come out and say these things out loud, but don’t our actions speak even when we’re silent?

    Finally, and most importantly, what does it say about our reliance on God? By going out immediately to fill a need by offering to pay someone to serve, we don’t give God the space to work–and not only to meet the need. I have always been amazed that when my musical team has been “weak” or when rehearsal indicates that it’s going to be a “rough Sunday of worship”, God seems to step in and do amazing things–even if we aren’t as excellent or perfect as we would like to be. I wonder what God might have done if you would have simply gone without someone on keyboard and left that seat empty.

    Just some thoughts to ponder.

    • audie

      Interesting. So, being paid to do something equates into a lack of faith? Or paying someone to do it means you don’t have faith? Really?
      The writer of this article says that his church got “professional quality” from this musician to whom they paid a stipend that was, by his description, paltry. Now, becoming a musician of “professional quality” takes time, time, time, and money, money, money.
      Since this article writer’s church obvious valued “professional quality”, why should the musician who can provide that “professional quality” not expect the church to recompense him or her accordingly? Sorry, but what I’m seeing is a church with a beggar mentality, perhaps even an entitlement mentality–they want the best, but will not pay for the best.

  • amateola

    I really fell the question was not answered at all. If you were a start up church will you pay a worship leader to come in to your church? Many of them nowadays want big money like a salary… How do you handle this?

  • Rob

    I’m coming back to the heart of worship and it’s all about You, Jesus. I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You, all about You, Jesus.

  • Pastor Merwin

    Musicians are professional people; it usually takes more years of training than that of minister or pastor (I know some will say we’re always learning). However, here’s a slightly different angle: what happens if there’s no one, and I do mean no one, within your own congregation who can lead any kind of contemporary music? We opted to pay a couple, both musicians, to lead us in our evening service. Why evening? Because they’re involved in their own morning-only worship. I praise God for them because they bring a level of music we couldn’t get from within our own context.

  • JustSayin’

    As a musician for 35 years and more importantly, a believer in Jesus Christ, I have never once accepted any payment nor expected one for serving with my gift in the 22 years I have played on a worship team. It has been a joy for me to serve in this capacity without financial compensation. I believe that God has given gifts to every believer for the benefit of others (1 Peter 4:10-11) with no “strings” attached.

    In argument of the comment that because musicians are trained, they should be paid; if you are a “skilled” musician, your motivation was probably not to be skilled so that you could be paid on a worship team. You did so because you have a love for playing music. Playing on a worship team at a church is most likely not your primary source for income (unless you work at the church in the worship dept.). By this “skilled” philosophy, if a worker in the children’s ministry happens to be a college professor or a nurse, they should be paid, right? Of course not! (Anyone ever see the Seinfeld episode about the “delicate genius?”). This mentality brings a division in the church that only “skilled people” are paid and “non-skilled” people are volunteers. This is not the kind of hierarchical structure any church needs.

    One previous post suggested that if the senior pastor is paid, then everyone should be paid. I disagree. First, the senior pastor does this for a living and their hours can often supersede what they are actually getting paid for (50-70 hours a week), whereas the weekend musician plays around 5-6 hours a week and probably has other employment. Secondly, as the body of Christ, we are ALL expected to serve in some capacity somewhere, EVEN the senior pastor. This maybe a secondary topic, but unfortunately we are living in an era where a servanthood mentality in the church is on the decline, whereas an attitude of entitlement has crept in. Instead of “what can I do to serve Christ and His body,” it is now “what’s in it for me.”

    I would agree with funkmaster777 in that the need to be a slammin’ band (or as the author puts it, a “rocking band”) is totally unnecessary and can possibly convey a “performance” mentality instead of an offering of worship (the author thankfully communicated this is NOT the case in their church). The band is simply a tool that the congregation uses to worship God. The parishioner’s heart should not be roused by the music per se, but by a recognition of what Christ has done for us. The band is there to honor God, to serve the congregation, and to promote unity in worship. If that is not conveyed in the church service, then a missing keyboard player is the least of their worries. Yes, the music needs to be pleasant to the ear and not distracting, but let’s remember that this is all about the Lord and not about our puny efforts to be awesome!

    Having said all this, I am not strictly opposed to paying members of a worship team, especially if there are high standards and very high commitment levels of time (this often depends on the vision of the church), and if the church budget can handle it. Also, I think the church can compensate for strings, sticks, drum heads, repairs, etc. if a musician is using his or her own instrument. However, the pay should never outweigh the need to be a servant.

    Hey, a novel idea… instead of a paycheck, how about a “thank you” card every once in a while, or an appreciation dinner every year for ALL that serve in the church. :)

  • Frank E.

    You’ve got to be kidding, right? Since when does musical excellence equate to worship? Or did you mean the “experience” of singing/hearing songs/music intended to engage the participant. And here I was thinking it was all about “in spirit and in truth”, which leaves no aspect of our 24/7 removed from having to rise to a level of excellence regards worship.

  • Willy Wee

    Are you saying that there is NO one in your church who can play the piano? Or are your music standards so high that members dare not volunteer to serve God? I thought that the aim of a music team is to lead members to worship and not to play the best possible music.

  • benberson

    A good response is to think long term and create many worship leaders and musicians. It is the lake vs river ideology.

  • Just Thinking

    No we should not. Churches need to start spending every spare cent they have doing what God actually called us to do – reach the lost. Building a huge professional celebration every Sunday at a financial cost is ridiculous, we are training our believers to sit there with mouths open like baby birds to get fed by the pro’s. what about the LOST?

    • peterhamm

      What if great professional sounding music does reach the lost… should we then put our money into that?

      • Kevin Gates

        this isn’t Sister Act; we don’t start playing professional level music and suddenly people come in throngs from the streets outside. It’s not that music doesn’t touch the heart, it’s that to way too many Christians it has become the center of their faith, evangelism, and worship…

      • Just Thinkin’

        There is no way churches can, or even should invest in competing with secular music for reaching the lost. We should be out there with a deep and gracious faith, open hearts and minds. In the pubs, in the sports clubs, manning the food lines and working where it touches people with the message of the Gospel. Sorry, but it’s a cop out to say evangelism happens inside church and so we need good music. An absolute cop out.

  • pastorbrad

    So you paid someone a stipen to leave someone elses church?

  • Kevin Gates

    Since when did the level of musicianship equate to “worship”? I really have an issue that this situation brings the “level of worship down”.
    What about the rest of our ministries? Why is it ok to pay musicians but not Sunday School teachers, Bible study leaders, Small Group leaders, and so on? I’m not saying we pay everyone who does anything considered “ministry”; the Western Protestant Church has already had issues with the work of the Church being handed to vocational professionals and away from the general Christian community. Many churches are working with remedying this, especially as the financial strain of staffing a church in a “post-Christian” culture is a more difficult thing to do every year. Isn’t the idea of professionalizing our music teams part of the problem? Maybe part of the solution is bringing worship back to the congregation rather than a team of hand-picked players. After all, Jesus didn’t come to call the studied, the academic, the rich, the well-read, the musically trained… but the sinner; to bring abundant life to all who seek Him.
    Just sayin’… (sorry if I got a bit preachy)

  • Just Thinkin’

    The problem with this mindset is it creates a body of believers who struggle to worship privately because worship = musical excellence, not a solo believer in a room with level 101 guitar skills. It endangers and potentially impoverishes the spiritual life of believers outside of church because, subliminally, it creates the idea that God wants excellence more than heart.

  • Ernst

    I have no objection about paying someone brought in to fill a musical position but is this not going to set a presedent. Will those already in the band not feel good for not being paid too?