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Should we pay our musicians?

I know this question always evokes warm fuzzy feelings…but it is one that I am curious as to the pulse of my readers.  Should we pay our worship musicians in church?  I’m game for a simple “yes” or “no” – but what I’d really love is your thoughts behind why or why not. Use the comment section at the bottom of this post!

UPDATE:  We have moved the comments to the actual post comments section since they were being limited to only 140 characters. Feel free to post below as we are allowing anonymous comments for the purpose of this post. I AM allowing anonymous posting in comments for this post.

38 thoughts on “Should we pay our musicians?”

  1. David Jordan says:

    Finishing my thoughts…. Depends on the church. I think those in worship leadership should be at least partially supported by the congregation, as they are the ones planning, rehearsing and yes actually USING their skills each and every week. churches are all too eager to get a Chris Tomlin for free, right? Should they be?

    Not sure we should pay all musicians, though. Tough precedent to set, because what happens to worship when the money runs low? Have you set your worship ministry up for failure by offering to pay everyone? Will they understand if they suddenly don’t get paid? Some will, some won’t.

    As a worship leader, I expect to get paid if I’m on staff and my job is a week-in, week-out commitment. However, I’ve played at small churches and mega-churches in the band and never gotten paid for that. “Pay”, however, comes in different forms, right? If it’s all about the money, like I said, we’re setting a precedent. Exceptions would be concerts and special events where the entertainment value is expected to be high- then… you definitely get what you pay for.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yes. We should HONOR the gifting that GOD gave to ANOINTED musicians and help to SUPPORT them so they can continue and FOCUS on BRINGING GLORY & HONOR to GOD through their gifting.

  3. Comment from poll says:

    No. I’ve never been paid. The organist always is. I suspect I missed the boat a couple of centuries ago.

  4. Comment from poll says:

    Depends on what kind of quality you want from your worship band. If you want pro-quality musicians, then you should expect to pay them.

    1. This_That_Guy says:

      Exactly, if you want your worship band to be super talented like Elevation Worship or Israel & New Breed, it requires some integrity & financial accountability on the church’s part to compensate a musician for their skill set, especially if the resources are there & it is expected for the musician to devote a great deal of time to the music ministry.

      1. PJ says:

        I agree. The worship experience has gone to new levels over the past 10 or so years. If the local church is going to give a quality presentation of the gospel a measure of professional musicianship is required. Professional means talent, time, and yes, renumeration.

  5. Comment from poll says:

    I believe that musicians in church should not be paid. this is part of your worship to the lord, consider it an addition to your tithes …(incomplete – message was truncated by poll.)

    1. Gary says:

      Is it your right to determine what another person’s gift is to God?

    2. Lady V says:

      I whole totally agree. Our gifts are for the edifying of the body of Christ. Gifts will make room for us but today praise and worship is compromised by the financial agreement between the worship team (band) and leadership. What happen to pure worship unto God?

      1. mm
        Jason Whitehorn says:

        Food for thought, though. Should a lead pastor not be paid then as well? I can find more scripture that talk about how the Levites (worship leaders) were compensated than I can scriptures on how a pastor should be. Why is it then that we are okay with pastors BEING compensated…but not worship leaders/band?

  6. Comment from poll says:

    I think we should pay them something. Of course it wouldn’t be what a musician is really worth but a token of our appreciation even if it is…(incomplete – message was truncated by poll.)

  7. mm
    Jason Whitehorn says:

    Thus far, I see far more support for paying musicians than I do for not paying.

    I am, however, curious to hear from our one commentor who says it should be part of our worship to our Lord. While I do not disagree with it being part of our worship (everything I do should be an offering of worship) I am curious, honestly…and non-confrontationally, as to whether my pastor should offer his pastoral duties each week as a tithe as well? If not, I would love to hear where the deciding factor is between where someone offering their gifts is allowed to be paid versus one who is not.

  8. Joey Hodge (from Facebook) says:

    It depends on the situation. There is no inherent Biblical or moral obligation that would require musicians to be paid for leading worship. I’ve been a church musician for over twenty years and sometimes I’ve been paid and other times I haven’t. Sometimes I’ve been paid when I didn’t need to be. Other times I wasn’t paid when I should have been.

    If a church chooses to incorporate musical performance into their worship services for aesthetic reasons, I see no problem with that and in those situations, the musician(s) should most definitely be remunerated. It needs to be clearly defined, though, that this is a business arrangement that the musician and the church have come to.

    It is also important to note that musical performance is not an essential part of corporate worship. It is, for all practical purposes, a ‘bonus.’ What a musician brings to services on a spiritual basis is an entirely different subject altogether. It is certainly not necessary to pay them for that.

  9. Mark Robey (from Facebook) says:

    Is a worker worth his wages? Is it wrong to assume everyone that ‘does’ church stuff should be a volunteer? Situations are always different. But since when did we think because salvation is free everything else should be too? Our pastors, janitors, secretaries, assistants, lawn keepers…they get paid. Why not?

  10. Phil Wilson (from Facebook) says:

    Here’s a couple of interesting statements from this article:

    ‘Compensating the Church Musician’

    Any musician who serves a church with faithful, competent, hard work deserves that church’s stewardship; indeed, this stewardship is an important expression of the church’s commitment to its own ministry. While many musicians may struggle internally to see themselves as professionals, very few question their commitment to their job. However, the church often fails to express its commitment to the musician and to the music program. That lack of commitment leads far too often to turbulence in the music program.

    This emphasis on the mundane issue of fair compensation might at first appear to deflect a musician from the important task of serving as a minister of the gospel; in fact, however, preoccupation with simply making ends meet serves as a far greater deterrent to doing his or her work. Just as one cannot play baseball without a bat, a church musician cannot carry out his or her duties apart from an environment of both spiritual and financial nurture.

  11. Anne-caroline Baird (from Facebook) says:

    if a musician gets to use his talent for the kingdom full time/partime like a secretary or else, I say YES!!!! it’s a blessing. It’s a calling like any other in the church.

  12. Kevin Riner says:

    I’m firstly gonna amen all the yes’ cause I there have been some good reasons for it and I agree with them so no need to say them again.

    What I will also say is as musicians and worship leaders we are the modern day Levites and if you recall when the twelve tribes were divided up the Levites would not get anything because the other eleven tribes were to support them. They were to minister at all times. They didn’t have time to work the ground or other stuff because they were busy ministering.

    So I say support those who do the 80% of the work so they can continue to minister full time.

  13. James says:

    Assuming a church is already paying their worship director and technology director…

    I’m of the opinion that musicians should not need to be paid, at least not on a regular basis. I do think that it would be good for a church body to recognize what the musicians bring to worship every week, and perhaps set aside in the budget some money to gift a subset of the musicians each quarter with the goal to ensure all have been blessed in a year.

    Now, if the musicians were essentially turning over their entire livelihood to be a musician for the church, then perhaps those cases could be considered for paid position. However, I would expect that those type of people would be involved in other ministries besides worship services, essentially making them professional Christian musicians.

    I am actively involved in a smaller church, where I act as the technology lead and also play in the worship team (1-2x a month). We don’t pay anyone expect our pastor, and I don’t expect to be paid. However, we do periodically recognize those among us who commit much of their time to the church, and not always in a monetary fashion.

  14. Vic Diaz says:

    I’ll be honest with you, the idea of paying worship musicians disgusts me. I’ve been involved in worship music for almost a decade and never in that time have I expected to be paid for my services. Being a part of any ministry means you are dedicating your time and efforts for the edification of God. As far as the issue of how much time they are spending and whether they should be paid for it, that can be met with a compromise. If the church wants to come together and give the band a love offering on occasion as a token of gratitude, that’s fine, but to give a regular salary is an insult to the ministry. If any member of any ministry wants to receive compensation for something they do, there’s a newfangled idea out there that’s going around called “getting a job.” Despite the job market, if you dedicate all your worship to God, he will reward you in abundance, so says the scripture. As worship musicians, we should never expect to be paid by our church; we are there to help the body of Christ, and to be a blessing to others. That alone should be enough compensation.

    1. mm
      Jason Whitehorn says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. May I ask a questioning fairness? Should your pastor or church secretary be paid?

    2. Michelle says:

      I serve in the music ministry now. I am not paid nor expect to be but only those who have been in the music ministry know that of all ministries that is one of the most time consuming both in and out of the church. To lead worship not only involves an anointing but skill that needs to be worked on on a daily basis. No other ministry requires that much time and effort. It is uncomparable. I do agree that those those in leadership and the professional musicians should receive compensation. A church will rarely achieve a higher level of worship without calling on the highly skilled musicians to take their hard work and talent and anointing to lead the church. Worship time is just as important as the pastor and the message and they are paid for their time and skill. A worship leader who is truly taking their time and the best of their skills to lead the congregation should also be paid a wage.

  15. Nathan Kawa says:

    I agree, yes, they should be paid as should anyone who works for the church in any capacity. This is not wrong in any manner. However, if someone wants to do it for free, God bless them. But a man is worthy of his hire and that is biblical. King David hired musicians, there’s a biblical precedent. He didnt demand they do it for free for God. What’s wrong with churches today is they do not serve the communities they are in and it starts with it’s own congregation. They love to preach giving as much money to the church as you possibly can and give as much time as you possibly can but that is not what Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians. “each man should give what he has determined in his own heart to give, for the Lord loves cheerful giver”. Not a guilt driven one!

  16. Bedajii says:

    As a worship team administrator (after a year saying leader still feels wrong), I have felt both put off and grateful for the “stipend” I was given by my church.

    In this role, It could easily be said that the amount of time it takes to prepare worship, is comparable to the time it takes to prepare the sermon. I may go as far to say that getting everyone organized and on board, (and on-key) is a bit more demanding than orchestrating the requirements for one person.

    Worship isnt a side show to prep for the main event. worship and sermon should be esteemed on an equal footing. How that plays out financially I dont know. I do know that it feels a bit awkward to offer money as if it is a favor, instead of as a token of appreciation for dedication and effort.

    So to answer your question,all I can really say is that it depends on the spirit in which it is offered. Is it given begrudgingly or is it given with a cheerful heart? The service in worship is better left as a tithe than its reciprocation given as charity.

  17. mbzguy says:

    Churches should definitely pay the worship leader/pastor. That said, I don’t think the other musicians should be. I have been on worship teams in many different churches as I have moved around the country, and it is truly a privilege to be counted as one of the Levites leading the people into worship. One person commented that the music is harder, so we need more polished performers. I reject that statement on so many levels. 1. The music is NOT harder, it’s just that everyone wants to do it exactly as the You Tube video. C’mon, put your own spin on it, own it. You don’t have to do it in the same key, or make sure that guitar solo is exactly the same. 2. God anoints people to play beyond their ability. A willing heart and an attitude of true worship is what God really wants. He will let those fingers move more nimbly and that voice to blend better if He can flow through it. 3. This is worship, not a performance. I have heard and seen too many people talk about their gigs, sets or shows instead of referring to it as worship. This is not about you and your talent, its about Him. God wants us to be excellent in our musicianship, but not if it causes us to forsake our love for Him.

  18. Bro howard says:

    Since nobody has given why the word of God does not support paying musicians let me be the first,1 Cor 10:31-33 whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit,

    Second: (You have to be born again or saved from all known sin to worship and play instruments or sing before God will accept it)Psalms 87:6-7 The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people,
    that this man was born there. Selah
    7: As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there:
    all my springs are in thee.

    1. (Jason W.) says:

      I can see the point you are attempting to make…however I’m afraid you may be taking the verse and misapplying the usage. To say that God does not support paying musicians because we should be doing it “all for the Glory of God” must also denote the portion of the verse that states “whatsoever ye do” as well. If we apply that portion of the verse…then “whatsoever we do” would also apply to our normal vocations…and not just what we do in church. Applying the same logic…God doesn’t support our getting paid for working at our regular jobs, right?

      I’m afraid there aren’t verses that imply one should not be paid ever to play an instrument. If there were…our original topic would be mute. The question isore of preference.

  19. Doug Mathis says:

    I have been a worship pastor and a senior pastor and I have had paid and unpaid musicians. Our Lord said that the laborer is worthy of his hire in Luke 10 so, if the church budget can afford professional musicians… PAY THEM! If you have volunteers and you are happy with their ministry… that’s great. I live in Nashville TN so we have a deep pool of fantastic musicians. When we have a budget for a few key positions I hope to pay a core group. Drums, Bass, Lead, and Keys and have the rest be volunteer. Your volunteers will appreciate having real pros on the team. However, if you don’t have guys that make their living at music… I would not pay them. If you pay everybody… it can get a little silly and way too costly for a local church. My last budget where we paid our pro musicians was $1600 a week. $1,000 for the worship pastor, (me) and $150 for my team of pros. That covered 2 services every week. My musicians were very talented and dedicated to me and the ministry. They tithed and loved the church members and were a vital part of the ministry. We had great chemistry so, it worked!

  20. Worship Guy says:

    Check this out! Lakewood Church has one of the best music teams in the world. Every musician on the stage gets $1000 per week to play. YES, $52,000 a year. They are Christian professional musicians. They can make a great income just like you do at your job. The music in a church is one of the most important areas of the Sunday service. If you music SUCKS visitors aren’t going to come back. We pay our sound guy and our musicians. Our music has gone to a whole nutha level. Our attendance has doubled and we are still seeing growth every week. The only thing we changed was adding a whole new paid band. Here’s what we added:
    Lead guitar player, electric guitar 2, bass player, acoustic guitar, drummer, back up keyboard player, sax player, and a new sound guy. Let me tell you…. For $100 per Sunday per musician this was a BIG blessing. These musicians practice on their own, attend rehearsals and play on Sunday mornings. You pay people to clean your church. You pay people to mow the lawn at your church. You pay people to answer phone at your church. Remember you get what you pay for. Go after the best musicians in your town! You can’t replace one or two and see a difference. Replace every musician who is not amazing and watch and see what happens! Instead of people not coming back each week, people are excited about our music. Our church is growing like never before!

    1. (Jason W.) says:

      Great points…and so blessed to hear how it’s been working for your church!

  21. Darrin says:

    Music is not needed for authentic worship. Jesus and later, the Apostles did not need professional or non-professional musicians to draw people into the kingdom and to subsequently develop them into mature saints. There are no New Testament scriptures that indicate that someone who has musical talent should demand financial compensation, for their contribution in a “Worship Service”. If anyone has a right to make demands for services they render for a church, then every single person, including every choir singer, usher, custodian or person who even picks up something off of the floor should make a financial demand. If this works for one then it should work for all. Entertainment value is provided through many of the musical performances, but, if one will do this only for money, then, go to a club or some other venue and get paid. When money was laid at the feet of the Apostle on the day of Pentecost, it was not collected for musicians and the music that they play. By the way the Levites that were compensated in the Old Testament were not compensated because they were singers. They were compensated because they were Levites, who happen to be able to sing. Being a Music leader does not make one a Pastor or Shepherd of a flock, therefore, one should not expect the same compensation. Pastors today are equivalent to the Levites or Priest of the past, not “Praise and worship music ministers”! Get a job or go start a business and learn how to give, sow and tithe like every other faithful church member and through faith expect God to compensate you and supply your needs.

  22. B.D.P. says:

    According to the bible, how many souls did Jesus, the Disciples and the Apostles lead into the Kingdom of God by way of music? Who grows into a mature Christian through the talent of musicians according to scripture? There is a place for music, and those who can produce it, but when it comes to the things that will make the church powerful and productive (according to scripture), it has little or no impact. If they were that important, Jesus and the leaders that he ordained would have had them go along with them wherever they went.

    By the way musicians are not needed to sing songs! Paul and Silas did just fine without them while in prison, in the book of Acts chapter 16. If musicians are not Pastors or Shepherds who oversee the sheep or congregation, then they do not deserve to be paid anymore than anyone else who volunteers their service in the church and for those in the household of faith. If my response can be biblically refuted then by all means do so. I will happily receive such a word. But if you cant then allow others to do the same. Again, my response will be the same, I will humbly accept it. Please allow others to read what I have written. Do not delete it because you may not like it.
    Thanks, God bless!

    1. mm
      Jason Whitehorn says:

      The interesting thing is that I don’t disagree with there being no scriptural foundation with not paying. The thing I often wonder is why those who disagree with paying musicians seem to be so angered about it? Id pose the same question about paying child care workers…or there church secretary? We don’t seem to battle those – but we go up-at-arms if we pay someone to strum a guitar. I’d love for someone to help me understand that fascination.

    2. Scott P says:

      Hi Darrin. I would be curious for your scriptural basis for ANYONE getting paid for ministry…

  23. Eric L. says:

    If the person is a professional musician, who’s spent half of his/her life in the practice room…’s pretty horrible if the church doesn’t pay that person.
    We spend millions as a culture on amateurish, uneducated “musicians”. That’s all fine and good if you like that sort of thing. But if you pay all kinds of money to these people, then refuse to pay a professional musician…..there is something very wrong with that.

  24. Eric L. says:

    To continue my comment….music is easily one of the toughest majors in college. To ask someone with degrees in music to play or sing for free is ridiculous. These people who come off the street with no training or education should be the ones performing for free.

  25. Jesse says:

    I’ll answer with this: I had to leave a church I loved dearly because they wouldn’t pay me and I was maturing to a point in my life where I couldn’t afford to work for free anymore.

  26. Richie Phillips says:

    I believe church musicians should be paid. How much depends on the size of the church and the quality expected but when Paul said that “a worker is worthy of his wages”, that is not a principle reserved only for the pastor of the church. Nehemiah, Chapter 13 4-14, you find Nehemiah restoring order in the storehouse by actually paying the Levites AND the singers AND the gatekeepers. He was actually grieved bitterly because the offerings in the storehouse had been wrongly reserved for one person when it should have been distributed to ALL the brothers who performed service in the House of the Lord!
    Many churches depend on the music ministry to draw people in, but are unwilling to invest in the people who take their time, talent, and energies serving in the very ministry that they depend on for growth. Money will be spent on the best equipment, the best lighting, the best microphones, the best seats, but where is the investment in the people doing the work.
    I saw one post where the author was disgusted when thinking about paying the church musician. Well I think it is disgusting to expect something for nothing! If you need a toilet fixed, you pay for the service of plumbing. If you need a hole in a wall repaired, you pay for the carpenter to fix it. But if you need a musician/worship leader to help lead a congregation in worship of the most High God with skill, you expect to get that skill for free. That is not right.

  27. Sharon says:

    The SKILLED musician should be paid if the church is treating the musician like an employee that absolutely must be there. I am a pianist with a degree in music. Since childhood, I have been told to “use my talent for the Lord” and I would be blessed. Skilled musicians in the Bible had their housing needs and everything else taken care of. I have never heard a pastor preach about that, but I have heard many of them preach about tithing. I was always told “play for the church; don’t play for the world”; okay; then how does the musician make a living if the church won’t pay and the musician is not supposed to play anywhere else? As a musician, I did jobs in other fields to make a living while volunteering my music in church. Looking back, I realize that was not fair. Church should pay.

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