Should we pay our musicians?

Categories: Worship

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.


Jason Whitehorn

Owner, Chief Visionary at got worship? Media
Jason Whitehorn is a worship leader/pastor, Christian songwriter, mentor, public speaker and Christian music promoter/publicist. Jason's articles have been published in both online and National publications and has broadcast in both radio and television - reporting and anchoring for affiliates such as ABC, CNN, and CNN Headline News. Jason is the Worship & Creative Arts Pastor at New Hope Church in Williston, ND.

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Latest posts by Jason Whitehorn (see all)

  • David Jordan

    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.

  • Anonymous

    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.

  • Comment from poll

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

  • Comment from poll

    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.

    • This_That_Guy

      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.

      • PJ

        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.

  • Comment from poll

    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.)

  • Comment from poll

    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.)

  • http://www.gotworship.net Jason Whitehorn

    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.

  • Joey Hodge (from Facebook)

    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.

  • Mark Robey (from Facebook)

    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?

  • Phil Wilson (from Facebook)

    Here’s a couple of interesting statements from this article:
    http://www.reformedworship.org/magazine/article.cfm?article_id=457

    ‘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.

  • Anne-caroline Baird (from Facebook)

    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.

  • http://www.yahwehssong.com Kevin Riner

    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.

  • James

    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.

  • Vic Diaz

    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.

    • http://www.gotworship.net Jason Whitehorn

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

  • Nathan Kawa

    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!

  • Bedajii

    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.

  • mbzguy

    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.

Author: Jason Whitehorn

Jason Whitehorn is a worship leader/pastor, Christian songwriter, mentor, public speaker and Christian music promoter/publicist. Jason's articles have been published in both online and National publications and has broadcast in both radio and television - reporting and anchoring for affiliates such as ABC, CNN, and CNN Headline News. Jason is the Worship & Creative Arts Pastor at New Hope Church in Williston, ND.