Music has always been the cornerstone of Black Culture. Slaves sang while picking cotton on Southern plantations. Singing gave comfort during the Civil Rights marches of the 60’s. It was music and poetry in Harlem which became the roots of a renaissance for the denied Black artists in the 1920’s. Before keyboards and drums were welcomed into our services on Sunday mornings, Black churchgoers hummed, tapped, moaned, and clapped their hands to praise the Lord.
We are a musically inclined community and we can’t help it. Its embodied in our DNA. It flows in our bloodline from African tribal chants to the Dr. Watt’s moans of the traditional Black Church. We love music so much most Black ministers can’t even preach without the ten minute whoop at the climax of a sermon which is energized by pounding organ skats.
Many Churches Are Going Broke
Because most Black churchgoers have been conditioned for a ‘feel good’ experience on Sunday mornings ministries are going broke trying to provide the soundtrack for the emotional overdose of their parishioners.
You’ve got to have an organ. However, the organ without percussion is Destiny’s Child without Beyonce. Now-a-days you have to have a bass guitar and an accompanist keyboard player as well. Before the service begins the average church is already $1500 in debt. The larger the church the higher musicians are usually paid.
The salaries of the musicians isn’t the real issue due to the fact that many musicians aren’t even members of the churches they play for. They are professional musicians hired to provide a service. The bigger issue is the dependency on music to support a church service that’s supposed to be structured around the morning message.
In fear of losing the interest of members, smaller ministries commonly attempt to match the intensity of the contemporary Worship experiences. The downfall is that the weekly income of most churches barely supports the expense of Worship. Let’s face it, many people expect a live concert on Sunday mornings. They want an Earth, Wind, & Fire experience with $1 tithing habits.
The Musicians Are Taking All The Money
This is the era where even the Worship leader expects a stipend and if you have a good one that person expects a salary. We aren’t talking about $50-$60 either. Some of these lead singers are making $30-40,000 a year for leading a 2 hour service on Sunday morning. Each musician gets a check after service and even the Minister of Music is on the payroll.
Musicians have often made the point that they contribute just as much to a service as the Pastor does. If the Pastor gets paid, in all fairness, they feel they should be paid as well. However, Pastoralship is a full time obligation. Most church musicians rehearse for an hour during mid-week and they’ll play for two hours on Sunday morning. Not quite the same.
However, if the musician is hired to do a job, the Pastor can’t expect the musician to care about the financial stability of their church. When you need an oil change they aren’t going to charge less because you both are Christians. It’s a service and it has a price. You don’t have to get it but if you do, it comes with a cost.
Many of these musicians treat your service like any other gig. Truth is, your service is just another gig. They use their gifts to pay their bills and if you can not afford them you shouldn’t be hiring them.
While the lead singer is paid, the musicians are paid, the preacher is paid, and even the custodian gets a check… the members are the ones footing the bill. Ministry doesn’t stay afloat off of shouts and amens. The Ministry is held hostage to the high expectations of the members and the high invoices from it’s personnel. It’s hard for most ministries to actually do ministry work in the community because there is nothing left in the budget from week to week.
Should People Be Paid?
If a responsibility is a full time obligation it should come with a salary and that salary should vary according to the financial capacity of the ministry. If the service is not full-time then it should be contracted according to church’s budget.
Professional musicians can’t pay all of their bills out of one two hour service. Because Sundays are big work opportunities for professional musicians, many musicians play multiple services on Sundays. If your church doesn’t pay enough to sustain a musician fulltime then you will have to share the best musicians with other churches. They want the best just like you do and there is a way ministries can accommodate each other respectively.
Most importantly, if a church is investing more into its Music Ministry than it is into its Youth Department, Outreach, and Christian Discipleship then the ministry needs to seriously restructure its priorities anyway. Every Pastor must remember one very important fact about growing a church. If you win people with music you will have to keep them with it as well.
I’ve attended some very powerful services with no music at all. There are many churches thriving with tracks and no live instruments. Ministries can’t be effective if they are in debt or having worship services collecting just enough to pay the musicians who play during those worship services. Something isn’t right about that.
Pastors can consider Stem Tracks. They are the instrumentals to popular songs broken down into segments which can be programmed on the spot. Technology such as Stem Tracks can be played directly from a cellphone requiring the church no extra expenses but saving the church thousands of dollars monthly.
If a church can’t afford this software then consider joining the ‘Word Church’ movement where service is centered around prayer and a powerful sermon. These ministries are growing and actually seem to be perceived very well by their participants because people don’t join these ministries expecting a 10 piece band on Sundays.
If members expect Jazzfest every Sunday they’ll have to start giving Jazzfest kind of money. It’s not the church’s responsibility to provide a free concert every Sunday to sustain the addictive emotional high of the members. The Bible encourages us to praise him with instruments but the people who play those instruments aren’t playing for free.
I have pastored my ministry for 4 years without a salary. I knew taking a salary from the church would actually prohibit the church from growing. The ministry has been very kind to me and they have supported my family several times when the funds were available.
Over a year ago, we were lucky to win the addition of a local singer who fell in love with our ministry. We gave her a stipend that was almost an insult to her worth but she knew we were doing the best we could and that meant a lot to her. Today, she tithes more into the ministry than we actually pay her. It was the Word which attracted her to our congregation and its the Word that keeps her with us. But in respect to her valuable gift, if she has to sing at another church to balance her financial needs we respect her time and work with her just as she works with us.
We have had powerful worship services with stem tracks and a worship leader. Her gifts are valuable to our church family and we pay her with honor. If you hire all these musicians and singers your parishioners should know the concert doesn’t come for free. Its a luxury of the vehicle. Sometimes you may have to pass on the leather seats and add them later when you can afford it.
God will send every Ministry what they need for the Season they need it. We must be patient not to present a big band if we’re still just an acoustic guitar.