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A question came into Worship Ministries this week and it got me thinking because I am sure that many churches are bumping into this. 

When it comes to paying our congregational musicians, it seems we have two scenarios: 

  1. Churches who still have a single accompanist playing for each service, pianist or organist, who prepares the prelude, offertory, and postlude in addition to all the congregational songs.  For even the most accomplished musician, this takes thought, preparation, and practice, along with reliance on many years of lessons and the ongoing purchase of music (all good reasons for them to be paid). Note: I am not questioning the payment of these folks. 
  2. Churches that have fully embraced the use of a volunteer praise band/worship team. If the church is large enough, they may have a paid worship director/planner/leader.  

What do churches do who find themselves somewhere between the two scenarios above? Some churches still assign an accompanist to each service who gets paid for his/her service but once the service is planned find that that person actually plays very little -maybe only the prelude/postlude, or only as a part of the worship team.  Do you still pay this accompanist the same amount as if they had prepared the whole service?  If they only play with the worship team how do the other members feel about only the keyboardist being paid? 

Has your church wrestled with this question? If so, what has been your solution? 

It seems to me that the answer to the question needs to do at least these two things: 

  1. It needs to be just for all musicians involved in leading worship as well as others who volunteer their time elsewhere in the church
  2. It needs to show our support of and appreciation for those who do lead us in worship (and recognize that typically the amount that they receive does not reflect an hourly rate for their preparation.)

I am also curious to know how much you are paying your accompanists.    

I'd love for you to comment on this post, or, if you prefer, you can email [email protected] with your answer to any of these questions or with a question of your own. 


Joyce, thanks for making the points that musicians have (almost always) had years of lessons and practice and have to put in time planning. And that they must purchase music on their own, which is very expensive. Many years ago in a previous church I would hear people argue that Sunday school teachers are not paid, so organists should also not expect compensation. That falls on deaf ears for those of us who have studied music and paid for lessons since childhood.

Tough one to deal with, having to draw the line between what should be volunteer and what should be paid work. This difficulty extends to any worship director/coordinator that your church may have.

One thing I think I could agree on, but still probably not clear cut depending on who you talk to (what in life really is beyond the story of salvation?), is the provision of music and other such supplies (strings, sticks, etc) to the musicians and singers. These are items that are being used in the ministry of the church and comparable supplies are regularly provided to other ministries. Although, if you're regularly demanding gold-plated guitar strings, I think we might have an issue. :) (Maybe a stipend instead?)

I personally do not expect to be paid for the amount of time I put into learning my instrument because I want to volunteer my time and do something I love to do, but I know we all come from different life experiences so not all will agree. But I am only in a worship leader role and the actual service planning is completed by another individual so if I were doing both consistently I might feel differently. (I suppose if I was paid and considered self-employed I might also be able to claim some home office and auto expenses on my tax return and donate the money I made back to the church for a tax credit...)

If there are not enough/no musicians in the church and outside musicians need to be brought in, they should be offered compensation where the church can afford it - it is up to the individual offering their "services" to determine whether they want to volunteer their time or not. But it is not nice to see churches where there are capable musicians as part of the congregation and outside musicians are always being brought in.

One thing that paying inside musicians could do is make it awkward if you have to stop paying someone because they are not pulling their weight or do not pay someone at all because their skill level is not there (not that this should be the sole reason not to pay musicians, just a musing)

Sorry for all the competing thoughts I have going on in this comment. It makes sense in my head...

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