Paid to praise

A friend of mine attends a church in midtown, and he tells me that all the musicians in the praise band, as well as head of technical crew and some of his assistants, are paid for their efforts (sorry, singers, you’re on your own). He found this out when he was asked to consider joining the sound team. The current sound guy takes home $900 per month for working every Sunday. Not a bad deal for working a few hours on a weekend. The musicians don’t have to be members of the church, either.

I mentioned this to my wife, and she told me that she met someone who is a paid singer at the mainline denominational church where I grew up. What’s going on?

I’m used to staff positions like “worship pastor” or “choir director”. I guess I’m assuming that if we pay the folks who have leadership roles, then they’ll have the freedom to focus on their task, and not be distracted by having to earn a living.

But what does it say if we pay the musicians? Just this: music is so important that it cannot be left to amateurs. The “sound”, the “feel” of the service is so critical that if we rely on volunteer parishoners only, the service will suffer.

But will it?

I wonder how long it will take before something like this (satirical) article becomes a reality? Meanwhile, I’m dusting off my bass guitar and practicing my “amens”.

3 thoughts on “Paid to praise”

  1. We’ve faced a similar question from time to time where I work. When soliciting creative output, do you take the best of what you get, or do you say, “none of that is good enough, try again”, or do you look elsewhere?

    Even churches that have gone beyond the minister’s daughter being the only singer, or whoever has a piano getting to play (both situations taken from actual church experiences, though not at my current church), most churches will take the best of what they can find within the group as opposed to hiring ringers (bell choir pun unintended).

    There will always be a tension between willingness and ability. There is often a tension between passion and abiltiy, too. Heartlessly efficient musicians might sound better, but we agree that sound is not the final goal. If we were talking about speakers, would this question even come up? Would we want a really good speaker who was only there for the money?

  2. djayt, you and I may agree that “sound is not the final goal”, but what is a church saying when it hires musicians? If the musicians need not be members of the church (as in the one situation I know of), is there any attempt to determine their spiritual maturity? If not, it seems to me that sound IS the final goal in these cases.

    Perhaps folks would agree with us that speakers should have a certain level of spiritual maturity. Where do we draw the line? Should speakers, singers, musicians, and drama folks (those on stage) be committed Christians (note I did not say mature Christians)? What about the person running lights, sound, etc.?

    The downside to having an unregenerated person on stage is that it could send a message: this is the sort of person we want you to emulate. The upside is it could send the message: we welcome anyone. I’m not sure which one I favor.

  3. While “we welcome anyone” is certainly a positive message, it almost requires a committed (or mature) audience, and that would be hard to come by.

    Maybe we need to have more grace regarding who’s on stage and what, if anything, is being “said” by those choices. This is easy for me to say, but I’d be resoundingly uncomfortable with a loose cannon on stage singing or speaking. Making everyone queasy can’t be the goal, either. (or can it?)

    I can’t think of much Biblical precedent here beyond talk about giftedness. The farther we go into the intricacies of a worship service, the more we need to count on insight and guidance instead of following a Biblical model. I suppose it’s better to “take our chances” with unpaid, but dedicated people and not manage the spirit right out of the equation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *