There was a time when the typical church music minister was overworked. That’s not as common today.
In the olden days (aka my childhood) the music minister oversaw at least one choir, conducted midweek and Sunday morning rehearsals. There were elaborately produced programs every Christmas and Easter. As a teen I was in youth choir. The music minister led our rehearsals on Sunday evenings, took us to competitions and on Summer trips, put together a couple of musicals every year.
In addition to all these duties, the music minister was also expected to be at staff meetings and to visit a portion of the hospitalized and homebound.
A music minister had at least 40 hours of work to get done every week – and sometimes much more. But that’s not always the case anymore.
Church Music Is Simpler
Many churches today have abandoned choirs and orchestras for “praise bands” and a handful of vocalists. Gone are the Christmas and Easter productions too. Leading a band is less time consuming, requiring fewer hours of preparation and likely fewer volunteers to lead and serve. When a church shifts its musical style to simpler and smaller, is there really enough work for a full-time music minister to do every week?
And then weigh the salary of a full-time music minister against the most pressing needs of the community. According to payscale.com the range of music minister pay is $14,813 to $61,035 with the median salary being $30,483. With the median church in the U.S. having 75 participants on Sunday morning, that’s a large financial burden for a few people to bear. Does your church or community have an unmet need that is a higher priority to Jesus than music? Could $30,483 help meet that need?
I never second guessed that a full-time paid music minister was essential to doing church well until… When it came time to fill our church’s music minister position several years ago, we were meeting in an elementary school cafeteria. The school district repeatedly raised our rent. We realized that soon it would be more expensive to meet there than to build a modest building on land we already owned.
Our church served hundreds in our community through a family assistance center we launched, providing them with groceries, but there was talk of expanding those services to include job training, financial counseling and literacy classes in the future. We couldn’t do that at a school. A building would also provide space for a preschool – our little city’s largest demographic being a three year-old.
But we were a church of around 300 active participants every Sunday. To get out of the school, into a building, and launch such ambitious services for our community would require not only generosity but frugality.
So we didn’t hire a full-time music minister. I stepped in as the volunteer leader of worship leaders. This saved our church a lot of money over the last few years. Preschool in our new building starts next week.
Here’s a post detailing the all-volunteer system in place at our church instead of a full-time paid music minister. Lots of detail.