I believe volunteerism is the backbone of any thriving local church. And, I do not think a church that decides to never pay anyone a salary or stipend can be justifiable. There is freedom in how we operate many things in the local church. With that being said, sometimes you need a tool or specialty that if done with a volunteer might inhibit the whole of your work. This missing piece, such as leadership and organization, might slow the movement of many. A teacher tied to working two jobs may work out perfectly, but will he or she have time to develop other teachers?
There are a few reasons that make sense when it comes to paying musicians. You can feel free to substitute the word “musician” with other creative professionals such as “audio techs” or “photographers” and so forth.
Here are five of the best ones I have experienced:
When there is a hole. I have a Christmas show and the drummer and principle violinist both cancelled. No volunteer could learn the music on such a short notice. All that is invested makes it practical to fill with a professional. A Sunday service of volunteer teams may be thin when a couple in your team have babies, or get a new job.
When you need leadership. It is one thing to have a team of volunteers deployed, but they might need help in learning musicianship. Directing a rehearsal impacts the execution of the entire group. A professional could bring an efficiency to make room for even more volunteers by preparing musical charts.
When you choose community. Strategically choosing to pay the best musicians in your community to participate in some way allows you a neutral playing field to make relationships. These relationships turn into real friendships, beyond professional. They allow you to send to the message to your community that you value the creative people in your town.
When you want excellence. The bigger your church, the less the “empathy factor” actually works for you. People do not personally know who is on stage, so they will notice their skill or lack of skill. That can be an asset if they are very good or hurt you if they are not. So, paying to have a skilled group can allow you to connect to a large crowd better if that is what your situation is.
When you desire to invest. Sometimes, paying your musicians can be an investment if they are actually professionals. A guitarist or drummer or keyboard player might spend thousands on the gear needed to do their thing. A vocalist, if professional, has spent more than that on lessons and practice. To be a patron means you allow these creative to create more in their community. Even a stipend for guitar strings can mean a lot. Drum sticks are not cheap, either! Showing appreciation is never a bad decision.
Ultimately, it is a choice. There are equally bad reasons to pay. For instance, pride is the worst. To simply want “the best band” or to foster entitlement will hurt your ministry. But, done in the right way, paying your musicians can bring rewards.