Many Christians divide ministry into the categories of fulltime and volunteer. A head pastor of a church is the main example of a fulltime ministry that should be a paid position. Usher, children’s church worker and worship team member are examples of volunteer ministries within the church. These types of volunteer positions are a fundamental way for church members to connect with each other and give of themselves beyond the monetary form of what is placed in the offering basket.
Christian singer/songwriters do not fit into these neat categories because they are normally guest ministers outside of their home church. A question I have been ask several times is, “Do you minister full time, or do you have an outside job?” This question is an attempt to superimpose the fulltime/volunteer church ministry classifications on an outside guest ministry. Many people feel justified in not paying a guest singer/songwriter if he also possesses a full time job outside of his ministry.
In addition to this sentiment, some Christians feel that a singer/songwriter’s ministry falls under the great commission. All Christians are called to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20a ESV).” This is not something we should look to be paid to do. It is part of our calling as ambassadors of Christ. Therefore, if a church is organizing an outreach function and asks a guest musician to minister he should freely do so in fulfillment of the great commission. Some people believe that this should extend even to church events that provide music for believers since the encouragement resulting from the music could be considered discipleship and teaching.
Many Christian singer/songwriters feel that they should be paid for their ministry even if they have a full time job in an outside field. They quote 1 Timothy 5:18 which says, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle and ox when it treads out the grain’, and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’ (ESV).” The context of this scripture is discussing elders who teach the Word in the church, so it is debatable whether or not it applies to guest musicians. There are, however, expenses involved in having a music ministry. Equipment needs to be purchased and maintained. Time and money are invested in writing, practicing and recording music. In addition there are the costs of travel expenses, mileage on vehicles and the labor of hauling equipment.
There are also singer/songwriters who do not care about being paid. Some feel this way because of their personal beliefs about their ministry. Others are just looking for as many opportunities as possible to minister, so they are willing to do so for free. This has an effect on the musicians who are looking to be paid because it decreases the overall fair market value of the guest musician market. Why should people pay for something that they can get for free? The only way to compensate for this deflation of the value of guest music ministry is to set your ministry apart by providing a higher quality. The rating of quality in music is relative (as discussed in a previous post), so it is difficult to set yourself apart. Plus, churches of smaller size and financial means may not value quality over price.
A third option thrown into the mix is the love offering. Many churches feel more comfortable collecting a love offering and giving the musician whatever is taken in. On a practical side this ensures that the church will not suffer a financial loss for the event. On a spiritual side this could be seen as an attempt to allow God to determine the amount that a guest musician should be paid. Often musicians who are willing to accept these terms, as opposed to a set price, are looked at as being more “spiritual” because they are willing to leave their financial needs in God’s hands. We could start an additional debate on the topic of whether or not there are grounds for the spiritual implications of love offerings, but not today.
As I mentioned earlier, I am not going to attempt to provide the answer to this debate. I am simply laying out the arguments. I do feel that this is a topic that every Christian singer/songwriter should think about. We all need to settle on a personal decision in this matter before booking events with churches. I am interested to read your comments on this topic, so please chime in!