Abbie Stancato of Rockin' God's HouseMusicians For the Praise Team – Volunteers Verses Paid!

If you are in a situation where you’re moving to a new church, or looking for a new Music Director gig, your first question is usually… Are the musicians paid or volunteers?

I’ll tell you from experience, the paid ones are reliable and of a more consistent caliber. However, I’m sure you knew this was coming… There is a drawback to all paid musicians. The paid ones are usually professions who are playing the Saturday night club circuit. I have heard much debate within churches about how this reflects on the congregation. Do you want the guitar player who played until 3:00 PM last night, in church praising God Sunday morning?

I will tell you, I have had circumstances with paid musicians who came into church Sunday morning smelling like the local brewery and still drunk from the night before. Of course this could also occur with volunteers.

I recently was serving a church with the bare minimum of volunteers. They were all very good; however, the Pastor only wanted volunteers from that specific church and did not want me to run ads or look elsewhere for talent. This was very problematic when a member was out. There were times we played without a bass player or drummer.  However, practices were quickly over and we were very tight when playing.

I figured when I moved to a larger church with a very large volunteer staff, life would be easier. I was so very wrong. I have so many volunteers that I now require the use of software from to manage everyone. I have so many singers it is difficult to get everyone in rotation and after 2-1/2 months, I am still having problems paring them up according to vocal range.  Furthermore, when I repeat songs, I must often reteach the band the arrangement because it is an entirely different band from the last time the song was performed.

My experience with the mega-churches is that most of them will start with paid musicians and then replace them for quality volunteers for sake of the budget. The advantage the large churches have is the budget to hire musicians when there is a last minute cancellation. Just this week a drummer had to bailout in the middle of the week, and I had no budget for a replacement. “Plan B” was to perform an unplugged acoustic set which exceeded my expectations. God always provides a way!

The greatest advantage to using volunteers is the opportunity we provide. As Music Directors we should never lose  sight that we offer an opportunity to people who otherwise would never be provided the chance to perform and mostly serve God with their talents.

I have always established the “Pre-Music” slot in each church I have served. This is the first song out. There are not as many people at church, yet things are a little more laid back. I will work with someone well in advance and debut them with the pre-music song. I have never had anyone blow it in the spot, and it allows me to best evaluate how they can handle an entire service.