Pros and cons: paid vs. not paid.
You may find yourself thinking, "Wow, if I could only be paid to pursue this musical calling upon my life!" Well I would encourage you to reshape your thinking first of all and speak faith. As in, "I cannot wait until I am being paid to pursue this musical calling God has placed over my life."
But realize the Levites - the music ministers of the old testament - were under much responsibility to the priests and God as well. Lest we become carried away with thoughts of riches and grandeur, we must be reminded that by being added to a church payroll we may be treated differently than a non-paid minister of music. Why is this so? It is so because people tend to expect more from someone who is paid versus a volunteer. What special requirements were the Levites under that non-Levites - everyday 'saints' or church attendees were not?
I Chronicles 23:28-32 mentions these temple duties:
- be in charge of the courtyards
- be in charge of the side rooms
- purification of all sacred things
- be in charge of the bread set out on the table
- be in charge of the flour for the grain offerings
- be in charge of the unleavened wafers
- be in charge of the baking and the mixing
- be in charge of all measurements of quantity and size
- stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord
- stand every evening to thank and praise the Lord
- stand and thank and praise the Lord whenever burnt offerings were presented to the Lord on Sabbaths, New-Moon festivals, and appointed feasts
While the Bible indicates Levites were broken up into groups in order to focus on various duties (described throughout I Chronicles 23, 24, 25, and 26), undoubtedly each Levite was familiar with each task performed in the support of priests.
What is my point in all this? We must realize that the Levites led a very conservative and disciplined life - and their lives were focused on ministering both to the priests and to the people in the congregation. Due to their position in the church much was required of them. Levites could not do as they pleased on a daily basis. They were committed to the schedule of the church. Consider that if you choose to pursue part-time or full-time music ministry as a paid servant, you may need to adjust your lifestyle accordingly. Want to join friends and family on that holiday vacation? How about attending that great concert next Sunday morning/night? Do you have the sudden urge to take your children camping or surprise your significant other with a weekend getaway? Your first call may need to be to your boss (pastor) to ask for permission to plan that activity. And if that great idea of yours involves a Sunday or a day your church conducts their midweek service, expect your employer (pastor) to say no! Your pastor is investing time and money into you and he probably needs you in service to minister to the congregation and be a strength to him as well.
If you have children this reality will be even more difficult. The fact is that by accepting payment for your services, you are placing yourself under even more authority to your church leadership than if you were a volunteer. Plan on your life becoming busier and sacrificing time during your week and your weekends to serve in whatever level of commitment you have committed yourself to. I am not attempting to paint a negative picture of paid music ministry - as we now know, it is ordained by God. And the blessings you receive from being deeply involved with your local congregation are rich and many! A life of ministry and dedication to the house of the Lord is something to be desired. I only wish to make you aware that with greater commitment comes greater sacrifice. Weigh the pros and cons carefully prior to launching into a deeper level of commitment. And consider if you/your family will be able to commit to part-time or full-time requirements that come with the compensation.
What should I do if my pastor/deacon board/finance committee do not see the need to compensate me?
So you feel strongly that the Lord is leading you in the direction of paid ministry, and that your church should compensate you. What now? First off, begin spending time in focused prayer about the situation. Money is a sensitive issue in most churches. Sooner or later you will need to meet with your pastor to discuss your vision for the church's music department and to share your burden. But prior to speaking with your pastor, set aside a number of weeks or even months to prepare your mind and heart and spirit to receive what he will have to say. Remember that although you have biblical understanding and precedent for your request, you are still (and always will be) subjected to your pastor - the shepherd God has placed in your life.
Your pastor may or may not understand God's model as explored in part 1 of this blog. Remaining humble and patient will go a long way here. Going into the meeting with your pastor, I recommend writing up a simple outline with supporting scriptures. You may need to take on the role of humble teacher here, as many pastors have never studied this compensation concept from a biblical standpoint. Present your case in a non-threatening, non-demanding manner and be prepared to leave the meeting without an answer. If your pastor does not commit to you or even if he disagrees, that is okay. He/she needs time to consider your petition in prayer and they also may need to review the church finances, and/or meet with members of a finance committee. If you are rejected outright, accept it with grace and humility. Then go home and continue praying for God to have His way in the situation.
I experienced this very situation in my young adult life. After my wife and I spent a season in prayer and fasting, we approached our pastor and explained our burden to devote more time to our music ministry. We explained how income from the church would potentially enable my wife to resign her secular job and focus on tasks of musical nature. Most of all, we reasoned, monthly payment from the church would allow her to leave secular work and free up much-needed time to advance our musical goals and vision. That first meeting closed with a kind but firm "no". So did the second meeting, three months later. But during the third appeal I carefully presented the scriptural precedent behind our request. And guess what? Jesus honored our prayer, fasting and perseverance and shortly after the third meeting we became paid staff in the music department. Praise the Lord!
On a side note, the pastor who implements this practice places him/herself in position to receive additional blessings from the Lord. This is a study in and of itself though and I will not begin that study today.
And if you put yourself through the paces and experience permanent rejection? Take a step back and examine yourself. What are your motives for desiring to be paid? Do your motives match up to what God wills for your life? Are you living a sin-free/overcoming lifestyle which allows God's will to be done in you? If God shows you that you pass the "you" test, you may need to pray for the Lord to open opportunity elsewhere. Somewhere around the state/country/world you live in is a pastor praying for God to send them a dedicated, passionate music minister to bless their congregation. God is in the business of introducing godly desire to His intended destiny!