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Why Don’t Choir Members Get Paid?…Everyone Else Does!

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The instrumentalists get paid.  The preacher gets paid.  Heck! Even the janitorial staff gets paid, so why not the choir members?  Do they not have skill?  Do they not put in work (often after work)? Why the double standard?

Back in the day 

As a kid, joining the youth choir was one of the driving forces to accepting Christ as my Savior.  Yes, I wanted to affirm my belief in Jesus Christ.  And no, I didn’t want to go to hell.  But week after week, seeing my peers jam in the choir stand also motivated me to take that critical step toward salvation.  So once I came of age, I did just that.  I got baptized, received the holy spirit and joined the choir!  Everyone had one goal in mind and that was to minister through song to the glory of God.  What did that look like?  Well, you had to remember the lyrics and your individual part, but most importantly you had to watch the director!  The director had the responsibility of navigating through the song and was given the liberty, if the spirit led them, to switch up the order from the way we rehearsed.  This unpredictability kept us on our toes.  No one wanted to be the one to mess up or jeopardize the delivery of the song because they weren’t paying attention.  It was that serious.


I recently decided to join the choir at my church in Chicago.  I attended rehearsal and thankfully picked up the songs quite easily.  At the close of rehearsal the Minister of Music reminded us we were scheduled to sing Sunday and the call time was (everyone chimed in) 7 AM.  I gasped.  But service starts at 10!  In all my days of singing I’d never heard of waking up before the sun in preparation for a service that started mid-morning.  I contemplated waiting until the next Sunday to sing. (I needed to mentally prepare for a 6 AM wake up call!)  But what is ministry if it doesn’t require sacrifice, right?  I went to bed at 11 the night before and woke up every 3 hours in fear of oversleeping.  At 5:58 I woke up in fear for the last time and determined I would just get dressed.  I hopped in a cab and arrived at church at 7:03.  I was proud.  In the sanctuary the praise team had already started the sound-check and many of the choir members were assembling in the pews.  I was inspired.

None of these choir members are on the payroll.  I am sure most of them have full-time jobs and families, but something pushes them to make it and to make it on time.  What is it?  Is it the coffee and pastries provided in the back?  Is it the warm smile from the Minister of Music?  I doubt it.  What pushes them is the same thing that once pushed me as a child.  It is the idea of being a contributing member of the body of Christ.  It is the satisfaction that comes along with leading others in worship without any strings attached.  It is fully committing to offer a sacrifice of praise that doesn’t just look good to the human eye but to the eye of God.  It is the realization that God sees your every effort to please Him and understanding His reward is much greater than any reward given by man.

So should no one get paid?

As a recording artist, I know the importance of paid services.  There are actually few engagements I take without receiving some sort of honorarium.  This is due to my pursuit of becoming a full-time musician.  Since being a child, music has become more than a hobby, but a skill I have invested time and money to develop and perfect.  No one questions if an accountant or even a fitness instructor will receive pay for their work because we see them as professionals.  In that same way, professional singers and instrumentalists have an expectation of being compensated for their work.  So I don’t knock the instrumentalists, preachers, and definitely not the janitorial staff, because their pursuit is of a different kind than that of a choir member.  As a choir member the intent is not to make a living, but to offer the gift of song as a sacrifice. Although it requires time, energy, and skill, it’s fulfilling in a way getting paid is not.  It is making a conscious decision to part from the way of this world that attaches a price tag to every service, and to devote time, energy, and skill in exchange of giving God glory.  For these reasons, I commend choir members.  Even without a paycheck their service is valuable and necessary.  And like them,  I believe all Christians should find something to offer the Lord that goes unrewarded by man.

{currently setting my clock for 6 AM every Sunday}




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