Megachurch Millions!


I was recently talking to a young worship leader who bemoaned the fact that the local megachurch has hired away his best musicians.

“Don’t worry” I said. “They’ll be back.”

I told him to take a look at the numbers. The megachurch pays $450 for every musician in the band every week (that’s more than I made as a part-time music director!) Let’s say the band has at least 5 paid musicians: drums, bass, two guitars and a keyboard. That’s $2250.00 per week, $117,000.00 per year!

And this megachurch has at least ten campuses. That’s now $22,500.00 per week. And that’s almost 1.2 million per year, and we aren’t even counting singers (who aren’t paid as much) or the staff of full-time worship leaders OR the full-time sound engineers.

I know he’ll get his musicians back because history has a way of repeating itself. Take for example a local megachurch from fifteen years ago. This mega paid top dollar for musicians and stole them from every church in town (including mine.) Naturally the megachurch started to implode financially and their consultant warned them of bankruptcy if they didn’t stop paying everyone. And once they stopped paying, of course all the musicians left.

I don’t care how successful a megachurch is – those enormous music expenditures simply can’t be sustained. A friend of mine likens it to how the secular company where he works stupidly operates – they gobble up all the talent on a hiring spree and then he’ll notice a slew of random firings a few months later when the company realizes they can’t afford everyone.

Why do ministries always have to swing to such wild extremes – either paying exorbitant amounts to anyone and everyone or refusing to pay at all?

Does the megachurch really need to hire yet another guitarist? (What they really need are more keyboard players for their synth-driven dance-pop praise sets!) Do they really need to pay their interns? Does the full-time worship leader (who doesn’t even pick out his own music, his set is planned and charted by the “head office”) really need to hire a full-time assistant?

And to further show the craziness of it all, since the rock-star pastor absolutely must preach for 50 minutes there’s only time for two or three songs each week. So for every campus they’re paying for a full band, singers, a full-time worship leader with a full-time assistant and a full time sound guy and who knows who else and they’re only singing… two songs a week? Yes, my head just exploded, too.

I’m all for paying musicians. But why do ministries always have to swing to such wild extremes – either paying exorbitant amounts to anyone and everyone or refusing to pay at all?

How about this – only pay for the people you absolutely need. My rule of thumb was to pay a reasonable amount to the core players I needed the most: drums and bass (since everyone wants to be a rock star I had electric and acoustic guitarists coming out of my ears, and I played keys so I didn’t have to worry about finding a keyboardist.) Eventually I paid an electric guitarist who did more than just play guitar – he was also an invaluable help at running and maintaining our sound system.

And as I said before, I was paid part time. Does the contemporary church really need a full-time worship leader these days when he or she can buy a perfect chord chart from PraiseCharts in any key for any song for less than their latte, and no longer has to manage the complexities of a choir and orchestra?

Bottom Line: Bummed that a megachurch has swiped your musicians? Hang on, their music budget will probably implode sooner rather than later.


Essential reading for worship leaders since 2002.


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