That Time I Found $10,000 in the Church Basement

Does your church have a storage space or closet filled with the church’s old music and production equipment? Is there a treasure dying a slow death in that room behind the stage? Toby Walters from offers advice.

In the heart of the 2008/09 financial crisis, I was in a unique position. I was looking for a job. Fortunately, though, I was looking for one of those “high paying and low stress” worship leader positions that just seem to grow on trees. Well, 47 “Thank you for submitting your resume…don’t call us, we’ll call you” later, I finally got an in person interview! I flew out to a church in CA and spent the weekend meeting the staff and the church board. At some point during the interview, we talked about some of the challenges the church was facing in regard to its worship and arts ministry. The church staff said one of their biggest issues was their tired, old sound system that desperately needed to be replaced. The quote they had received for a new one…$150,000.

Now, that figure may not seem like such a large price tag to some of you. You may be thinking, “We spent that on our Digico board.” However, for a church of 300 in the midst of the Great Recession, that amount was a HUGE price tag! I started talking with them about ways to cut that cost down. One of the ways we discussed was selling their old music and production equipment they were no longer using. They seemed confused about that idea, just assuming their old equipment wasn’t worth anything. I suggested we take a walk around the campus and see what was hiding in their closets.

As we descended deeper and deeper into the depths of an 80 year old church’s history, we came upon many wonderful artifacts. I believe the Ark of the Covenant was hiding under some old choir robes in the attic. The cross of Christ may have been stashed behind their 1982 Easter set backdrop. And, there was definitely the world’s largest collection of felt boards. Somewhere in the basement, I saw what appeared to be a matching set of vintage luggage. I asked them what they were, and they told me those cases held their old handbell set. I asked when the last time the church had used them and they didn’t know. It seems that no one at the church had actually been there the last time they used those handbells. We’re talking decades!

Well, I did a little internet research and discovered those handbells were worth somewhere around $5000-$10,000! When I told the pastors, their jaws hit the floor. They couldn’t even fathom that dusty old luggage could have that kind of value. After blowing their minds with that truth, I fully expected them to hand me the job right on the spot—with a salary increase! They didn’t. The church kindly said they were going with another candidate and I continued on with my job search. Well, at least I got a free weekend in CA!

Oh, and you know what the very first thing that new worship pastor did when he started the job? If you’re thinking, “Sell those handbells,” you’re almost right. HE CALLED ME TO ASK ME HOW TO SELL THOSE HANDBELLS!!! I took a deep breath and walked him through the best way to do it. He ended up selling them for $9,000 and having a really nice head start to their new sound system.

Does your church have a storage space or closet filled with the church’s old music and production equipment? Is there a treasure dying a slow death in that room behind the stage? Are you struggling to figure out how to get the funds together to update your badly out-of-date setup? Let this example be a learning opportunity for us all. What’s in your closet?

Toby Walters is the owner and founder of, Gear Church, a small company out of Franklin, TN. They buy your church’s used music & production equipment.


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