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The choir at my church has RINGERS!


stepay

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Just found out this week that the choir at my church (I'm not in the choir) until recently had 20 paid members. Due to a retirement by the music director and some general changes, that number is now down to 11, but still, of the 50 members of the choir, 11 are paid singers. I've never heard of such a thing. Pay the organist and the choir director and anyone that comes in for special music, but 11 members of the choir!?

 

Any thoughts on this? The choir is really good, and now I know why, and now I also know why I've never heard them asking for people to join. Somehow it cheapens the music for me for some reason; maybe I need to change that attitude?

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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While I don't know anything about your house of worship - if it's one of the larger churches for which high quality music presentation is part of the program - finding that some members of the choir are paid a stipend doesn't surprise me in the least.

 

One of the guys I gig with occasionally took me behind the scenes at one of his church's musical programs. The PA gear they routinely use would give most of us GAS! ...and the musicians and production staff are truly professionals.

 

Church musicians may be driven by a higher power - but as long as they're here on earth, they're not exempt from the economic realities that everybody faces. The old adage "You get what you pay for" hold true for pretty much everybody.

The SpaceNorman :freak:
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I am joining a band who just lost a member to local church. They pay him $185 for every Sunday and he is also paid to rehearse on top of that. It's his retirment gig. That is $10,000 a year + and he leaves his equipment there so no load in/out. Plays both services so a total of maybe 1 1/2 hours a week. No smokey bars, no late nights on the road, no club owners, Mother of the bride to deal with. I would jump on that gig as well.

 

I see nothing wrong with paying for a worship team. You do get what you pay for. My church has always had good musicians come through and like me they get burned out and then move on. Were there money in it, I am sure we could have a top notch team.

Jimmy

 

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This is not unusual...although the number of paid choir members is higher than I've heard. Typically, the section leaders are paid in larger, more robust church choir programs.

 

Why would it cheapen the music for you? I think its wonderful if a church can do this. As a long-time church music director, I would have loved to have had this resource. Since the pastor is paid, does that 'cheapen' the message? Since symphony orchestra players are paid, does that diminish the purity of the music? Just a little rhetoric for ya :)

Weasels ripped my flesh. Rzzzzzzz.
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Originally posted by ELP71:

This is not unusual...although the number of paid choir members is higher than I've heard. Typically, the section leaders are paid in larger, more robust church choir programs.

 

Why would it cheapen the music for you? I think its wonderful if a church can do this. As a long-time church music director, I would have loved to have had this resource. Since the pastor is paid, does that 'cheapen' the message? Since symphony orchestra players are paid, does that diminish the purity of the music? Just a little rhetoric for ya :)

I guess I'm just a little surprised by it. The church I go to isn't a contemporary one with a "band" (worship team) that plays. I can understand those musicians being paid just as I can understand the organist being paid. This is a traditional church choir. Maybe it's the whole idea of the phrase "you're preaching to the choir"...that phrase meaning that the choir is on the same wavelength with you so that you're wasting your time -- if you're in the choir, you believe wholeheartedly in the message. Now, I find out that that isn't true. More than one-fifth of the choir believes wholeheartedly in the money. I guess that's why it cheapens it for me. I've been in other churches as I've lived in different areas of the country, and none of them had paid singers (my current church has way more resources than the others), and they all sounded very good to me.

 

I can see that maybe I just need to change my view on this. I'm actually a very liberal Christian and have quite a liberal theological view, so I'm not bothered really by any thoughts that these paid choir members aren't "right with the Lord" or anything like that. More just surprising to me than anything. I found this out because I sit on the Administrative council, and I know that most members of the church have no idea that these choir members are being paid. I'm sure many would have a problem with it (for different reasons than just my surprise). Salaries of the staff are public knowledge, but the money paid to these choir members isn't. I guess that kind of rubs me the wrong way.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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How do you know none of them had paid singers? How long were you a part of this church before you found out...

 

Just saying that this is probably not advertised very much as, like you, other people may have an issue with it.

I'm just saying', everyone that confuses correlation with causation eventually ends up dead.
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Well, the lack of disclosure is ridiculous, but it doesn't seem anymore out of place than paying someone to clean the church instead of relying on the schedules of volunteers. The difference is, in your case, you KNOW that the cleaning people are being paid with the cash you put in the collection plate. I'd think that people would have a right to know where their money is going.

 

There is a HUGE church called Willow Creek that my parents attend. Every week, it's like a rock concert or broadway production (well, maybe off-broadway). When I was a kid, I attended with them although I am not Christian...it was very non-denominational and the message was positive and uplifting. I stopped going about 15 years ago when they got so big that they stopped their "open ledgers" policy.

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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Originally posted by stepay:

...I know that most members of the church have no idea that these choir members are being paid. I'm sure many would have a problem with it (for different reasons than just my surprise). Salaries of the staff are public knowledge, but the money paid to these choir members isn't. I guess that kind of rubs me the wrong way.

This is interesting.

 

Are there additional obligations or responsibilities that the paid choir members have that the others don't. On what basis are they paid? Is there a standard scale? Is there seniority that equates into additional salary?

 

I'm not here to judge - every situation is different.

 

I do believe that some churches have a healthy income - particularly those very large ones I see on television. You would think that some of that income should be dispersed to the choir members - if only to pay for incidentals. Surely there are costs involved when they must rehearse once or twice a week. These would include travel expenses, baby sitters, etc.

 

The right thing to do is to try to be fair to everyone involved. If some choir members are paid while others aren't, this could certaily be less than motivating for the others.

 

But again, each situation is different.

 

Instead of opening a can of worms, I think I'll ease back out the door I came in.

 

I hope you'll understand. :)

 

Tom

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Originally posted by Phred:

How do you know none of them had paid singers? How long were you a part of this church before you found out...

 

Just saying that this is probably not advertised very much as, like you, other people may have an issue with it.

I was the finance committee chairman at one of my former churches, so I know the choir wasn't paid there, and at my other regular church, the choir had 12 members. It was a small town and I knew the people well, and none of them were professional musicians -- mostly farmers and homemakers.

 

In my current church, I've been a member for 4 years, but I've only sat on the Administrative Council for the last year. The reason I didn't find out until this week is that prior to this fiscal year, the choir members (20 of them!) were paid "under the table" by a private benefactor who had paid the money for years while the then Music Director was in charge. That music director retired in the fall, and when he did, the private benefactor for whatever reason, withdrew all his monetary support of the choir. This was all news to the church, and instead of letting the choir dissolve, it decided that it could pay 11 "section leaders" but not 20. I'm not sure if this will be an ongoing situation or not.

 

Apparently the private benefactor also paid extra money to members of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra when they would play at our church. We would have a quartet play 3-4 times a year, and man were they great! The church budgeted $2,000 an appearance for them, so they each got $500 each time -- seems pretty good to me, but the private benefactor paid them an additional $10,000 per appearance. Not sure if that was necessary, but since he did that, it is highly unlikely that they will come and play for just $500 apiece each time when up until last fall they all received $3,000 per appearance! I guess some of this secretive private benefactor paying is part of the reason the whole thing bothers me. Seems a bit shady, and as I've already said, I have a very liberal view of religion, but still, it seems almost sacrilegious.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Well, that's a whole different story. If someone donates money, and wants it specifically earmarked for a purpose, should the church turn it down? Some churches do, but it's far from an uncommon practice.

 

You kind of made it seem like the church was "pulling one over" on you, but if the benefactor wished to remain anonymous, there's nothing they can do, right?

 

I know this is not a trivial thing for anyone, but if your view of spirituality doesn't align with the church you attend on a pretty substantial issue like this, I'd think it would be time to reevaluate attending this church. There's enough of them out there that you shouldn't have to compromise your beliefs, religious or otherwise, to have dialogue with the force or forces that give you spiritual comfort.

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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Never been to a church with paid choir members but I have learned over the years that every church is different. Monday I went to a funeral at my best friend's church. He and his wife are in the choir. I had not been there since their wedding 20 years ago and was shocked at how the church has grown, and at the support for musicians. They don't just have a choir, they have 18 musicians that play. The drum set with sound barrier was not a surprise, but seeing a nice pair of tympanis made me wish our church had an orchestra.

 

Robert

This post edited for speling.

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The fact that this is a 'church secret' is somewhat disturbing...things like that have no place in a church setting, no matter what. My church (or former curch) is Methodist - and they have to announce at a service how much the pastor and staff makes! It kind of puts everything out on the table.

 

That said - many folks have strong feelings on church, money, and the relationship between the two. I got paid $5000/year to music direct the choir and be the principal musician. Unfortunately, this was on the high end of music ministry positions in my area. Some guys get $40K and up to be a church musician...and work about 20 hours a week. It all depends on the church, the desires of the congregation, and how much the area/ad council values quality music in the service.

Weasels ripped my flesh. Rzzzzzzz.
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... and how much time and effort the church requires. Large productions can take considerable preparation and rehearsal time; not to mention Powerpoint presentations, vocal rehearsals, music prepation, tech rehearsals, etc. When the time required for a production takes more than just "off hours" then paid positions become necessary. Particularly when you want the result to look completely professional.

 

That said, I do tons of work for my church for free (both live, and pre-recorded music), and I'm happy to do so. My view is that I'm doing it all for Him, and it's part of my contribution to bring others closer to Christ. They keep asking me to do more and to bring in better musicians, but there are only so many free hours in the week. I would have to take off gigs to do more, and would then require payment to make ends meet. But my church isn't prepared to put anyone on salary at this point. It's a conundrum...

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With the size of my church, and the level of production, I would be very hard pressed to believe that the choir, band, and video production members are NOT paid. The audition process, as well as the level of commitment required is quite extensive. I've thought about trying to get a position, but I can't give the required level of committment due to my other musical committments.

 

It's very interesting that the praise band seems to be composed of different members every week. There are some core members, but others change quite often. Ans the level of musicianship is quite good. For Christmas Eve service, they played Trans Siberian Orchestra, and played it well.

"In the beginning, Adam had the blues, 'cause he was lonesome.

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Man, then you're very blessed. The other players in my praise band can barely hold their instruments, never mind play the right notes. And when other good players come to visit our church, they see the low quality of the band and leave. It's hard to bring in better players in my situation.
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cnegrad,

 

I have no problem with your situation, and in fact, I think that you should be paid. You're the one putting together all the music -- the music director if you will. Our church (Methodist) has a paid music director, and I think that's fine.

 

Just to clarify some things, initially, this private benefactor gave money to the music program UNKNOWN to the church. The music director dispersed the money, and the church staff had no idea this was going on. So, I don't blame the church in that case. Now though that the CHURCH is paying these section leaders, it does seem to me that they should be more open about that money. The spreadsheet given to us at the Administrative Council meeting lists the salaries of the official music staff and then has a total amount spent for the music program (2007 budget), but you can't just figure out exactly what the section leaders get paid because there is no line item for that. Some of the total goes toward benefits and retirement for the official paid staff, and some goes toward special music, purchase of sheet music, etc. I know that I could just ask for this information and someone would provide it to me, but it does appear that it is being hidden from the general congregation.

 

I'm not bothered enough to leave as I know every church has their problems, and overall I enjoy this church a lot.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Around here, the music ministry has become a very important aspect to bringing and keeping folks in the church.

 

The bigger churches will bring in a national recording artist to serve as minister of music and/or choir director.

 

ELP71 nailed it for this area too. Keyboard players are in high demand. It is not uncommon to make $50k or better (read music) per year, working 20 hours per week.

 

It would be a tempting proposition if I did not have a pre-existing commitment to the NFL. ;)

 

Now that the season is almost over... :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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Steve,

 

I wasn't so much responding to your original query as I was to the tangent we went off on. I was just clarifying where I think the line is drawn between working for free for the church and when money starts to be a factor. But to address your topic directly:

 

I agree that any payments of musicians and staff should be specified to the church body, including when they are being paid from an anonymous donor. Absolutely everything should be public knowledge, and above board. That said, I don't need to know about little minutiae like sheet music. Items like that can be covered in broader headings.

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Well Stepay, I think you should ask for this information. That is why you are on the committee, to monitor the spending and protect the donations given by the congregation. Members of the church need to know where their money is going. I would be upset if I thought excess money was used to build churches and schools in depressed areas, then later found it was used to pay choir members. If the church wants to spend money that way, fine. If it is a very small fraction of the budget, even better. But let people know where their donations are going.

 

Robert

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Originally posted by cnegrad:

Steve,

 

I wasn't so much responding to your original query as I was to the tangent we went off on. I was just clarifying where I think the line is drawn between working for free for the church and when money starts to be a factor. But to address your topic directly:

 

I agree that any payments of musicians and staff should be specified to the church body, including when they are being paid from an anonymous donor. Absolutely everything should be public knowledge, and above board. That said, I don't need to know about little minutiae like sheet music. Items like that can be covered in broader headings.

No worries cnegrad. I appreciate all the responses here. I think I was a bit naive about the music at my church. I used to sit there are marvel at how good the music was, and I remember thinking that I've never been part of any organization where there were so many musicians who were so good -- now I know why.

 

I agree with you that all the payments should be public knowledge. That former music director sure pulled the wool over everyone's eyes. We'll see how this progresses with the current situation. If we get into next year's budget and there is still an attempt to hide the payments to the choir members, I'll say something.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Originally posted by RABid:

Well Stepay, I think you should ask for this information. That is why you are on the committee, to monitor the spending and protect the donations given by the congregation. Members of the church need to know where their money is going. I would be upset if I thought excess money was used to build churches and schools in depressed areas, then later found it was used to pay choir members. If the church wants to spend money that way, fine. If it is a very small fraction of the budget, even better. But let people know where their donations are going.

 

Robert

Robert, I get the feeling after Tuesday's meeting that the Chair of the Finance Committee is going to make this an issue (make it public). He has more clout than I do, so for now I'll let him do that. The position of the Music Director (no surprise) and the senior pastor is that if the sound of the choir were to suffer greatly that some members would quit coming, and with that, fewer donations. I hate that there has to ba a business aspect attached to church, but that is the reality. I'm going to let the powers that be handle how they want the congregation to find out about this situation for this fiscal year, but I will make it an issue when we see the budget next year if I don't think the congregation is aware that this money is being spent.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Originally posted by stepay:

Robert, I get the feeling after Tuesday's meeting that the Chair of the Finance Committee is going to make this an issue (make it public). He has more clout than I do, so for now I'll let him do that.

Steve, that's good - good for you and good for the church. It may actually be illegal for them to NOT disclose it. I mean even the IRS could get involved. And the church could be in trouble if money flowed through them, unrecorded, to individuals for "services rendered". Look at the church bylaws. They should say how things like that should go.

 

Having said that, the church is not a democracy. Neither is it a representative republic like our country. (Few people realize our country is NOT a democracy). Your church is probably a corporation. It really does not have to disclose anything it doesn't want to. Yes, it should. But unless stated in the bylaws of the organization, it is not required to disclose anything. The good thing there is the membership can vote out/in anybody they want to get things straightened out.

 

I think the reason you may have been shocked, is that in most churches I think it is normally thought that the choir is a voluntary position. Leadership positions are the ones that can go either way (paid or unpaid). I guess it is all based on the size of the church. In our church, we could NEVER think of paying our musicians (like me).

 

Lou

---------------

To B-3 or not to B-3, that is the question.

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Our church choir has ringers, too, and I am one.

 

We have a hand bell choir. :D

 

I go to a Catholic church (oops! did I say that out loud? hope I didn't offend anyone ;) ), and the music director and cantors are the only permanent, paid musical positions as far as I know. We have several choirs, including the bell choir, entirely composed of volunteers. I'd be surprised if our adult choir had 20 singers.

 

Our music director is also the organist, playing Saturday services and 4 Masses every Sunday, directs all the choirs (4, I think), and teaches music at the church's K-8 school. His time commitment is quite substantial and I wonder how he finds time to practice at all.

 

We, too, had at least one benefactor that I know of. He purchased the hand bells. That is the extent of his gift as far as I know.

 

For special occasions we have talented instrumentalists join us: harp, strings, brass, woodwinds. I've never heard that they were paid; now I'll have to ask.

 

I also play bass for our folk group. We have a few weeks off in the summer, and sometimes we provide music for Masses when the music director takes vacation, which is rare. So I probably average one Mass a week and one practice a week.

 

Do I feel I should be paid for my efforts? No, not in these circumstances. I've volunteered for a lot of non-profits, so I'm used to not being paid. And we have readers and ushers and ministers of Holy Communion and what not, and they volunteer at least as much time as I do, and they are not paid either.

 

What about travel, incidentals, etc? Well, as long as it's a recognized (by the IRS) religious or charitable organization, you can itemize for your U.S. taxes. (Stepay, you should be able to do the same for your services, assuming you are not being reimbursed.) Not quite the same as being paid, but not a bad deal, either. From Give.org :

The value of volunteer time or services to a charitable organization is not deductible. However, out-of-pocket expenses directly related to voluntary service are usually deductible.
And perhaps more authoritatively, from IRS Publication 526 ,

you can deduct the costs of gas and oil that are directly related to getting to and from the place where you are a volunteer. If you do not want to figure your actual costs, you can deduct 14 cents for each mile.
Consult the IRS or your tax advisor; don't take my word for it.
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Oh, I should add that I at least entertained the idea of joining, as a professional musician, the praise band at a church I do not attend, primarily for the paycheck. What a great side job for a paid musician, right?

 

I've visited a lot of friends' places of worship, and I have yet to find one that serves grape koolaid. ;) And it's going to be a long, long time I think before I find a Catholic church in my area that has a P&W band playing the likes of The Newsboys or DC Talk. :rolleyes: So, seems like a good idea.

 

However, I wasn't entirely comfortable with it. Although there is an overwhelming similarity between all Christian places of worship, I didn't feel I was strong enough to face any tests or challenges should they arraise. So I never pursued it.

 

[Maybe I'll go read that other thread now and see if you guys can convince me otherwise. ;) ]

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This type of system happens all the time. In the church band that I play in, I happen to be the only one getting a check out of a band of five musicians. This also occurs quite a bit in community orchestras as well. Usually, a certain number of musicians in these orchestras are either paid professionals or professionals that are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts (but would otherwise be paid).
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Originally posted by RicBassGuy:

However, I wasn't entirely comfortable with it. Although there is an overwhelming similarity between all Christian places of worship, I didn't feel I was strong enough to face any tests or challenges should they arraise. So I never pursued it.

 

[Maybe I'll go read that other thread now and see if you guys can convince me otherwise. ;) ]

What kind of tests are you talking about? Is it a religious thing you're talking about? As I said in my previous post, I play in a church band, but I am in not in the least bit religious. Is that what you're worried about? Feeling like you should believe in what they're talking about just because they're paying you to play in the band? Maybe that's not it, but that's sort of what your post sounded like.
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Originally posted by Bridog6996:

Originally posted by RicBassGuy:

However, I wasn't entirely comfortable with it. Although there is an overwhelming similarity between all Christian places of worship, I didn't feel I was strong enough to face any tests or challenges should they arraise. So I never pursued it.

 

[Maybe I'll go read that other thread now and see if you guys can convince me otherwise. ;) ]

What kind of tests are you talking about? Is it a religious thing you're talking about? As I said in my previous post, I play in a church band, but I am in not in the least bit religious. Is that what you're worried about? Feeling like you should believe in what they're talking about just because they're paying you to play in the band? Maybe that's not it, but that's sort of what your post sounded like.
Yes, that's exactly it.

 

I would comment further, but it really has no place here.

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