Home Worship Planning Music Resources Should Our Church Have a Full-Time Musician?

Should Our Church Have a Full-Time Musician?

How does a church decide whether its music director should be employed full- or part-time? What are the benefits and drawbacks of one versus the other? Are there specific questions that can be asked and points that can be considered to help a congregation make a decision? Yes, there are. While each local situation is unique, there are factors that can be considered. Here are some.

Compensation Costs
What does it cost the church for an employee, full-time or part-time? Setting a base salary is only the first consideration. There are others:

  • Base salary: The gross amount of money paid to the employee over the course of a year in exchange for his or her work.
  • Salary changes: Will the employee receive a raise at some point in the future? Consider a salary range for the position — a minimum and a maximum that will be paid — and how changes will be calculated and decided, how often, and by whom. What circumstances may warrant an increase or decrease?
  • Employee benefits: These may include:
    • Employer's contribution to Social Security.
    • Medical and dental insurance.
    • Retirement: This is required of local churches and annual conferences beginning January 1, 2006. See "Retirement Benefits Extended to Lay Employees of Local Churches." Continuing education: Will the church pay all or some of the cost toward formal college classes, job-related convocations or workshops, study to help and encourage the employee to improve job skills?
    • Certification: Church support (financial and otherwise) for the employee to seek official certification as a Director of Music in The United Methodist Church. See "Professional Certification in Music Ministry in The United Methodist Church."
    • Vacation: Will the employee receive paid vacation? non-paid vacation? Will the church pay for a substitute musician while the employee is away on vacation or other absence?
    • Sick leave: Paid or unpaid? How many days per year?
    • Maternity leave: Paid or unpaid? How many weeks?
    • Paid holidays: Which ones?
    • Travel allowance: Reimbursement for employee's travel required by the job, which may include a lump sum per week or month, a mileage allowance, use of a church van, reimbursement of gas receipts, or public transportation.
    • Book allowance: Musicians need to purchase books, materials, videos, CDs, and other items to perform their jobs.
    • Housing allowance: For ordained musicians, this is mandated by the church. Some churches have a parsonage that may be vacant because the pastor is receiving a housing allowance.
    • Annual conference allowance: Will the church pay all or part of the expense to attend?
    • Weddings and funerals: Will the musician be given responsibility for providing music at weddings and funerals held at the church?
    • Teaching privileges: Will the musician be allowed to use the church musical instruments for private music instruction?
    • Professional memberships: Church-paid memberships in professional organizations such as The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts (FUMMWA), American Guild of Organists, The Hymn Society in the USA and Canada, American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, Choristers Guild, others.
  • Office support: Will the musician be provided secretarial support? Availability of technology: computer, printer, Internet access, and so on?

Employment Costs

  • Advertising: Expense to make the open position known to potential employees.
  • Pre-interview: Phone and mail, correspondence, copying.
  • Interview: Travel, lodging, meals.
  • Post-interview: Phone and mail, correspondence, returning materials, notifications.
  • Office space: Creating or making available office space, furnishings.
  • Moving expenses: Will the church cover moving expense? up to a certain amount? all?

The financial costs are often the major consideration for churches in deciding whether they should have a full- or a part-time position. But there are other points to consider. Here are some:

  1. Full-time employees are available throughout the year for all occasions. Part-time persons most often have another job, perhaps full-time, that may occupy their primary loyalty.
  2. Full-time employees fully participate and work within established lines of inter-staff authority and relationship. Part-time employees exercise more independence.
  3. Full-time employees often possess more expertise, training, and experience than part-time — although not always.
  4. Full-time positions can be written to include a broader range of duties and functions. Part-time positions are more limited and narrowly focused.
  5. Full-time employees may be expected to perform some pastoral care duties, certainly for choir members and musicians, but perhaps also for general membership. Part-time positions are often defined solely in terms of music directing, performing, and planning.
  6. The expectation of both church and employee is that a full-time position will have greater stability and duration than part-time.
  7. A full-time employee will have a vision and program for both short- and long-term ministry.
  8. A full-time employee can be expected to demonstrate growth in ministry, excellence, and numbers over a period of time.
  9. A full-time employee will forge mutually supportive relationships with the pastor, other staff, participating musicians, and the congregation.

One final consideration, certainly not the least important: The decision to employ a full-time musician should be a long-term commitment on the part of the church and musician. It is not ethical to raise the funds for a full-time position, only to try it out for a year to see if it works or if offerings increase sufficiently so that the church can afford to continue to fund it. The decision to uproot one's family, often having to sell a residence, pack, move, find a new home, move in, meet new people, make new friends, find new spousal employment, enter new schools, find new doctors, and leave everything familiar behind, is traumatic on all counts. The commitment must be long-term.

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