Hiring a passionate music director

By Darby Jones

SUMMARY: Does your music director or worship leader struggle to meet your church’s needs? Perhaps, he or she is getting ready to go on a sabbatical. Maybe she or he moved to another town, and you now have an opening.

Before you begin the hiring process, take time to consider the position. Talk to your congregation and learn their needs. Write down all the ways you use music in worship, outreach, mission and other areas. The General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) publishes an excellent resource called “Should Our Church Have a Full-Time Musician?

Balance talent and education.
Talented musicians without music education may not be able to instruct others, chart songs, arrange compositions and assign vocal harmonies. Conversely, educated music theorists who fail to practice may reap disastrous key changes and pitchy vocals. In addition, they may recruit other not-so-talented musicians. Both scenarios are doomed to dump dangerous levels of noise pollution upon innocent ears.

In 1 Chronicles 15:22 (The Message), we read, “Kenaniah, the Levite in charge of music, a very gifted musician, was music director.” The Levites gave God their best, and so should you. Hire a music director who is a master of the craft—who knows, teaches and plays on a level that gives glory to God Almighty.

Stress leadership and communication.
In some churches, the music director spends as much time in front of the congregation as the pastor. Since he or she represents your church, they must have excellent leadership and communication skills. Watch out for musicians who are only in it for the stage, the lights and the ego-stroke. The best leaders are humble servants who have the congregation’s needs and God’s will in mind.

The condition of the heart is the most important factor.
Talent and education may manifest excellent music, but bad integrity brings shallow worship. Seek candidates who are passionate for God, love God’s people and demonstrate it in their personal life. It is imperative that you get to know the candidates before hiring. They need not be seminary graduates. Just look for virtues important for music directors such as patience, mercy and compassion.

Worship leaders should always get final approval from the senior pastor because it encourages accountability and mutual submission. At this stage, musicianship should have been addressed. The senior pastor should only be concerned with the candidate's spiritual life and leadership skills.

Garner music committee support.
Are you looking for someone to serve in a part- or full-time volunteer position? Do not ask a person to devote part-time hours while offering voluntary wages, a.k.a. nothing. If your church cannot afford to pay a music director, encourage the music committee to play a more active role in helping volunteer musicians do their job. If your church does not have a music committee, learn how to start one here. Also, read GBOD’s guide “Job Description for the Music Committee in a United Methodist Congregation.”

Pony up.
If the budget allows for a part- or full-time position, remember what is required of the music director. They meet with the music committee to design services, learn new material, arrange songs, schedule, set up and lead practice rehearsals. The time spent practicing on Saturday or Sunday is extremely valuable, especially for music directors who work other jobs to support their family.

If you pay all other staff members to create a hospitable worship environment, you also should compensate the music director. He or she deserves to be blessed for the talents God has bestowed. GBOD offers advice on the subject here: “Paying the Piper: A Consideration of Church Musicians' Salaries.”

Be patient.
Do not worry if your church has to go without music for a while. As you know, there are plenty of other ways to worship. Just listen to God and focus on pursuing the right person for the job.

--Darby Jones is the eMarketing Coordinator at United Methodist Communications. Feel free to contact him at djones@umcom.org.

resourcesGBOD worship homepage: 
Help for Musicians Applying and Interviewing for Church Positions

Church staff salaries:
The 2009 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff - Annually updates research and salaries. 
Salary.com provides local information on salary ranges for different occupations. A public high school music teacher’s salary may be comparable to that of a church music director.

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