Music Minister

In many churches on Sunday, the positive energy of song and melodies fill the air; a choir belt out hymns; and somewhere there’s usually an organ piping in its two cents. Behind the organization and management of the musical parts of a church, music ministers are able to combine their love of music and interest in pursuing a faith-based profession. Music ministers play an integral role in many congregations. Oftentimes, they take on duties that go beyond directing a choir, which may involve varying levels of ministry, evangelism and outreach.

Job Activities & Responsibilities

Most of a music minister’s responsibilities center on leading worship services in song and music. The majority of ministers are able to play an instrument, such as a piano, keyboard or organ. A music minister works closely with the senior pastor and other members of the congregation to organize weekly worship services within the church. They also play a significant role in arranging special services (like weddings and funerals), and may meet with church members to plan or provide musical arrangements for these occasions.

Some musicians are hired to build up a specific component of a church’s music department, such as expand a choir. Depending on the size and needs of a church, a minister of music may accept a part-time or full-time position.

A music minister’s job description may also require the following duties:

  • Shape the style, use of instruments and choice of songs for church services
  • Establish a choir or expand an existing vocal group
  • Conduct and direct singers, musicians and dancers during church services
  • Give counsel and direction to musicians who serve in the church
  • Create a performance schedule for singers and musicians
  • Give music or singing lessons to interested church members


Music ministers often hold at least a bachelor’s degree (preferably in music), and are expected to possess an understanding of both traditional and contemporary ways of worship. A few colleges and universities offer courses specifically geared towards church music, while some students pursue a dual degree or double major in music and theology (or ministry studies). Some ministers of music complete some time at a seminary.

Career Salary & Job Outlook

Depending on the church or religious organization that hires a music minister, payment can come in the form of an annual salary or an hourly rate. The overall pay for this occupation varies greatly, and is dependent on a handful of factors, such as church budget, years of experience, church denomination, geographic location, and size of congregation.

To get a sense of possible salaries for the position, below are a few listings for openings in 2018:

  • The First Baptist Church of Marshville North Carolina offered $5,000 to a part-time music minister to lead their choir and congregational singing on Sunday mornings.
  • The First United Methodist Church of Blairstown New Jersey offered $10,000 per year for a part-time music minister position that consisted of spending 6-8 hours per week in the selection of music and leading musical presentations for worship services.
  • The Stones River Baptist Church in Smyrna, Tennessee offered $45,000-$55,000 for a full-time music minister with at least three years of experience.

Music ministers who can play more than one instrument; are knowledgeable in music software; and/or have a longstanding relationship with a particular church, often encounter increased job opportunities. Holding a master’s degree generally adds around $5,000 extra to a music minister’s yearly income, and qualifies an individual for director of music ministry positions.

As long as churches continue to flourish, so will the need to hire ministers of music. The job outlook for music ministers is not specifically cited by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; however, the growth rate for music directors was projected as 6% for 2016-2026, which were paid a median annual salary of $50,590 in 2017.’


Laurel Gonzalo

You were a worship Leader for 15 years, what did that job entail?

I was titled Worship Arts Director, not just a worship leader….our church had multiple services each week, which changed throughout the years.  We had off site services and evening services and, other than the two Sunday services at the main campus,  I would schedule a different worship leader for each service.  Additionally I had to schedule all the worship bands for each of the services.  During the week I worked on music, finding new songs and getting the music….in the ’90’s CCLI and Song Select hadn’t really come along yet so I was doing a lot of listening and writing down music.  As a pastor I had to attend weekly staff meetings as well as other weekly and monthly meetings.  Manage the music and the players for incidental events such as weddings and funerals; take care of (repair or replace) the stage and instruments; at various times I was in charge of the sound and video teams or not depending on the season; I coached players (sort of like giving private lessons);  worked with the youth pastors on their worship teams; attended the Pastor’s quarterly meetings; arranged for special music (choir/soloists/instrumental solos) and played keys for nearly all the main campus services.
How much does a worship leader make?
I made a good salary for our area plus health benefits.
Did you enjoy your Job?
I really enjoyed doing the musical work.  I did not enjoy working with people who had ideas diametrically opposed to mine such as: as to how to recruit, train, maintain volunteers;  or what kind of music we should be doing on a Sunday (with a generationally mixed crowd) (for example: youth leaders didn’t understand why I would try to incorporate hymns in our main services!! And would argue/discuss it incessantly)
Do you still attend the same church and worship with the new team, even though you aren’t the leader?
I do not regularly attend the same church….I do go periodically but I lead at another church occasionally as well.  Recently I was asked to play keys at  the new Wednesday night services at my old church….because the pastors wanted to try for a service that ebbs and flows into and out of music and the current Worship Director said “I can’t think of anyone else who can play that way”….quite the compliment I felt!
Why do you think you were let go?
Several things contributed to them releasing me.  I was paid well and the economy was tanking in the late 2000’s.  The tithe income was down and they had to cut costs some place.  The Senior Pastor that hired me retired.  The new pastor was able to hire a part time person and offer no health benefits, which really helped their bottom line.  Additionally, IMHO, there was a general sense that I was a little ‘old-fashioned’.  I felt that I was constantly walking the thin line of doing songs that were new while not displeasing the Section Pastor.  Many folks did not understand how much he dictated the songs we did or did not do. He was very much a…uh……control freak.  They handled everything very well.  I just felt bad that a lot of the ideas I had, like using inter-generational players on each worship team, were discontinued after I left.
After being let go were you able to rebound quickly?
I did not rebound emotionally for quite a while.  I had been working at a feverish pace and God gave me a year or so to just decompress. I felt a little like my ideas on worship, team building, vision casting, etc etc were just thrown aside, so that was difficult to process.   It was a hit financially since my salary was our main income, even though the church gave me a nice severance package.
Did your skills as worship leader help you easily find a new job?
I could have stepped right into several Worship Director jobs but chose not to because I didn’t feel God was saying ‘yes’ to those.  I did take one job that appeared to be a good fit but it turned out to be not so!  I had some part time work at a local private college for a couple of years as a direct result of my conducting and worship leading skills but that was a special project and the funding dried up on that as well!
How did you find your new line of work?
I have been told by close friend for years that I should be composing more music….but I knew that not living in a major market like LA or Nashville it was impossible to pitch songs or music to folks. Being immersed in the church arena I was unaware of the shift in on-line music services.   I found an on-line resource called Taxi and joined them.  It is service for music supervisors, music libraries and A/R folks to find music for TV, internet, recordings, etc. I have been composing, recording and submitting for several years to that and now have contracts with a few libraries.  I’ve had cues placed on TV through those libraries.  It was a huge learning curve for me since all my recording experience has been using studios and engineers… days you need to be your own engineer!  I’ve invested money and time into gear and education.  I enjoy it.  I also teach piano and voice at a local studio.  It is a steady income and requires NO planning.