3 Levels of Worship Leader Salaries

Worship Leader Salaries are perhaps some of the most vague and fluid figures you can find. Though I can’t write for every situation, here are some thoughts that might help you come to a decision. First, it's important to know what most worship leader positions entail:

  • hours in service & soundcheck

  • rehearsal

  • song selection

  • administration

  • secretarial work (copies, chord charts, etc.)

  • maintain equipment

  • recruit musicians

  • develop worship leaders & musicians

  • build team dynamics (fellowship etc.)

  • pastoral meetings

  • special services

  • be anointed, creative, and beyond reproach in character

Check off which responsibilities your worship leader would have. I wrote these with the assumptions that 1. worship ministry is vital to your church, 2. where you live has a high cost of living (I live just outside New York City), 3. you have 300 or more people in your church, 4. you don't already have a system that works. From my experience, I'd recommend something like this:

Worship Leader 
10-12 hrs, $300.00 per week

  • hours in service (including soundcheck)

  • rehearsal

  • song selection

  • administration

  • secretarial work (copies, chord charts, etc.)

If your church is smaller than 300 people, this situation might work to bring you some solidarity in your services. This person is a solid worship leader that contributes to your service, but is just that--a worship leader. Don't expect from this person what you would from the others mentioned later.

This situation works for many churches under 300 because they need to spend their money on other positions. Associate pastor, secretary, youth pastor--these positions often come (understandably) before a worship position. $1,200 per month might be steep, but a good worship leader can have an immediate impact on your service and leadership team. Might just be worth it.

Many churches have arrangements with an "artist-in-residence" that will lead once a month or so. Those “fees” may be higher than what I’ve listed here. Either way, work directly with the artist (who is usually pretty prominent) to work out a suitable arrangement.

Worship Director 
20+ hrs, $500.00 per week

All the above and more. A worship director should be able to recruit musicians, develop new worship leaders, and foster team growth. Don't underestimate how much work this entails. A church will get more than what they pay this person for because this equates to developing the worship ministry. The difference here is 1. oversight and 2. development, which is what a worship director should bring to the table. Conversely, I don't get this logic:

  • $25,000 mixer

  • $10,000 in-ear system

  • $2,000 drum kit

  • $2,000 keyboard

  • tons of $300.00 wireless mics

  • complain about paying the person who oversees all this?

You can pay this person hourly, but if they show competence you might consider benefits as they devote more time to the job with the potential of going full-time.

Worship Pastor 
40 hrs+, $55,000+ annually based on church size

Worship pastors give you all the above and the benefits of full-time access to their anointing and creativity. They're also involved with the leadership of the entire church, often serving on executive staff. They are special hybrid; essentially pastors in a worship leader's disguise.

A Real Life Example.

I was a full-time worship pastor for a mid-size church in Connecticut for 4 years. I was 28 years old and had a considerable amount of global ministry travel and recording experience. The team I inherited was approximately 40 people, 18 months removed from a “moral failure” of the previous worship pastor which resulted in several hundred people leaving the church. It was a situation that required a lot of sensitivity and forethought.

My first year, I was paid $18,000. To be fair, they put my wife and I in one of the parsonages, so we had a home and good healthcare. But $18,000 is what I was paid gross.

The church had the money, and I was told that worship was the most important thing we did at church. So why the low salary? I’m not sure. Perhaps the risk was whether I could handle church staff life or not, or they were treading lightly in the aftermath of the previous situation.

I could lead worship, write songs, and was a good candidate for tenure because of my age. All that would have been moot if I couldn't handle church staff life. It's the same with whoever you might be considering for a position, so weigh that carefully. The following year, they doubled my take home pay and gave me the liberty to minister itinerantly which supplemented my income.

Final Thoughts:

This poll at WorshipLeader.com may help you crunch numbers, though it’s a bit dated. Currently, Simply Hired states the median worship leader/pastor salary as $43,000 per year. If your church is in the thousands, pay more. There's a big jump in talent and ability between someone who can sing in front of tens vs. hundreds vs. thousands. My philosophy is pay a person enough so money is never an excuse.

What questions do you have about hiring a worship leader? Leave a comment and I’d be happy to talk numbers openly and candidly.