Who Pays for Music Equipment?

Justin wrote me and asked:

How do you handle the purchase of instruments, equipment, and supplies for your musicians? Does the church purchase all instruments, some instruments, or no instruments? What about supplies (e.g. guitar strings, picks, drumsticks, batteries, reeds, etc.)? Or effects pedals, percussion pieces, etc.?

We’ve done this different ways over the years.

In general, we’ve learned that people tend to take better care of instruments and supplies when they own or purchase them. For that reason, we typically expect musicians to use their own instruments and purchase their own accessories. We’ve tried to avoid a mentality of entitlement, where people think the church should provide everything musical. Here are some reasons we’ve chosen to do something different at times.

1. Wear and tear on personal equipment.
When individuals use their equipment regularly to serve the church it can get pretty beat up. That’s especially true if you have a building where the equipment is accessible to different people throughout the week. When a church is big enough, it can be wise to purchase the instruments that will remain in the auditorium. So a few years ago we purchased a Pearl Masters drum set that stays in the auditorium. We also have a set of cheap drums and electronic drums for our children’s ministry music teams. We pay for all the heads and upkeep of the sets and just ask the players to let us know when things break. Sticks are the responsibility of the drummer because they tend to disappear otherwise. We’ve also purchased a broad collection of percussion equipment (djembe, congas, bongos, and various toys).

2. Vision for growth.
There are times when you want to add a certain instrument to your band but know that no one in your church is going to be able to afford one. It might be percussion, drums, a piano, synth, or something else. That’s a good time to purchase it and pray the right person comes along. On a church plant, it’s a good idea for the church to own some kind of keyboard that has a good acoustic sound as well as some synth sounds. Of course, I’m a piano player, so I’m slightly biased.

3. Desire for consistency.
In a bigger church there will probably be people who play well but don’t have a very good instrument. Right now we have different bass players and acoustic guitarists, and a world of difference in the quality of their instruments. We’ve talked about buying a church acoustic guitar, but for now we share instruments between musicians. It’s working well, due to the fact that some players are humble enough to admit their instrument doesn’t sound very good, and others are generous enough to let someone else play theirs. If no one has a good instrument, then it may be worth it for the church to invest in one.

4. Desire to bless.
At times we’ve bought strings for bass players, sticks for drummers, and other small supplies. We provide batteries for all the equipment that’s owned by the church, but have batteries for when someone’s effects pedal or guitar pickup goes south as well. Unexpected gifts are a great way to encourage the musicians on your team, whether it’s something small like a set of strings or something bigger like an effects pedal.

Let us know if you have any other thoughts on this topic.

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7 Responses to Who Pays for Music Equipment?

  1. phoover September 21, 2007 at 3:32 PM #

    I was privileged to lead worship at the Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA, and during my time there, the college payed for my guitar strings, and asked that I changed my strings every week (to avoid string breakage during chapel, which was three times a week). So when I would change strings, the sets that I removed were rarely “dead” and so I would give them to guys in my dorm or around the college who played guitar as a small ministry (strings aren’t always cheap, especially those Elixirs!).

  2. garyrhodges September 21, 2007 at 5:04 PM #

    I would interject that when it comes to something like drums, where it isn’t practical to have your drummers moving them in and out each service, it can be helpful for the church to provide a set. This allows the drummers to keep their own sets set up at home for personal rehearsal. It also avoids a problem that we experienced — the drummer whose set we were using formed the attitude that he was THE drummer and didn’t really like sharing his drums or HIS ministry with other drummers.

  3. irishdrum September 21, 2007 at 6:34 PM #

    Thank you once again for the sound advice.

    I’ve been blessed ever since I discovered this blog and have found it a great aid as I strive to serve God in organising our worship team.

  4. kerrin September 23, 2007 at 12:43 AM #

    point #2 in particularly is an exemplary point: “it’s a good idea for the church to own some kind of keyboard that has a GOOD acoustic sound…”
    oh please, oh please for the love of everyone else’s ears have a keyboard with a good sound! of course, i’m a guitar player, so i’m slightly biased.

  5. jordan fowler September 27, 2007 at 11:20 PM #

    Consistency is the rule of thumb for us. Obviously we use the same drum kit. But recently, we have all of our bass players playing the “same” bass. One guy owns a really nice 5 string. We found our guys playing 4 strings couldn’t duplicate some of the parts and had wildly different tones. So we bought the same nice 5 string and had our other two bass players play it. (I would tell you the brand, but they aren’t sponsoring us so I ain’t giving them free advertising….hahaha)

    Our electric players play different rigs but in the new building that might change. We will probably buy a Badger head or a Naylor and have everybody run through it though they can supplement their own pedals. Our keys are stock as well though one player adds a Yamaha Motif to the mix.

  6. paul April 8, 2008 at 3:19 AM #

    Coming from a smaller local church, we look at this issue with a different approach:

    Unlike larger churches where there are many musicians, we tend to be short on players. To this end, we usually find it beneficial to encourage and develop a personal interest in music, and let them exercise that interest through serving in Worship Ministry. This means that for smaller personal instruments such as an acoustic or bass, the players should provide their own. Larger instruments such as the grand and the kit the church purchased. This also allows us to foster interest at an early age, while they are still constrained by monetary restrictions.

    We are also blessed when some of the veteran musicians are generous and allow the church to use a guitar or bass from their collection for the purposes of training and worship.

  7. Sam VanBuskirk May 6, 2008 at 1:08 AM #

    I like your approach. I have spent a lot of time in the church at various stages in my life playing very consistently for the church. They always expected me to have my own instruments and bring my own equipment, but since I was in high school or college most of the time when playing, they would always be willing to give me batteries or let me borrow certain pieces of equipment. However, I was a trusted part of the church and when other people cam along and started to use some of the equipment, there was much damage caused and much wear and tear on the instruments. Therefore, the church had to use much discretion and discernment about who to let use what. People take better care of what is theirs, that is a fact. But there were plenty of times when my church blessed me and allowed me to use certain pieces of equipment, but only after building rapport.

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