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.