Commentary: Should Gospel Singers Charge?

Commentary: Should Gospel Singers Charge?

Last night, I saw a post on one of the various Facebook gospel music groups from (what I assume to be) a church member/administrator looking for a singing group to come sing at their church. They weren’t too specific about what they were looking for, except for one thing: they wanted someone who didn’t charge to come sing.

Almost immediately, there were responses from singers all across the region (and beyond) willing to come sing for free (or, at most, for a love offering). Some were willing to drive across two states to sing. All of these singers had at least one thing in common: I’d never heard of a single one of them before. Maybe that’s why they were so willing to go so far for whatever they were offered….

Now please note, I am NOT knocking local/regional artists who are willing to take any offer to sing. That’s the first step towards a singing profession – being willing to sing on demand. I’ve done my fair share of freebies over the years, as well, often on short notice. There is NO shame in singing for whatever is offered.

There SHOULD be, however, some hesitation to be so anxious to play that you don’t take things like expenses and logistics into consideration. If someone wants you to travel great distances at awkward times without any guarantee of some sort of balanced compensation, then you might want to reconsider making that trip.

For example, let’s say I was offered a date within two hours of my home for a love offering, I would respectfully ask if they can guarantee at least enough to cover travel expenses (gas, travel time, and lodging if required). If that does not seem feasible, then I politely decline the offer. Also, if it the time requested causes a conflict with other obligations, then I will likewise say “thanks, but no thanks.” To me, it’s not worth losing money or tearing myself apart to make a date. That doesn’t mean others can’t do it; I just can’t do it personally.

Now obviously there are some singers/groups who do this part time and/or have other sources of income, so they are not as worried about expenses or time. If you can do that, then more power to you! God obviously is providing for you to be able to minister in that fashion. That still doesn’t take away the fact that you have to be careful about income/loss.

I’m sure this post is going to get plenty of comments from folks saying, “I have FAITH-uh that God will PROVIDE-uh. Oh YE of little FAITH-uh!!” (emphasis mine). Well, let’s put it this way – I have faith that God will provide for me, yes. I also believe that God gave me a brain and the knowledge to know when to say yes and when to decline.

Who knows? Maybe by my turning down an offer to sing, I’m giving another artist or group an opportunity that they may otherwise not have had….so, you’re welcome!

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Kyle Boreing

Kyle has been writing for MusicScribe since 2008. He is a musician, producer, arranger, and occasional quartet singer, who pays way too much attention to recordings. He is an alumni of Stamps-Baxter School of Music and has shared the stage with many different artists. He also really likes movies that are "so bad they're good." Visit his website at, or follow him on Twitter @kyleboreing.

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  1. Reply December 01, 09:58 #1 Tommy Jones

    I definitely think singers should be paid. they have a family to feed, clothe, etc. The ministers at the churches are paid as they should be, so why not the visiting singers?

  2. Reply December 01, 20:49 #2 Scotty Ray Searan

    Money. Everything revolves around money. It is necessary to survive. But does the church put too much emphasis on money.

    I believe any Bible believing Christian would have to say we are living in the Laodecian Church age mentioned in Revelations 3/

    Revelation 3:14-22 King James Version (KJV)

    14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

    15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

    16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

    17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

    18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

    19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

    20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

    21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

    22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

    Now Notice this quotation: “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.”

    Now notice the rest of the quotation: “Knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” What a rebuke.”

    What does this mean? They have lost their ability to live by FAITH. They have departed from the FAITH.

    What are some examples of departing or losing the FAITH. Ministries are charging admission, selling tickets, for people to attend their conferences and meetings. I have heard various explanations for this, with one being the singers are already charging admission to protect their livelihood, so why can’t we? Look at the little fox here. See what Singing entertainment has caused.

    Do I like Gospel singing? Yes. Do I think they should be able to make a living at it. Yes.

    I can see a Singer getting paid for a concert outside the confines of a church.

    I know some churches are also charging admission when singers come into perform. But I disagree with it. If God was able to provide back 50 & 60 years ago is he not able to provide now. YOU NEVER HEARD A CHURCH OR PREACHER CHARGING ADMISSION TO HEAR THEM SING IN A CHURCH, OR A PREACHER CHARGE ADMISSION FOR SOMEONE TO HEAR THEM PREACH IN A REVIVAL OR CONFERENCE?

    Did you hear Billy Graham charging admission for people to come to his revival services. How about Oral Roberts, Rex Humbard, James Robinson, A. A. Allen, Walt Mils or Jimmy Swaggart? Did they charge admission to their meetings? No they did not.

    Nut you say singers is a “horse of a different color>” They deserve to be guaranteed a certain amount of money before they come to your church? I am afraid you are just an entertainer if you think you need a guarantee. Are you trusting in man’s wisdom or God’s wisdom? Remember in the Old Testament The Levites were also the singers.

    1 Corinthians 2:1-5King James Version (KJV)

    2 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

    2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

    3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

    4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

    5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

    Now the churches do have a responsibility. If they are gonna have visiting ministers and singers, they should lay aside (budget) part of the collection (offerings) for such purposes.

    1 Corinthians 16:1-3King James Version (KJV)

    16 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.

    2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

    3 And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.


    . 1 Timothy 5:17-18 King James Version (KJV)

    17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

    18 For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

    I feel people who minister should be paid, including singers. But I think today’s minsters should not be treated any than our pioneers in sharing the Gospel.

    Spoken in love

    Scotty Searan

    • Reply December 02, 10:35 Kyle Boreing Author

      History lesson:

      The first gospel quartets (as we know them today) were assembled NOT as a ministry, but to SELL MUSIC BOOKS. The quartets would travel to churches with cases of new songbooks and would sing the new songs to promote them.

      Then in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, quartet singing (gospel and otherwise) became popular. Groups like the Statesmen were right at home on radio with doo-wop groups of the time (the only difference being that one was singing “spiritual” music). As a result, gospel groups mostly played in theaters at TICKETED events, and you can bet that they were paid.

      Gospel music did not become known as a “ministry” until the late 60’s-early 70’s. The only reason gospel music became known as a “ministry” (at least professionally) was due to the change in musical climate – quartet singing with a piano was going out of style. Some groups changed their approach and adapted, while others became “ministries” and started moving into churches for bookings in order to survive.

      This is also where the “split” in gospel music came from. The groups that adapted to the musical changes received backlash from churches for being “too worldly.” Artists had to make a choice – continue moving in a different direction musically to keep up with the trends or join in the backlash at church in order to get bookings there.

      That’s why I always get a kick out of folks who insist that gospel music was, is, and always should be a “ministry.” It was born as a selling point, became pop music, went out of style, and turned to the conservative crowds in churches to keep it alive.

  3. Reply December 01, 22:52 #3 JSR

    I think gospel music should drop the “minustry” label and pick up the “clean entertainment” label. Charge admission or go out of business. The artists would make a better living and the product would be better. Let churches have their own music ministries. The bible does say to know them that labor among you. You don’t really know anything about the lives of a group you book to come sing in your church. Many have been great “anointed” singers only to admit years later they weren’t even “saved.” Obviously they weren’t anointed, they were just talented at providing clean entertainment. Not a popular opinion, but one that would make the industry better.

  4. Reply December 02, 12:06 #4 Scotty Ray Searan

    The question should be addressed, Why do you sing Gospel music?

    As mentioned Gospel music singing commercially was started with Publishing Companies paying the expenses for a group. The group had to sell the songbooks.

    Now I realize there were/are those that sing the Gospel who are not saved. The Scriptures call them wolves in sheep clothing (hypocrites)

    The difference between secular music and Gospel music is that in a Gospel song that you sing, You share a message of telling a person to put their faith in Jesus Christ.

    The Gospel songs tell a person to Love there fellowmen.

    The Gospel songs tell a person to repent of their sins.

    The Gospel songs give Christians hope that Jesus is coming soon (the blessed hope.)

    The Gospel songs state there is a difference in a way a person lives after they are Saved.

    THe Gospel songs says there is a heaven and a hell

    The Gospel songs says there is Good News

    The Gospel songs says you can overcome the world

    The Gospel songs do not promote sinful lifestyles, but says there is a perfect and better way to live.

    I could go on and on about what a Gospel song’s message is.

    There are songs out there that we say are gospel, but they are not.

    Let’d put it this way. All singers are ministers. Do you remember the old word “MINSTRELS?”

    You are either ministering for Jesus Christ thru Gospel songs or you are ministering for Satan through secular music. There is no gray area. It is Black and white, whether we accept it or not

    We are leaning on man’s wisdom to believe otherwise. Man’s wisdom say’s: “Let gospel singing be a business.” Why, so I want be held to high standards of the Gospel.

    But God said trust not in man’s wisdom, but in the demonstration and power of the Spirit.

    How do you get around this scripture?

    1 Corinthians 2:4-5 King James Version (KJV)

    4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

    5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

  5. Reply December 02, 21:52 #5 Darrell

    Back when John Rulapaugh was with the Blackwood quartet, they sang at a church relatively local to me here in Northern VA. The concert was on a Sunday afternoon. My dad and I made the 40 minute drive, only to be surprised when we got there and found out it was a ticketed event. If I remember correctly, tickets were 20 bucks apiece. Since we didn’t have enough cash, we turned around and went home. Talk about a disappointment. I was assuming because the concert was at a church on a Sunday afternoon it would be love offering only. Wrong!

    • Reply December 03, 00:24 JSR

      This is a failure by the church and/or the promoter. When a concert is advertised it should be made clear that it’s a ticketed event.

  6. Reply December 02, 22:43 #6 JSR

    I see a lot of man’s wisdom in the above post. For example, nowhere does the bible say music is either ministering for God or Satan. Anyway, not attacking, just pointing out that giving a lot of opinions accompanied by a bible verse that doesn’t make something true.

    Trust me, this is not a personal attack, but if you don’t wish to post this comment I understand.

  7. Reply December 03, 01:18 #7 Scotty Ray Searan

    No the Bible siwa bit say “You are either ministering for Jesus Christ thru Gospel songs or you are ministering for Satan through secular music. There is no gray area. It is Black and white, whether we accept it or not”

    But the fact of the matter what we do either brings honour to God, or honour to Satan. There is no three ways in this life. There is only two ways.

    We either honour God or Hour Satan in what we do

    Matthew 6:24 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

    24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be [a]against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon ([b]deceitful riches, money, possessions, or [c]whatever is trusted in).

    Hebrews 13:5 King James Version (KJV)

    5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

    Hebrews 13:5 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

    5 Let your [a]character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] [b]Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor [c]give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [d][I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor [e]let [you] down ([f]relax My hold on you)! [[g]Assuredly not!]

    This concludes my remarks. It is just the way I believe.

    I don’t hate those that feel otherwise. I do feel at present time that Gospel and Christian music is more of a business than ministering.

    I will pray for God to minster to each of you and that God be lifted up in Southern Gospel Music.

    Gid bless you

  8. Reply December 14, 10:49 #8 woodywright

    I remember a Gospel Singer who got in trouble for gambling, because it is wrong and unacceptable behavior….. but it was okay for him to gamble on what the offering amount would be the weekend before.

  9. Reply November 04, 16:52 #9 Taylor

    I know ministers who are paid a larger salary than most musicians, then demand a commission to book a group for a ticketed show at their church. Musicians need paid as well

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