Keeping a consistent line up is one of the most difficult aspects of being in a Christian band. I am frequently asked to locate Christian musicians to be in a particular band and then asked to help solve the problems created by having the wrong people in a band. Unfortunately, this is a dilemma we all face from time to time. I believe that many of these problems occur because we do not understand or communicate clearly the mission and goals of our band before and during the audition process. Clear communication is much easier if you have a good understanding of what God has called your Christian band to do.
This brings us to the answer to the question, “How many band members should be in your Christian band?”
The answer is: “As many as it takes to accomplish the mission and goals God has called you to do.”
Let’s break the variety of band ministries down into three main categories:
• Career Music Ministers
• Band of Brothers
Before we define these categories (which are Marie-isms, not “industry standard” terms) I’d like to clearly emphasize that no one category is right or better than another. These categories are simply ways to help define the different types of ministries that God may have called your band to. Our goal here is to help you get a better picture of where you are as a band and make sure that position lines up to where you believe God has called you to be both personally and as a band. So, let’s get to it…
Career Music Ministers
This type of band has a very clear goal of eventually being able to make a reasonable living from being a band. The band wants to do the work of the ministry full-time without day jobs. They are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen, including sacrificing their personal lifestyles.
Travel and food expenses are a big part of this Christian bands budget, so starting out as a three-piece is highly recommended. As the band gains a large fan base performance fees will increase. At that point, adding a fourth member becomes feasible.
Here is a quote from The Christian Band Handbook that helps illustrate a three-piece band compared to a five piece band:
“A gig pays the five piece band $500; they incur $30 in gas expense because they have to travel in two vehicles. The promoter feeds the band dinner but after the gig they buy pizza and pop for $10 per person, and the band replaced a broken cord for $10, which is counted as a band expense. The remaining money is split up equally. The band would make a profit of $410 or $82 per member.
The same venue pays a three-piece band the same $500; they incur $15 in gas expenses because they can fit into one vehicle. This band also buys pizza and pop after the show for $10 per person, and the band still replaces a cord for $10. The three-piece band makes a profit of $445 or $148.33 each.
Neither $82 nor $148 is great pay for the long day the band members have put in. Add the expenses of babysitters or spouses traveling with the band plus paying a sound or light tech and it is obvious that money is tight. Now consider that $500 gigs are rare. Today’s norm in the Christian market for local bands is $0 up to an offering of less than $100, plus whatever merchandise the band sells.”
Wisdom dictates that the band that is called to be Career Music Ministers should have as few members as possible (usually three) to start and add more people only as they can afford it. Bands in this category that start with more members take longer to receive a paycheck so they must work their day jobs and put off their calling of working full-time in the ministry.
Career Music Ministers can head off potential problems when auditioning band mates by explaining that no one gets time off and everyone works hard – at the gig and in between doing as much of the band business themselves as possible to reduce expenses and grow their fan base quickly. This group runs fast and lean, so any member that is unable or unwilling to put in 100% effort 100% of the time for any reason has to be replaced.
Very few Christian musicians are called to be Career Music Ministers. Most of us fit into one of the next two categories (or a combination of the two).
Tentmaker bands follow Paul’s model of ministry – supporting themselves and their ministries by working day jobs. There are many reasons why the members of this type of band want to keep their job, but most often it is because they know that their music ministry cannot support their families. These bands are extremely focused on their ministry first and their day jobs second. God often provides jobs that are flexible enough to allow for a musicians crazy schedule. Tentmaker bands are some of the most difficult ministries to be involved with because of the workload of the band and a job. Often, these bands play more shows per year than Career Music Minister bands because they do not have to charge large performance fees. Because they afford to play small venues to smaller crowds these bands are usually targeted to a specific audience.
Tentmaker Christian bands are not as restricted in the number of members as Career Music Minister bands. There is no right or optimal number of people to be in this band. Typically, the members not only support themselves, but put money into the band to cover its expenses. So, the band can have as many members as are willing to pay to play. This is the most difficult type of band member to find, so the bands usually stay somewhat small – 4 to 5 members.
Potential problems with band members can be avoided by explaining exactly what is expected from the band members during the audition. Many tentmaker band members work their 40 hour a week job and then put in an additional 20-30 hours a week practicing, playing and managing the band’s business. Of course, they also contribute financially to do this ministry. Their families sacrifice not only the money, but time away from the band member as well. I highly recommend that potential new band members for a tentmaker band have their spouses talk to other band spouses before making the final decision to join the band.
Band of Brothers
It has often been said that the greatest ministry any band will have is to each other, the band members. The Band of Brothers band has this concept as a core ministry goal. This band often functions like a small group from a church but uses music as a tool to build relationships with each other. This is not to say that they don’t produce quality music… most of these bands are together because of a love for music and they have the time to develop their talents because they generally do not travel or record as much as the other two categories of bands.
A great example of this type of band is a singing group that my husband, Mark, has been involved in since high school. It is made up of 8 men from diverse careers, Christian denominations, political views and ages. Mark is the youngest and has the best hair (if you are new to this site you should know that I am crazy in love with Mark and am extremely fond of his gorgeous long hair. CLICK HERE to see a great photo of my guy and read a post he wrote for this website. But, I digress…). Most of these men have been doing life together for over 20 years! They have seen each other through all the stages of life: graduations, weddings, kids, catastrophic illness, and most recently a death of one of the members. If one guy needs help, all the guys and their wives show up. They meet every week to sing and fellowship and do shows as the opportunity arises. Their focus is not so much on ministering outside the band, although they obviously do that when they have a gig. Their primary concern is to take care of and support each other; each of them is stronger and better off for it.
A Band of Brothers should have as many members as possible. This type of band will frequently have short Bible studies as part of the practice and hold each other accountable for their personal lifestyles. Typically a few members come and go but for the most part the members develop lifetime relationships. Families benefit from the strength the band member receives from the group and are often included in band activities. The Band of Brothers does not usually do extensive touring, preferring to contribute to their local communities with free or low-cost music.
Problems often arise with new band members for this type of band when the band does not clearly state that they are not looking to become either Career Music Ministers or Tentmakers.
Many of our bands have qualities from two or more of these categories… and there is nothing wrong with that. The key is to be aware of what God has called your band to do and decide on the number of band members accordingly.
Would you like more information on choosing the best band members for your band?
has a Chapter called Seek and You Shall Find (The Right People) as well as a section called Personnel Issues: Sin Really Bugs Me and So Do You.
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