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How to Become a Church Music Minister

Church music ministry offers people with musical talent and interest in religion an interesting and fulfilling occupation. In today's world, sacred music encompasses far more than pipe organ and choirs, with musical styles ranging from Bach to Rock.

1. Consider just what abilities and interests you have. Are you a keyboard player? Can you play the guitar? Can you sing...and teach others how to sing? Today's church musician just might be called upon to do all those things and more.
2. Get training. Church musicians need to know music ranging from Gregorian Chant to Gospel, depending on the denomination. Some colleges and universities offer courses. Training is also available through private music lessons often held in private homes and music shops.
3. Get experience. Most successful music ministers got their start as choir members. Try to find a group led by a master; observe and imitate. Also, try to get a position covering other musicians for vacations in order to gain experience.
4. If you play the keyboard, take some organ lessons. To lead a congregation you'll need to play the pedals, and that takes at least some instruction - and loads of practice.
5. Get a police check. Nowadays churches are extremely sensitive to the threat of sexual predation by clergy and church workers. You'll likely need a police check for every locale you've lived in, dated within 3-4 months of your applications. Most Catholic dioceses will perform their own criminal record check prior to hiring.
6. Determine your goals. Are you intending this to be your career or just a sideline or hobby? Full-time or part-time? Get to know the going salaries of church musicians who have positions similar to what you desire. The National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NAPM), the Organists Guild and other organizations have published guidelines for music ministers' salaries and working conditions.
7. Look for a church position whose needs match your abilities and interests. If your background is Baptist, chances are you'll be (and feel) out of place in a Catholic cathedral.
8. Be prepared to audition and show the search committee what you can do, specifically by playing the organ or piano, and by leading a choir.
9. If you land a job, rejoice. Music ministry gives unequaled opportunities to use your talent, satisfying and enriching both you and hopefully all those who hear and participate in your music.

* When applying for a position, inquire as to personal assistance available, for example organists who can fill in when you are away or ill.
* Ask if you can give music lessons (organ, piano, voice) on church premises to supplement your salary.

* Music ministry can be intense, sometimes involving hours of labor. You should have defined breaks, especially after Christmas and Easter, and you should take them.
* In searching for a music minister, some churches will choose a person based in larger part on their "spiritual credentials" rather than their musical abilities. As with any job search, it is important to do research prior to application; know what you're getting yourself into.

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