For a long time, the church has been known to raise great talents who end up becoming the best
musicians, actors as well as instrumentalists. A few examples of stars who started out in church includes Whitney Houston, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Brandy ,Usher among many other celebrities.

The church has been known for nurturing gifts and talents, a safe space for creatives to grow as they serve their God. For many who could not afford singing lessons, dance class, piano lessons or acting classes, the church provided a great platform for creatives to learn and get nurtured on their gifts. These creatives would then soar and become great in their craft.

With time, many leave for the secular music scene while a few remain doing gospel music. Locally, we have the likes of Dan Aceda, Kanji Mbugua, Andrew Wambua, Mayonde who all started by singing and playing instruments in church.

While the Church has been known to give opportunities to young creatives to join the worship team, sing in the choir, direct plays as well as play instruments, it has also been known to exploit these creatives by expecting them to perform for free.

For creatives who start out in the church, many see it as a calling, a mission or using their gifts to serve
God. However, as a person singing in the choir, you are expected to attend many rehearsals during the week and be in church by 6 am on a Sunday for one or two services, others can go upto the third service. Should the church have a seminar, conference or Kenya, you are expected to attend many more practices sessions and show up for these events. All this in the name of serving God, participating in Ministry and spreading the word.

This begs the question, shouldn’t that be considered a full time job that is well numerated? Months ago there was outrage on social media, when Dan Aceda dared to challenge the status quo by warning creatives not to waste their time in church by performing for free.

Dan Aceda, who is a benga artist, started in church as a worship leader. He explained how the church
exploits creatives in a series of tweets. This prompted more people to come forth with their experiences in churches.

According to Dan, as a worship leader, he was expected to manage the team, attend several rehearsals over the week and be in church by 6.30am on Sunday for a full day of leading worship.

Recently, Dan Aceda warned creatives against working in church after a church made a call for creatives to join them. He advised creatives to shun churches, saying they do not value them. His bone of contention was with Christ Is The Answer Ministries (Citam) which posted a call to action on its social media platforms asking creatives to register with them.

This tweet brought a lot of attention to CITAM, as other creatives joined it to share their experiences.

CITAM had this to say;

CITAM for a long time has been one of the churches that are top earners in Kenya recording close to Ksh 1.3 billion in tithes and offerings as at 2017.

CITAM, which has 15 branches countrywide and gets most of its funding from offerings and tithes. From their annual report, they break down their finances further and goes to show that they have pastors and deacons on their payroll, so they understand that Pastors who give their time in church need to be paid. It seems creatives is where they draw the line.
Churches have for a long time used creatives to serve in the church while using words like ‘Servitude’ . Having been raised up Christian, many children were taught that serving in the church was among the highest honour a Christian can do. A lot of young adults would spend their time in church, cleaning the church, arranging seats, learning to play some instruments, singing in the choir, all as ways to serve God in church.

A member of ICC Mombasa who did not want to be mentioned, shared with us his experience while
serving in that church. ‘I used to play instruments in church. I was in charge of storing them, fine tuning them and ensuring that they all worked in time for service. I also used to play the drum. We would have practice at least three times a week. Most of my Saturdays were spent in church in preparation for Sunday service.

I did not have a job at that time so spending time in church would be ideal. As time went by, I was given
more and more responsibilities and that meant spending more time in church. For bills, I used to rely on
well-wishers from the choir.

One day I was late to pay my rent. The choir fundraised for me, as the church leaders said they did not
have a budget for me. I asked for a stipend at least to settle my expenses. I really loved serving in the
church and using my talent in serving God, but it was becoming harder trying to serve in church but end
up begging for food and rent.

By the third month, the church leadership had not considered my request to be a paid member of the
church. I made the hard decision to leave and play for a local band. They had more practice hours than
the church, but at least they paid. I still go back to that church but as a member of the congregation.

More and more people need to come out and hold the Church accountable. With churches like CITAM
receiving billions in tithes and offerings, there is more than enough to pay the people who volunteer
their gift in the name of Serving God.

They need to stop using manipulative language to get the services of creatives. Words like ‘Serving God’
God given talent’ ‘serving in the Ministry’ All these words are used to play to the young creatives
spirituality. They believe they are serving God, but in the real sense, they are being manipulated by the
same people who are supposed to guide and protect him.

Pastors are paid by the church, while most have a share of the tithes and offerings, but they see no
urgency in paying the same people who make their services better. I bet no congregant will enjoy a
church service that has no music or a choir.

Creatives on the other hand have to also know their worth. While it is good to volunteer in a church to
worship and use their talents for good, they must draw a clear line on where exploitation starts. If you
are required in Church for practice at least three times week, that should be a paid position, as you are
giving your time, which you could have used to do other things that can make you money.