"The worker is worthy of his salary."(This is said in both the Old and New Testaments).
People often ask if we've written anything on this site about fees: how much it would be appropriate to pay the preacher for a wedding, funeral, banquet, or guest sermon at his church.
I haven't...until now.
I guess the reason is that it's so subjective, so hard to pin down. Different regions of the country and different denominations have their own customs and expectations. But for what it's worth I'll give it a try. I know very well that we have left some questions unanswered, some issues unaddressed. But here goes.
At my last wedding they paid me $550.
This generous and surprising amount was entirely his decision. Two months ago, when the girlfriend asked: “How much do you charge?” I replied: “I don't charge. Whatever you do, everything will be fine." Perhaps I suggested that she ask the pastor (they lived several states away and had come to Mississippi for a family reunion and wanted to get married while they were all together) what she thought was appropriate.
So maybe I owe you a thank you note. (Actually, I owe him one. He conducted the prenup sessions and even sent a note to that effect.)
Each pastor has his story. I have $500 for another marriage. But this was way beyond the norm. When I first started getting married, it was more like $10 or $20. But back then you could live on a hundred dollars a week. (Yes, there really was a time in America.) In recent years, the typical gift for a wedding has been $100 or $200.
I remember a few times feeling sorry for the couple who were getting married under terrible circumstances and assuring them that we would not charge them anything, not for the church (with its huge air conditioning, electric bills, and cleaning costs) or for me. When they pulled up in front of the church in a limousine and toasted with champagne, I felt that someone had deceived me.
I have had funerals where the fee was not enough to pay for my miles. And he did a week long revival where that was the case. If the people were poor or the church was small, that was not a problem. But this was rarely the case. Guilt is more neglected.
But all the ministers have done it. It is obvious. You don't get into this job to get rich.
So here are my guidelines. And yes, "guidelines" is pretty much all we can do, since there are so many variables...
1. Start with a base of $100 or $200.At least give that to the minister, give him more if you can or if there is a good reason for it. Here is my suggested scale:
$100 is the minimum. $200 is pretty good. $300 seems generous. Anything beyond that is a true blessing!
2. Give the minister something, even if you walked into his office and he performed the wedding without preparation.I won't list the reasons other than to say it's the right thing to do. You are not paying for their time, their training or ordination, or their availability. They just show appreciation, and that's enough.
Be generous to the minister as you are likely to be generous to everyone in life.
3. Give him more when he spends time with you.
Did you spend time in premarital counseling sessions? Did you come to rehearse? (Don't discount what you paid for his rehearsal dinner, buddy. He worked there just as well as if he were in his office or behind the pulpit.)
4. Consider your additional expenses: travel, etc.
Even though he only wore his black suit to the wedding, he still has to pay for it and dry clean it. If he drove his car a good distance, the IRS sees a fair mileage reimbursement rate of just over 50 cents per mile. And remember, you are talking about a round trip. If you have to stay out overnight, add enough to cover that cost. If you are with the wedding party at the hotel where everyone is staying, make the reservation and pay for the room.
5. If there are other considerations that make this unusual, ask a different minister than the one involved, which would be fair.Make sure he knows you're not trying to do as little as possible, you want to be fair.
When I do banquets, I not only get up and talk for 25 minutes, but I sit at the table an hour or two before and after and draw everyone. In most cases, I skip lunch and draw during dinner, then get up and talk. The job is much more difficult than you think. Normally, a church pays me the same amount that it paid to the last man who came to the party, ate and talked, but did nothing else. And (God knows my heart), I'm fine with that. The Lord is my source.
6.(Only for ministers).My advice to you would be to reprint this article (if you don't have anything else on hand with the bride and groom regarding fees), but cross that point out first. Why number 6 is for you:"Do not organize weddings, funerals, banquets or preach sermons for money."If you do this, you will be constantly frustrated. Look to the Lord as his resource, not to a church or an individual. Expect to stiffen at some point. Expect to be surprised by his generosity from time to time. And wait to put up with it all. Do your work for the LordJesussolo.
It also does not have a fixed rate. Or a minimal fee. Although the number is small, it smacks of greed and some interpret it as such. So you better not do that.
7. If you cannot pay the minister a reasonable fee, let him know when you invite him.Then the decision will be yours. (I predict that he will almost always be happy to help you for free if you have nothing to give. He doesn't work for the money, although the worker is really worth his pay.)
I suggestoh pastorof the small churches that the preacher of the big church would like to preach to his congregation and should not automatically exclude him. But he would tell you that it is a small church, how many would be in the services, and how much he hopes to pay you. After that, the decision is yours. (In many cases, when he invites you to a revival meeting, he may suggest starting on Monday night and ending on Friday. This allows him to stay at his church on Sundays. Best revival meeting I've ever had with a pastor who has a weekday case for this reason. The minister ministered to a large congregation in Florida and was in such high demand that he rarely missed a Sunday in his own congregation.)
8. No one has ever shamed the Lord, hurt a servant, or regretted being generous.So be generous.
When pastors hold revivals, it is a wise visiting pastor who does not protect the wallets and bank accounts of his members. A church that is generous to the visiting pastor honors the Lord. Furthermore, we participate in the ministry of a minister when we contribute to his support.
A short testimonial...
I retired from a staff position in denominational ministry in 2009. Since then I have been in constant ministry in various churches, denominations, conferences, revivals, retreats, etc. And I learned a lot. A) Only the Lord is my portion, my resource. I look at it. If the offer/gift was small, I thank you. If it was great, I appreciate it. B) Sometimes when the offering/gift was much less than I needed, and I wonder what the hell the host pastor was thinking, I noticed a wonderful thing: the next church will almost always make up the difference.
So when a church gives a minister a very lavish gift, I suggest that deacons and other leaders not second-guess or annoy each other (“Are you telling me we paid that minister $2,000 for a Sunday job?”). , they should treat it as if the Lord is using them to make up to a church that has not been as generous to the Lord's servant as they would like.
Everything we do, we do for the Lord.
author of the photo:© Thinkstock/maximkabb