(or a word to pastors and staff members about taking care of God’s traveling ministers, evangelists, and singers)
I have a number of friends in evangelism. I’ve served on the boards (official and otherwise) of Christian music groups and I can tell you, the issue of which I write is more prevalent than I can begin to tell. The stories make me ill. The thought that preachers and churches would stiff someone who is serving the Lord is beyond my ability to comprehend.
I know of churches that have promoted a love offering and then only given a portion to the speaker. In fact, my first encounter with this happened when I was in youth ministry. We had TRUTH in for a concert in the 1970s in Jackson, Mississippi. Their contract said “$300 or a love offering if greater.” That night, the people gave over $700 to the love offering. TRUTH got $300, and the counting committee decided they needed to keep the rest to concrete a drainage ditch on the church property. When our people found out, they began showing up at the finance office and asking for their money back. I think it cost the church more than they kept.
I know of venues that have booked Christian musicians and never paid them. Then people wonder why artists and musicians expect expenses and half of their “fee” up front. I am personally aware of so many of these situations that it’s on the verge of being epidemic.
If you can’t afford to give someone what they ask, then don’t ask them to come. It’s that simple. It’s not rocket science. More and more, I am hearing stories of churches inviting people to speak or sing and then failing to bless them financially. I believe the laborer is worthy of his hire. To ask someone to: a) spend the money to come to a church, b) spend the time to prepare for the event, c) spend the time away from their family and friends, and d) pray and prepare to pour into your people…and then to not give them an acceptable offering or honorarium is not only inexcusable, it’s un-Christian. Thanks for the handshake brother, but I do have to feed my family.
A few years ago, we had to set speaking fees for our actors in Sherwood Pictures. We were being swamped with invitations for people to speak about the movies. Far too often, these requests were for lay people to take time off work to travel and speak, and then they left with nothing but a handshake and “God bless you for coming.”
One particular church invited one of our team members to speak. He drove nearly two hours to get to the church, spoke for 45 minutes, and then drove home (another two hours). When he was leaving, the pastor of the church said, “Brother, we want to bless you and bless your family. Do you like barbeque?” He handed the speaker two bags of leftover barbeque from the dinner before the service. This man left a family at home to encourage a church, and he returned home, having missed that time with his family, with two bags of leftovers. At best, it reveals an ignorance of the principle of giving, which is taught throughout the New Testament. At the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s simply wanting something for nothing.
My daughter Erin, who played Katherine opposite Kirk Cameron in Fireproof, had to finally get an agent to handle her bookings. She is on the low end of the “speaking fee” with her agency, Premiere Speakers, but she had to make this step. People were asking her to take time off work (loss of pay) to travel and speak, and they weren’t even covering all her expenses. Some refused to pay for travel in advance, leaving her with an airline ticket on her credit card (and if they ended up cancelling the event, she was stuck with a ticket she had to pay for).
I’ve watched people try to talk her into coming for nothing. Really? I wonder if they would travel at their own expense and speak for nothing. I doubt it. Some people don’t get it. If you are one that doesn’t “get it,” then don’t get it in your mind that you can have an outside speaker or singer. It is obvious some folks want something for nothing. They want an event, but they don’t want to honor those they invite to come to the event.
I know of a group touring as I write that hasn’t even met the expenses of the tour at any church they’ve been at in the last week. Oh, people will clap, smile, and sing along, and then fail to support the very people who ministered to them. It’s wrong. It’s not like Jesus. It’s beneath the dignity of a church.
If you are asking a speaker or a concert artist to come to your church, push the love offering and pay the laborer. Don’t apologize for a love offering. Push the offering. Expect people to give. Then budget to offset any shortfall in the offering. Why? Because God blesses a giver.
I think one reason why churches don’t see the blessings of God is simple. They don’t know the character of God. “God so loved…He gave…” The Macedonians “first gave of themselves…” Paul applauded a poor church for doing what was right. He rebuked a wealthy church (Corinth) for their carnality and self-centeredness.
I’ve often hosted guest speakers or singers who’ve said they never get an offering like they do at Sherwood. (For anyone reading this who suddenly feels led to come to Sherwood for that reason, don’t bother calling. Your motive has been revealed. I’m trying to help you when you go other places).
We have limited numbers come from the outside, but when we do, we meet their expectations in either an honorarium or a love offering. We’ve supplemented love offerings before. But on the whole, our people exceed the expectations or wildest imagination of the artists/speakers because they have been taught to give.
Bottom line: If you ask someone to come to your church, ask them what they need. If they use an agent, the agent will tell you what the need is. If they don’t tell you what they need, you should ask. And don’t start the poor mouth minister verbiage. Either meet the need or don’t have the event.
I’m blessed to serve a church that takes care of me financially. I don’t depend on love offerings. When I get a love offering or an honorarium, I often invest it in ministry, missions, or just in helping people I see. Sometimes, those offerings and honorariums help me meet unexpected expenses. When I get blessed, I look for ways to be a blessing.
I know one evangelist who tithes 30% of his income. He lives off love offerings. He doesn’t promote this, he just does it. He’s been blessed financially because of his own giving spirit. But he’s been in more than one church run by tightwads.
There have been times when I’ve sent a tithe back to the ministry. There have been times when I’ve given the check back because God prompted me to do so. I can remember one time when we had a group in at the last minute. We took up a five-figure offering, and they gave it back to us because God had prompted them to do it. One week later, they got that amount and more in product sales at a state youth evangelism event.
I typically host pastors and others who have salaries, but that doesn’t get me off the hook for paying them what is worthy of the event. If I can’t or won’t pay, I shouldn’t ask ANYONE to come. Think of it this way. When you are asking someone to come invest in your church by speaking or singing, you want them to do the best they can. You want God to use them to speak to and encourage your people. You want to use the event to invite people to come. Why then, would you ever think of slighting the person who is giving of themselves for you?
To any pastor, staff member, or church that reads this, learn to give. Learn to give generously. Learn to give sacrificially. See how much you can bless people. Know this—you have a reputation among those speakers and artists. It’s either, “Don’t ever go there,” or, “You’ll love being with them because they will be a blessing and encouragement to you.”
Having someone in to minister or serve you is, in effect, mutually beneficial. Or at least it should be.