How Much Should You Pay a Guest Preacher?

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Eventually, your church will have a guest preacher. Your pastor may be out of town or he needs time to focus on other areas of the church. When this happens, you are faced with the question, “How much should we pay the guest preacher?”

Most of us want to show the guest preacher our appreciation through an honorarium. We desire for him to feel valued and loved but still be good stewards of the church budget. It is a tension many church administrators feel.

Here are four guidelines I suggest  for navigating this tension:

1. Cover travel.

As soon as the visiting preacher steps into his car or boards a plane, he becomes your guest. Plan to cover the flight or car mileage. The IRS’ current standard mileage rate is $0.56 per mile. I recommend reimbursing at that rate. Depending on the anticipated mileage, you may consider offering him a rental car.

2. Cover food.

Yes, he would be eating whether he was preaching at your church or staying at home. But he is your guest, and you are his host. A good host will take care of the food. If you are eating out with him, use your credit card. If he has a meal on his own, have him send the church the receipt and reimburse him.

3. Cover accommodations.

If the guest preacher has to stay overnight, pay for the accommodations. Having to stay overnight is not a perk for a guest pastor. It is a sacrifice he makes to speak at your church. Most would much rather be at home with their wife and kids. Be sure to cover any hotel costs.

4. Base the honorarium off your pastor’s salary (including housing allowance)

This is where most struggle because of the number of variables involved – audience size, number of services, and expected length of teaching all play a role.

Here is my logic for basing the honorarium off your pastor’s salary.

You have already decided to pay your pastor a certain amount based on his current responsibilities. Among these responsibilities are the variables at play with a guest preacher’s honorarium. Your pastor is already responsible for speaking to a certain size audience for a certain length of time. Since these variables are already considered, use this salary as your starting point.

For every service, pay your guest preacher .5% of the pastor’s salary.

Example:

  • Pastor’s salary (includes housing allowance): $60,000
  • Number of services: 2
  • Guest pastor’s honorarium: $60,000 x .5% = $300 x 2 services = $600

I would probably round up to the nearest $250. For this example, we would end up giving the guest pastor a $750 honorarium.

This method should allow you to be generous without compromising your stewardship.

For those with a part-time pastor or for those without a pastor, base the calculation on what you would pay a full-time pastor.

As with any of these methods, this one is sure to have its flaws. The type of speaking engagement needs consideration. A Wednesday luncheon is not the same as a Sunday morning service. Therefore, adjustments should be made accordingly. However, this method can provide you a way to be consistent and have the guest preacher leaving with a sense of your church’s appreciation.

Should I opt out of Social Security? How much housing allowance do I take? Do I have enough for retirement? Should I ask for a raise? Why should I even care about my financial picture? The Minister’s Salary was written to shed light on some of the issues that seem to most burden ministers. With simplicity and clarity, it provides a holistic look at key financial issues. The Minister’s Salary is an excellent, concise resource for anyone seeking answers to some of the most common financial questions asked by ministers. Now available!

What Should a Guest Preacher Expect?

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56 thoughts on “How Much Should You Pay a Guest Preacher?

  1. This is a good rule of thumb. But, let me suggest something further. ALWAYS. Seek to be reflective of Christ’s generosity. Fine to do this formula, but be very willing to unexpectedly and extravagantly bless a visiting Pastor.

    Way WAY too often, churches, under the guise of good stewardship, are actually “cheap.” Especially revolting if expressed toward those who are worthy of double honor. And, how nice if a
    Visiting preacher left not just with a sense of your appreciation, but Chrst’s extravagant generosity. So glad that God wasn’t “cheap” with me.

  2. How about when another staff member fills in for a sick or vacationing Senior Pastor. Do churches show those staff members appreciation? Or is it more like “well that’s just part of your job”. Curious how most churches care for their own staff in this regard.

    • Great question, Dan. And I would say that it depends. If it is expected that the staff member occasionally teach as part of their role, and they are given adequate time away from other responsibilities to prepare, above and beyond pay is not always necessary. However, if preaching is outside of their expected role and preparation must be done in addition to regular responsibilities, above and beyond pay is appropriate.

      I would be happy to hear some additional thoughts from others on this.

  3. How about when what they give doesn’t even cover your flight? The body is so much on the cheap now, it’s worrying especially if you are like me that don’t make advance demands, but I guess I don’t blame those who do it. The other side of the coin is you are paid based on your popularity. I’m hoping that the Lord will so bless me that I don’t expect any honorarium, so I’m never disappointed.

    • David, I hate that you have had this experience and think that “guest preacher expectation” may be a good topic for another day. From the church administrative perspective, how does your church determine how much to pay guest preachers? Thank you for your comment!

  4. Good article, and good rule of thumb. However, I’ve never received anything near this amount for a guest sermon. In fact, I was invited to speak at a former church, specifically for them to ‘apologize’ for how they had treated my family and me when I was their pastor…all I got was a plate of food at the pot luck lunch. No honorarium, no expense money, nothing but that plate of food. Somehow it didn’t feel that their apologies were too sincere, since I drove over 200 miles to attend the service.

  5. I think that is crazy money for speaking for an hour !! People work a full week and don’t come out with that,I’m sorry but I just think that is wrong .

    • Thank you for your comment, Helen. Of course, the time involved in preparing a sermon is much greater than the hour preaching. 15-20 hours can be spent in preparation. I am open to your suggestions on this topic.

    • Helen, have you ever gone to a Doctor’s office and he only spent 4-5 minutes in the room with you, yet you were charged $450.00 office visit fee, plus an insurance office co-pay $30.00, then if a prescription was written you paid the co-pay for medicine $25.00? The Doctor probably does not even know your name, but we never scrutinize his the level of pay, compensation, or expect him to treat us for free! Namely because we think Doctors are professionals and deserve such pay!

      However what is the value of the Word of God to you? Most Pastors have formal education, it costs money to clean our suits, it cost money to put gas in our cars, we have to pay for our food with real money. Plus sermons take study time and prayer. While I understand some people’s concern over making Pastor’s millionaires, however I still believe that to expect a pastor or preacher to speak for free is unrealistic and certainly not biblical! Think about this without getting too deep, if Jesus didn’t believe accepting financial compensation for ministry, why did he have a Treasurer?

      Much Love to You,

      Pastor Nathan

    • Helen , so someone just gets up and talks for an hour? wish it was that easy. If Im inviting visiting ministry Im wanting that they equip the church . Im asking them to leave their routine and family ,travel, stay in a different place (Ive been bunked in three different homes over a weekend of ministry ) and speak at mens breakfast ,leadership lunches and two services on Sunday . We will usually pay 700 to 1,000 plus expenses. If you are a speaker you know that this is a fairly gruelling weekend. we don’t expect recycled messages, we expect that th guest is asking God for fresh and empowering message appropriate to the congretation.
      I know of churches that take “Paul made tents” and expect a speaker to happy if someone gives them a cup of tea. And of others tha pay an equivalent to a days wage plus all expenses .
      I tend to think that if we honour the prophet we get the reward as it were 🙂
      God bless.

  6. Pulpit supply and evangelists salary in our area is typically $50.00 per service with no additional reimbursement for expenses.

      • Thank you for the question, Dave. Obviously, many details are missing to determine whether or not, from a church administrative perspective, this is appropriate. I do know of several smaller churches where such a gift would be deemed as very generous, constituting a very large portion of their weekly giving and well above what I put forth in this post. So I would not immediately assume judgement either way.

    • Lets really be honest and straightforward and realize that most church’s shouldn’t call themselves churches but charity seeking missions! If a group cannot afford to cover the expenses of a guest preacher, why invite them in the first place? A $50.00 love offering is not a jackpot and certainly will not take care of a minister’s family, himself, let alone show appreciation for the time he has committed in preparing or preaching!

      In 1980 gas cost $0.75 per gallon, but today in 2014 gas has not changed but do you or I expect to pay the same $0.75 per gallon average price? Your ministry team is still using a model from the 1970’s and 1980’s era. I am not being mean but I bet worship in this area still reflects the 1970’s and 1980’s era, without any growth to local missions in the area!

      Has the are considered consolidating the local area missions, and making one healthy church?

      Pastor Nathan

  7. Having spent time as a senior pastor, an interim preacher, and doing the occasional one-shot pulpit supply thing, I have often pondered this. I’d suggest a formula of the (senior pastor’s salary ÷ 52 weeks) x 50%. For example: $60,000 ÷ 52 = $1,153 x 50% = $577. (This formula should work for larger churches as the pastor’s salary ought to be commensurate with the number of times he preaches each weekend). A Pastor is going to spend about half his week on his sermon, including time on Sunday morning. Some messages take longer, and other come together more quickly, but it’s reasonable. Then, expenses on top of that, as you indicated. Meals are more negotiable, but offering to take him to lunch can be very nice… just keep it brief as he’s probably tired of talking at that point. In reality, a guest speaker at many average size churches is lucky to get half of that amount ($250). For about a year or so pulpit supply was a key part of my income, and though I spent at least half of my week preparing fresh sermons, the pay was far from half of a senior pastor’s salary. It was not financially viable. Churches just don’t think this way. The only thing that really makes any financial sense, is to just do a message you’ve done before, and freshen it up a little. Of course, as a servant of God, you end up (hopefully) doing what God wants you to do, but the ox is often muzzled.

  8. You lost me when you said “round up to the nearest $250”. It appears to me $600 is a very even number and needs no rounding. What am I missing?

    Let’s also be straightforward and realize that most guest speakers recycle their sermons, and there is nothing wrong with that, so do not require as much time for preparation.

    My church is generous with any guest speakers or musicians, but I believe the dollar amount you have set out is unrealistic.

    • Thank you for you comment, Pat. My hope is that this formula provides a good rule of thumb for churches. I would not be offended if a church administrator wanted to adjust the percentage/rounding higher or lower. Balancing generosity and stewardship is a difficult task for most administrators.

      The formula was a result of hearing many pastors’ frustration with the way they paid guest preachers. Many claimed that it was a “shot in the dark” with no real basis. At this point, I have not found a better variable the pastor’s salary for the reasons mentioned in the post.

      Regarding “recycled sermons,” I admittedly err on the side of assuming that the guest pastor has spent much time preparing their message. Hopefully, this assumption allows me to sometimes overpay but rarely underpay.

      I love hearing that your church is generous to guest speaker/musicians, and it sounds like you all have put some thought into the reason behind the paid amounts. Would you mind sharing it with us?

  9. Well a lot of preachers and pastors are using another pastors messages and series ,I know that for certain.Can you tell me is this right?? Because I’m really struggling with this.I think guest preachers and pastors are way over paid and their flights have to be first class !!! They want the best hotels ,the best resturants everything has to be the best .Well I’m sorry but I would have no problem leaving my kids for a few days to get this treatment ,the Money is just not here anymore for this and I think for small churches if they can’t afford this they shouldn’t get them in .Then when they do come they are treated like celebrities ,no it’s just gone too far now and it’s wrong.

    • I am sorry, Helen, but I cannot agree with you on any part of your statement. The vast majority of pastors I know are very different, if not the complete opposite, of how you portrayed them. Thank you for you comment.

    • Helen, while such preachers invariably do exist, in my experience, they are few and far between. Be careful to not judge the majority for the sins or deception of the few.

  10. I have been in the ministry for over 30 years now and I have seen the mistreatment of pulpit supply preachers. Pastors will make comments like The convention covers this anyways, or they don’t really have to work at it anyway, they are just preaching their “sugar stick”. My thoughts are, what would you as a pastor like to receive if you were preaching for someone else? If we treat our guests, like we would like to be treated there would be no reason for this discussion.

  11. Art thanks for raising this topic and addressing it such a thorough way.

    I pastored here in Australia for 30 years and for the last 3 years I’ve ministered as a consultant and coach and also occasionally preach as a guest speaker.

    So I’ve been on both sides of the topic!

    One thing we did in our church was to have two different levels of honorarium for guest speakers.

    If they were an itinerant/missionary/faith ministry not on a salary from a church and thus more dependent on church’s generosity we gave them the top level honorarium. I think this is essential if we expect itinerant ministers to stay ‘on the road’.

    If they a pastor in a church on a salary we would give them the base level which was 20-30% less the top level.

    We would always cover travel and accommodation expenses and make sure there was a gift basket of treats in their hotel room when they arrived. Occasionally, we would also send flowers to the pastor’s wife if they were from out of town and going to be with us for a few days.

    We always endeavoured to err on the side of blessing and generosity.

    • Thank you, John! I am grateful for your input, and I appreciate you sharing your church’s system. It sounds like you treat your guests with much care.

  12. What you have suggested makes a lot of sense of Sunday pulpit guests, so I’m curious how you handle other ministry events such as a retreat.

    When I host retreats or other special events, I typically budget $1 per attendee per session rounded up to the nearest logical increment. Say if I had someone speaking 4 times in one weekend to a group of 200 attendees my formula would lead me to give an honorarium of $800 in addition to their transportation. If my budget permitted, I would likely round up to $1,000.

    What do you do?

    Also, if you have not seen this essay by John Stackhouse it is worth a read: http://www.johnstackhouse.com/fair-payment-for-speakers/

    • Great question. Retreats/conferences are different. A formulaic approach is more difficult with conference due to, not just attendance, but cost of attendance. The comparative/market rate approach is the most common approach. But I will chew on this for a while. Thank you for the question.

  13. Great article,
    In my 16 years of being an itinerant preacher in Northern, NJ… I could testify this formula defiantly isn’t the norm. From my experience this formula happened a couple of times, but most of the time the pastor that invites me to preach always have the congregation take up a love offering before or after the sermon… I never gave this much thought because I don’t preach for the money, I preach because God has a calling on my life… there’s also been times when I’ve been lead by the Holy Spirit to not accept the offerings…

    this article was very insightful, I now have something to go by when God calls me to pastor a congregation…

  14. As a Pastor who is bi-vocational I agree to some degree with a formula approach to giving however, even as a smallish church, we always err on the side of generosity but we don’t provide an honorarium. We receive an offering for our guest speakers instead. Of course, we cover all other expenses and a meal allowance. It works for us and we tend to have consistent crowds and giving towards guest speakers. I guess growing up in a pastors home allowed me to see the small amount of money that most preachers live on and encouraged me to be generous toward other preachers.

  15. Art,
    Great article addressing a very timely subject in an extremely helpful and practical manner. Many of the situations which I am familiar with involve both Sunday morning service(s) and Sunday evening. Any thoughts on that particular scenario?

  16. Appreciate the discussion on what can be a sensitive subject to some. I preached last Sunday in a small church while their pastor was visiting family members in another city. I received $150.00 for leading worship and preaching,and my wife played the piano and sang. We drove a little over three hours round trip.
    Because the church was small I actually did not expect to receive any compensation and really had agreed to the appointment just to help out a fellow minister.
    Guess what I’m saying is that to me there are those times when money isn’t a factor,and there are other times when it can be depending on the circumstances.

  17. Wow! I need to set my salary by what I pay my guests.

    Does this apply to guests I would invite to speak, but not in my absence? When I am out for vacation, conferences, or mission travel I have plenty of capable staff to speak and they appreciate the opportunity without additional pay.

    I never give less than $1000 and quite often $1500 to $2000 for one service, and we cover all travel expenses you mentioned in addition. The metric you offer would calculate just over $500. I actually have some not pleased with $1000. I don’t mean they say rude things but you can tell by their demeanor they are not pleased. Often these are guests who asked to come and share with our congregation. Strangely they never ask again or if I call them their calendars are always “full.”

    How do you handle those who want a “love offering” and want to receive their own offering?

    Great article and great discussion.

    • We are very similar to your situation. We are a smaller church but often times are very generous to guest speakers and worship leaders. However there have been a few times where we paid the guest pastor more that what we pay our pastors (they are bi-vo) in a week and they were not pleased. We even had one ask if we could add a little bit to it. Frustrating at times. But most guest speakers are more than thankful for a gracious honorarium.

  18. Thom, I would just add the consideration that there may be a different church on his calendar that won’t prioritize taking care of his needs. We try to go over and above in honorariums after hearing stories of churches who do little to take care of the visiting preacher. God blesses generosity and traveling preachers typically live out a greater dependence upon God for finances.

  19. God has sent me to preach in small poor churches and many times I send between $50.00 to $100.00 to go and come back home small poor churches don’t make much money, but when God my father tells me to go I get up and go knowing that I will not get paid, no meals no money just altos of love from the church members. I preach in small churches in Texas and all over Mexico, when I get home I thank God that I don’t depend on man I put my faith in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In today time pastors should worry more on spreading Gods word and saving lost souls and moreover depending on God. I have and it work, He knows my daily needs always

  20. I just received an honorarium that I felt was extravagant. I was so unnerved by it, that I searched for guidelines on the internet and found this article. Thanks. I also called a pastor friend who is more experienced as a guest speaker than I am. He said receive it as a generous token from the Lord’s people.

    Based on this article and what my friend said, I know that we will be more generous in the future with those who minister as guests in our church.

  21. I do not know whether it’s just me or if everybody else encountering issues with your website. It appears as though some of the text on your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please comment and let me know if this is happening to them too? This might be a issue with my internet browser because I’ve had this happen previously. Appreciate it|

  22. I got what you intend, appreciate it for posting .Woh I am pleased to find this website through google. “Spare no expense to make everything as economical as possible.” by Samuel Goldwyn.

  23. Financially, there is a significant difference between inviting a speaker that is either employed full-time, whether a fellow pastor or one in the marketplace, and a minister whose full-time endeavor is itinerate. When my wife and I followed God’s instructions to step away from our pastorate position thirteen years ago, we specifically asked Him how we were to address the financial aspect of this full-time call. After considerable prayer, we felt God gave us three instructions: 1. Go where I open a door. 2. Request a love-offering to be received at the close of the service. 3. Do not make finances a criterion for ministry. We have followed this pattern.

    Something we noticed is that as long as our host churches were willing to receive a love-offering, God addressed our needs, but whenever we would begin to receive honorariums, we fell behind quickly.

    If a church addresses the issue of how much to pay a guest minister only from a budgetary standpoint, especially in smaller churches (which make up the majority of our ministry), it is unlikely that the small church will be able to meet the financial needs of that guest because those responsible are forced to view the situation through the lens of what they have in the bank. What may well be considered a generous ‘day’s pay’ seldom equates to a sufficient ‘week’s pay.’ I don’t mean this to sound like a complaint, but from the standpoint of one who is ‘in the trenches,’ I consider this to be a serious issue. I realize fully the desire on the part of the leadership of a church to be wise regarding their responsibilities as adjudicators of the church finances, but almost any formula brought to the table helps only those churches that have become overly protective of their money. Those who have learned to be givers are eager to bless…they are also, typically, very blessed churches.

    We puzzled for a couple of years about the Lord’s instructions to us regarding love-offerings and we have come to a few conclusions: 1. When a pastor asks his congregation to ‘minister’ to the guest according to how God has spoken into their lives through the ministry of the guest, it is God who takes on the responsibility of seeing that the minister receives what he/she needs. As one guest minister we hosted at our small fellowship told me after receiving a quite small offering from our church simply because our church was hardly able to pay its bills…and my wife and I had no extra money to add…and I was profusely apologetic for two days, “Rod, shut up! [:-)] It is not your responsibility to make sure I receive a certain amount of money. That is God’s responsibility. You didn’t hire me…God did. I asked you for a love-offering and you have followed through. Now let’s watch God do the rest.” It is a lesson that has saved us from endless days of frustration and worry. 2. When a congregation is given he opportunity to give, or perhaps even better, “sow” into a ministry, those who give also participate in the on-going Kingdom fruit of that ministry. It’s not even arguable. When a church complies with the request for a love-offering, it is honoring God’s “call” on the life of the guest minister. To be clear, especially for full-time itinerates, we hold God’s call on our lives every bit as dearly as any pastor. That also goes for the instructions He has given us. There are many times when we have felt a host pastor does not consider our call with the same weight as his own.

    Having been now on both sides of the pastor/evangelist fence, I believe there are a couple of truths often missed regarding generosity toward a guest minister. 1. Though I have had pastors tell me that they NEVER receive a second offering in a service because they are worried it might offend someone, we have NEVER been in a church where we felt it was an even remote possibility. Personally, I believe it is an unfounded fear. It also stems, I believe, from that pastor’s inability or refusal to teach his congregation how to be generous. We have received remarkable offerings from very small churches and what could be called stingy honorariums from large churches. 2. A love-offering received at the close of a service accomplishes does not impact the budget of a church at all. Whatever came through the door of the church that morning or evening intending to be given to the church has already been placed in the tithes/offerings collection. I have often told a pastor who seemed somewhat concerned about this to simply not mention the love-offering at all during the service because we are not interested in taking from the tithes of any fellowship hosting us. I realize there are pastors who disagree with me on this, but I am unconvinced by their arguments. To conduct an itinerate ministry involves more money than most congregants would imagine. In our situation, those expenses have not, thus far, included providing us a salary.

    I apologize for the length of this post, but please know that we love what God has asked us to do. None of the above is a complaint, but it is an observation. Our challenge to churches who tend to be protective of their bank accounts, or who make presumptions about the bank accounts of their congregants, are not doing their fellowship any favors when it comes to discovering the incredible, generous heart of the One they serve.

  24. I have to admit that I struggle with “a week’s pay” for one service. Plus there are often airfares, hotels, and meals to include. They expect (and it is our practice) to take care of that in addition to the offering/honorarium. I too was an itinerant preacher, but we were doing week long meetings preaching 7 times in a week. I think some should consider other enterprises (tentmaking) to supplement. Often they ask for more than I make. I put in 60-70 hours a week. They fly in preach and fly home. They don’t have to carry the financial burden of the church. My church is one of the most generous there is. Our per capita giving is off the charts. We give more to missions and outreach than most churches our size have in their entire budget.

    I also have issues with those who speak of the “office of the evangelist” and want me to feel some Biblical obligation to recognize them. There is no “office” of the evangelist in Scripture. When I have a guest, it typically is for a focused purpose not just a general speaker to do what he wants. I think the church world has changed and we have to recognize that. That being said, I seldom if ever send a guest speaker away with less than $1500-2000 for a Sun. a.m. service. So I’m not stingy. We are a church that averaged 230 in Sun. Worship last year.