There is no prescribed manual for all ministers on the right protocol for receiving other ministry income such as weddings, funerals, revivals, and conferences. Some denominations or judicatories have very specific guidelines. A few churches have their own guidelines as well. But most do not. That is why ministers frequently ask questions related to other ministry income.
First, let me say clearly that there is not just one way to deal with ministry income. In most cases, there is no right or wrong. What I have done is talked with dozens of ministers and devised “best practices.” You certainly have much flexibility with these practices.
Second, all ministry income as taxable and should be reported, typically on Schedule C. Some ministers argue that it is gift income and is therefore exempt from taxation. The IRS is clear, however, that this income is earned in the course of your work and is thus subject to taxation.
Best Practice #1: It is okay to accept other ministry income.
You have earned this income by conducting a funeral, officiating a wedding, or speaking somewhere beyond your church. You had to prepare extra work. You sometimes had to give up your weekends, particularly with weddings. It is one extra assignment to a schedule that is already busy.
Best Practice #2: It is generally advisable not to set fees.
Leave the amount that you will receive to those you are serving. Sure, that means you will sometimes receive very little and other times receive nothing. But you are already receiving a salary from your church. Fee setting typically sends the wrong message.
Best Practice #3: Be willing to do these services for nothing.
There will be some situations where the family or organization has very little financial means. Accept the reality that a certain number of your weddings, funerals, and speaking engagements will result in no outside income. For example, civic organizations and schools rarely will pay someone to speak. And there will be times that it is obvious the family or person cannot pay. Graciously decline any offers they make, and be grateful for the opportunity to minister to them.
Best Practice #4: Always express gratitude for anything you receive.
I know a few pastors who take a few minutes to write a brief handwritten note every time the receive a honorarium or stipend. That is a class act that should be emulated by others.
Best Practice #5: Do not anticipate other ministry income in your budget.
Other ministry income is unpredictable, uneven, and usually modest in amount. Do not build your financial lifestyle predicting these funds. Decide ahead of time how that money will be used and stick to it. Some ministers put it toward retirement. Some put it toward special savings accounts for items like automobiles. Some put it aside for their children’s college fund. Some use it to pay down extra principal on debt. And some give the funds to their spouses for extra spending money.