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.
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.