What is a Guest Ministry Worth?

For Independent Christian Music Artists, Speakers and Authors and the Churches and Christian Organizations who book them.

Balancing ministry and good business stewardship.

“Defining the coins from the treasures.”

I’ve heard it said that Christian artists need to learn to be “tent makers”, like Paul the apostle was. Although it’s only alluded to once in scripture, [Acts 18:3] Paul was able to earn an income sewing tents while he was in between churches, on the road and as he was ministering from church to church. It is also important to note that the church also took care of the apostles where ever they ministered. They were also sent away with “provision”. This is because they were valued by those who received ministry. [2 Corinthians 8]

Today, there are a number of other things that influence an artist’s honorarium and what the church has set in a budget to pay for special music guests and speakers. This should always be discussed with the church/pastor or organization. For the artist or speaker; when you agree to accept a ministry engagement, then you must also be aware of the church’s budget. When a church has a set budget that can be considered a low honorarium, this does not mean that within the church, the people are as “set” as the church budget. In the past, one of our artists accepted ministry engagements for as low as $150.00 [plus expenses/gas/accommodations etc] and in the end, they had been blessed with over $1000.00 of funds from various sources, merchandise sales and people’s generosity.

It is true that Christian music artists and speakers come from all different places. Some work full time, at a “day job” and pay for their Cd recordings out of their own pocket. Some solely focus on ministry and have to rely on the generosity of those who believe in their ministry, for donations, in addition to love offerings and a church’s honorarium.

So what are you worth? As an artist/speaker/author, if you have a dependable full time “day job” and have paid for your own merchandise out of your own pocket, then you, the artist should of course expect to benefit from the personal investment in your ministry. As the artist or speaker, you can of course work out an agreement with those who book you, regarding an honorarium, expenses and other details. However, a guest music artist or speaker cannot cross the line, where it may create hardship for the organization or a church’s budget. The first priority is to be a blessing and minister to a crowd of people. If you’re an artist who has a regular income from a “day job”, and your financial expectations for an honorarium place them in a restricted budget or at a loss, then you are taking from someone else, in order to play on a platform. This has been something that we’ve heard from many artists after they accept an invitation. As the date approaches, there has been a financial struggle with the organization or the event. If you are already provided for, with a regular “day job”, then you should not have a “need” that is so great, that such financial demands should be placed on those who book you. However, in every case, expenses and on the road provisions, mileage, accommodations, etc., should be taken care of by some sort of agreement, regardless of how great or how little the honorarium is.

The independent Christian artist or speaker who focuses daily on ministry and music operations without a “day job”, will approach bookings differently. If this is your scenario, setting an honorarium guide as a “standard” helps those who book you, to know that you run an efficient ministry, that includes being a steward of the business details. Whether you are a “tent maker” or a full time artist, you’re worth your hire, but there is more flexibility with funding and honorarium needs, if you are a “tent maker” artist.

Setting an Honorarium Guide

For the church and the artist/speaker that is wondering, “What is the going rate for an independent guest speaker or artist?” There is a “rule of thumb”. This formula is used by some churches to calculate a final figure. Keep in mind that this is a “starting point” and may vary from region to region across the country.

You start with 5% of the senior pastor’s yearly salary and add a gratuity of $250.00 plus mileage/expenses. This would be applied to every session that a guest artist/speaker is booked by the organization or church, as you can see below in the example.

For a speaker alone, here is a hypothetical example for calculating a “starting” figure :

Pastor’s salary (includes housing allowance): $60,000
Number of services: 2
Guest’s honorarium: $60,000 x .5% = $300 x 2 services = $600
plus a gratuity [self employment pension/benefits etc] $250.00
Total= $850.00 – as well as mileage, meals and accommodations

This amount would resemble a paycheck before deductions, taking into consideration that the artist/speaker has taken at least a week’s worth of time preparing for the event/church service. Using this formula will allow churches to be generous without compromising stewardship.

Artists and speakers with 1 Cd or book can start at around $350.00 -$450.00 [plus expenses]

Artists and speakers who have multiple products, traveling regionally or abroad can set honorarium guides starting at $500.00 – $850.00.

The bottom rate is a little higher for guest artists and speakers because the overhead of printing, licensing, time spent in studio, recording costs ect., are weighed into the honorarium.

If the guest is a group with multiple members, such as a singing group, the honorarium should be raised to allow for each group member. Using the above calculation method as a guide, can help to reach an appropriate and agreed honorarium between all parties involved.

The Treasure

Church’s notes below

Artists/Speakers: The talent and time of course is appreciated, but more so, the calling and deep longing for ministry work is a sense of confirmation. God can use money to bless the ministry and the fruit of that ministry but our calling is never determined by money. It’s ok to say “no” to an invitation. If the invitation does not fit your calling, please say “no.”  For Artists, frequently, we have said “no” to ministry engagements because of scheduling conflicts. For artists, it is ok to do the same if the offer can cause significant harm to your family’s finances. If saying “yes” puts your utility bill payment at risk, you can politely decline, unless you are moved by the Lord, to step out in faith and accept the invitation.

You’re expectations can define the value of your ministry as well. You may have heard the phrase, “Those who see themselves as entitled to nothing, become grateful for everything.” Many studies show that a person’s satisfaction level is frequently tied to their expectation level. This can be seen in relationships, marriages, job responsibilities, and finances. If you choose to say “yes” to a church, do it without expectation. Remember, you are motivated by a calling, not financial gain. Find satisfaction in receiving an opportunity to exercise your gift and calling.

For the Church: “A servant is worth his hire”. This is a common quote from scripture that is frequently used in this type of scenario. Often, having a guest speaker or artist for free decreases the “value” as though it was something that you didn’t have to “invest in”. It’s important to remember that many of these artists and speakers have to make a living from guest ministry engagements and appearances. In 99.9% of cases, full time artists/speakers don’t have the government collecting a retirement deduction or Unemployment Insurance from their honorariums and so they have to put this aside themselves, in addition to covering their own merchandise expenses and depreciation of equipment. Often, artists will use their merchandise sales to put back into replenishing their merchandise, whether it’s a new book, new Cd or reprints of the current product. Merchandise sales are not considered income for artists who want to keep their inventory and ministry growing. These artists and speakers who invests funds into their products cannot be expected to take low honorariums. While the church expects the recording and band/sound tracks to have a high standard of quality, an artist cannot keep this standard going unless he or she receives an honorarium that reflects kindly. Make it a special occasion or not so frequent, to have a special guest artist/speaker, so that it highlights a sense of “occasion” for your event.

For churches and organizations etc., consider carefully that the artist/speaker fits your people or audience. Definitely say no, if the artist is not a good fit for the occasion that you have in mind. When you invite a guest to minister to your people, consider it as an investment in the guest’s ministry, as well an investment in the lives of your audience/congregation. This is where the blessing and the treasure truly is, for both artist/speaker and the people.

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