WHAT THE HECK DO I PAY THAT GUY?

Honorariums … shhhh … don’t talk about them. But people still want to know “How much do you pay a guest preacher?” I see a pattern like: let it stress you out for a month, make the guest ask for it, be upset about what they ask, push back, land in the middle, have no comfortable conclusion, then do it again every time you have a guest preacher or coach.

This seems to be the cycle.

Except for those who have some level of confidence about their value. And even better, those with confidence AND experience with it. And best when there’s confidence, experience, and generosity all working together.

This post is not a prescription for how to appropriately value or pay a guest. But maybe if gives you a perspective shift or even just an initial “ah ha” moment to build your own process on.

Where to start on price:
  • Ask them “Do you have a particular fee or requirement for this engagement?”
    • If they say “yes” then you have clarity and only need to answer “Ok” or “nope.”
  • If they do not specify a fee, I think this is a helpful starting point (and good for you to consider as you budget):
    • Aim at 2x their weekly salary. And yep, you have to guess that. Just ballpark it (more details on that in a minute).
    • Determine if you want to host and cover their expenses or if you want them to just handle it all themselves. Are you a good host? Do you know what that means? Do you have a process already (more on this in a minute too)?
    • Consider what you’re paying for. Is it “buy the hour” sort of thing? If you’re bringing in a preacher then no way, it’s not a hourly thing.  You’re paying them for the wisdom of their last 20 years, not the two 30-minute sermons they’re preaching. If you have a hard time justifying $2-5000 for a weekend preacher, you’re cheap in the wrong kind of way.
The aforementioned ballparks for guest preachers:
  • Assume senior pastors and execs of churches 2500+ make $90-150k/yr. That’s a big spread, I know. But it’s a free country, there’s little oversight in churches, greed is still a real thing, and value assessment requires humility and math skills that are increasingly rare.
    • A well known senior pastor of a church of 10,000+ in Houston makes $130,000 (I know that for a fact). I know pastors of churches less than 1000 who make more than that. Right or wrong? Irrelevant. You’re not at those churches, you’re just responsible for compensating the guest you want to bring in.
    • So let’s say that salary is $2500/wk. Double that. Not crazy for a preacher/exec from a 10,000+ church to get $5000 to preach your 2-4 services, leave his family for 2 nights, and loan you in a few days what took him 20 years to acquire.
  • Assume senior pastors and execs of churches 500-2000 make $75-110,000/yr. So let’s say that $2000/wk. Double that. Not crazy to pay a proven church planter-now-senior pastor of 10 years $4000 to preach and share real life anecdotes and encouragement from the front lines.
  • NO, this is not a perfect science. Again, some people take waaaaaay too much salary for having done very little. I can’t help that but I can keep myself from paying them an honorarium of $8000. That’s just cute they even ask for it. Especially for me having sat in green rooms with them and knowing where some actually come from. I can’t roll my eyes big enough or keep the laughs in when I hear some of those guy’s requests.
  • And yes, I know there’s a “salary guide” out there. But if you have that book then you’ve seen the massive spreads between those salaries. That book isn’t perfect science either, it’s just a collection of numbers.
  • I’m just providing a logical ballpark here to start with. Go up 25% or down 25%, no big deal. But never just throw a dart at the wall. You’ll waste money or you’ll offend a good potential asset to your church.
  • When in doubt, just ask them and be ok being wrong. Then be ok saying no. And be ok if they say no. I promise they’re not that essential to your success. If you think they are, you’re actually the bigger problem for your church.
What about expenses? Good question:
  • One optionthey can pay for them. This is easiest to manage. Just send them a single check for $5000 and they cover their stuff on their own. They can stay in the Ritz or the LaQuinta. Totally up to them. This is relatively simple but can backfire sometimes…
    • I can tell you more than a few stories of overpaid talent (preachers and especially worship artists) who can’t be on time, who can’t make a flight, who can’t set an alarm clock, who can’t rent a car, and can’t use a GPS. It’s happened multiple times. Just be aware of that.
  • Another optionthey buy, you reimburse. This is helpful so we can see what we’re paying for. Also helpful for them personally since travel and expenses vary from place to place and event to event. For me, my coaching fee is generally the same but expenses in Florida are cheaper than in Colorado. With this option you still want to be clear of some guidelines. Don’t say “send me a bill” or some will send you a bill from the Ritz. Or my favorite stories come from the divas who need BMW SUVs as their rental cars. Or they need a “sermon prop” that costs $300. Or my fav, the hype guys who need you to cover their entourage and their preaching outfit. Bro, no. Just stop it. We’ll not have you in and just watch the TV special on your financial and marriage collapse. Sad, yes, but real? Yep.
  • Last optionYou pay a flat fee and handle all hosting. Elevation used to do this better than anywhere else in the world (no, I haven’t been everywhere in the world but you know what I mean). Cover the hotel, what’s in the hotel room, petty cash, driver, secondary host, gifts for the family you’re leaving behind, research into diet restrictions, strive to accommodate your fitness and personal routines, and much more. At Elevation you don’t need to rent a car and don’t want to after you get to preach there. Before you say “Well they have a big budget” remember that this was a standard before the money. Standards LEAD to bigger budgets, not the other way around. Excellence doesn’t have a price, it has a cost. Costs like effort, thinking, preparing, more thinking, selfless service, generosity, and more effort.  This is the option, though, that makes you remarkable. And keeps people wanting to come back just to be with you whether you pay or not.  And this is the option that spreads your reputation to others.

I can help. Don’t make this weird. I realize it’s not something everyone knows or likes to discuss. But I’ve been there, seen it, paid it, charged it, laughed at the bad ones, got plenty of stories of the good ones, and can help you maximize the dollar and the relationships.

Get on my calendar. Let’s build a process and system that scales with you and saves your fortune will building a good network of friends and ministry partners.