I often am asked how to treat guest ministers. Today I will give some guidelines of guest ministers you bring to your church and how to be fair and ethical in your treatment of them.
First, let’s go to God’s Word for some guiding principles:
3 John 5-8 NLT
Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you.
They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God.
For they are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers.
So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.
Philippians 4:15 NLT
As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.
From these Scriptures, we get an idea of God’s heart on this matter of caring for guest and traveling ministers. Paul was grateful to the Philippians who provided him ample support, while none of the other churches cared for his financial needs. The Philippians received the amazing promise of a rich supply:
Philippians 4:19 NLT
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
I have many friends who travel in ministry, and I have heard some of their stories. Some churches bless them greatly; others seem to justify themselves in cheating them.
One guest minister was asked if he’d come for an urgent special event at a certain church the next Sunday. The minister was already booked elsewhere, so he called the pastor and explained that this other church seemed urgent about booking him for the special event. The pastor graciously encouraged the traveling minister to go to the special event and then rearranged his calendar and rebooked.
So, the traveling minister booked his flight, which at the last minute was over $700. He traveled to the city to minister in the church, checked into the hotel, using his credit card (another $300 for two nights). At the end of his ministry, the pastor handed him a check for $500 and thanked him for coming. The guest minister lost $500, plus the offering or honorarium he would have received at another church. Believe me; this created a memory.
Guidelines for Guest Ministers
I cannot speak for other churches, but here is how we handled it when I was pastor and this is what I teach all of our ministry students:
- If I believe God wants a particular minister at our church, it’s our responsibility to pay the expenses, the advertising, and all incidentals. This also includes travel, lodging, and food. That burden should not be on the guest minister.
It’s a good idea to set an annual budget of 8-11% of your general regular income for marketing and advertising special events throughout the year.
- Some guest minister’s pre-arrange an honorarium. When I was pastor, we didn’t receive a separate offering for guest ministers in the morning services. For morning services we always made arrangements on an honorarium basis.
- For evening services, we received the entire offering for the guest minister. We never subtracted expenses or so-called “administrative fees.” The guest was there to bless us, and we wanted to reciprocate by blessing him. And God always ended up blessing us for it.
- We always added more to the offering or honorarium from the general fund. We did this because traveling ministers typically have to take care of their own insurance matters and “pension” (IRA or 403b).
- Also, I agreed that in the event if we ever had to cancel a guest minister (which ended up being never), we would still pay them the arranged honorarium. It’s insensitive and even unconscionable to cancel a guest when he or she has already made plans. I realize there may be an emergency situation, but the church should still cover the traveling minister’s honorarium. When canceled, it puts a huge burden on the minister to find another place of ministry, change tickets, and a host of other inconveniences they will never tell you.
- In the event of a special conference, it is certainly fine to set a fee for each attendee to cover the costs of the conference. But, we never viewed a conference or seminar as merely a money-making venue. They were always designed to be a blessing to the attendees.
- At all times, I considered it the church’s responsibility to cover travel expenses, hotel expenses, meals, and any other expenses without deducting them from the guest minister’s honorarium or offering.
We never had any problem getting the very top guests to minister in our church. When we are like the Philippians were to Paul, we’ll find a real connection with the traveling minister’s ministry, and he or she will be telling others about your generosity everywhere.