Thursday, July 06, 2006

What's a sermon worth?

I have not officiated at a wedding in a long time. But in the next couple of months I'll be back doing some weddings again. In fact, since moving to Santa Barbara, I have not officiated at a funeral in almost a year. In Minneapolis I was involved in several funerals every month. I guess a lot has to do with the size of the church and the demographics. But, nonetheless, it's a big change.
I was asked by a bride-to-be what I charged for weddings? That's always been a tough question to answer. I do not "charge" for commmunion or baptism. It's part of my calling. I'm paid well and I consider weddings and funerals part of my pastoral protfolio of duties. But brides and grooms want to give an honorarium, so I've accepted them and used them for tuitions or special projects. In Minneapolis over my 13 years, the average was between $75 and $150 for a wedding. Sometimes, when a really struggling couple was involved, I would flat-out refuse the honorarium.
Once, when a couple asked me what they should give me, in a moment of whimsy, I said "Oh, pay me what you paid for the cake." Their eyes bugged out and they said "We couldn't afford that!" Hmmm. I guess my services rate below the cost of cake (much less bar-tab, limo, photographer or flowers).
But then, when I was talking to friends here in Santa Barbara, I heard that some pastors set their wedding fees at around $800 per wedding. Yikes! That's a lot of money, unless you compare it to the cost of the other services. But, are we just another service in the portfolio?
When I was on vacation this summer, we called in other pastors to preach in my absence and paid them honoraria. It was modest, and the amount I have received for pulpit supply in Minneapolis. When I once asked for a guest speaker to come in to speak, and I inquired about his honorarium, I was told it was around $1,000. That seemed high to me, given that we also picked up the cost of transportation and housing. But we paid it and he spoke to us several times and, in the end, it was a value for what we received. Then I heard about a church that held a major celebration banquet and brought in an outside speaker whose speaking fee was over $5,000 for one speach. Hello? What's this all about? What's a sermon worth? Where is servanthood? Where is stewardship? What is the mix between free market entrepreneurialism and reflecting the life of Jesus who values the poor? If I was offered $800 for a wedding, would I take it?


At 9:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great site loved it alot, will come back and visit again.

At 10:31 AM , Blogger Rick said...

It's a great question and one that we are having at our church right now as we are without a Sr. Pastor. It is challenging to determine the "market value" of preaching.

Just curious, what has been a standard range of supply preaching honorariums? We are a church of about 650 in the West.


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