10 Guidelines for Paying and Hosting Guest Speakers and Musicians

Money can be an awkward issue for churches and guest speakers.

It’s the issue both parties consider; but it’s often the issue around which both parties tiptoe.

It should not be that way. It’s really a matter of biblical stewardship and hospitality. Over the years, I have worked with many churches and speakers (and a few musicians) to establish some guidelines for hosting and paying guest speakers. Keep in mind, these are guidelines, not rigid rules. There will always be reasons for exceptions.

  1. Pay with a generous spirit. As your church is able, try to abound in generosity to the guest speakers and musicians. Art Rainer actually developed a formula for paying guest preachers specifically. I think his approach is a good starting point for guest preachers. There will be differences for conference leaders, musicians, and others.
  2. Ask the guest speaker for expectations for pay. Don’t be shy to ask guest speakers if they have specific fees or payment guidelines. There is no need to tiptoe around this matter.
  3. Pay promptly. Your church should have the check waiting when the speaker arrives. Get the W-9 form and travel expense reimbursement form completed ahead of time as often as possible. You should never tell a speaker you will get a check to him later after he has completed his engagement with you.
  4. Cover all travel expenses. Those expenses would include airfare or mileage reimbursement, rental car, meals, and lodging. There is nothing wrong with being clear about what level of expenses you will reimburse, such as coach fare instead of first-class.
  5. Provide reasonable accommodations. Most speakers do not like to stay in homes. They are often on the road a good bit and prefer the freedom of being in a hotel and not making up their own beds or engaging the hosts in long conversations.
  6. Inform the speaker ahead of time. Tell them clearly what the honorarium or fee and travel reimbursement will be on the front end of conversations with them. Outlining these details in writing is also helpful for both parties. Don’t leave the speaker wondering about it after he or she has accepted the invitation.
  7. Consider the implications of the engagement from the perspective of the speaker. From the church’s perspective, the engagement could be as brief as a 45-minute speaking assignment. But from the speaker’s perspective, he may have to be gone two days from his family due to travel time. Be generous from that perspective.
  8. Avoid scope creep and add-ons. Scope creep means you ask the speaker for additional speaking spots after your initial invitation. The church or host often says, “Since you are going to be here anyway . . .” Add-ons refer to other groups trying to get the speaker to do engagements for them since the original host is paying the travel costs. The host church or host should ask for the specific commitment on the front-end and not add to it.
  9. Provide a specific point person as their contact and host. The speaker needs one person as the contact person for all aspects of the engagement, from travel arrangements to payments to sound checks to meeting them at the site of the engagement.
  10. Protect your church’s reputation. It does not take long for a church to get a bad reputation for how it treats speakers. Travel can be a wearying experience. The speaker needs to know the host has his or her best interests at heart.

Granted, these guidelines are written largely from the perspective of looking after the speaker. In a future post, I will address specific guidelines speakers and musicians should consider. In the meantime, let me hear your thoughts.

Posted on August 22, 2018

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • I’ve heard a lot of speakers over the years, and my preference is to leave the grilles off (as long as my nieces aren’t around!). I believe it helps me to achieve the most revealing sound from my speakers. To be fair, though, that’s the kind of sound I’m looking for, but that’s one of the great things about audio. Every person is affected differently by sound, and you should always follow what sounds best to your ears. No two ears are exactly alike, and thankfully, no two sets of speakers are alike, so try it both ways – grilles on and grilles off – and decide for yourself how you prefer to hear your music and movies.

  • Where in the New Testament does it say that a speaker should be paid. According to my reading of scripture if a member of the body has something of God to share they just share it without the expectation of getting paid. The getting cash for speaking to the church body only encourages more disingenuosity , of which there is so much already in the institutional church.

    • So Robert,I’m guessing you don’t subscribe to the “workman is worthy of his hire” concept?
      Living in a world where it takes money to survive,I’ve always found it necessary to have some when pulling into the gas station.

  • I always want our congregation to leave guest speakers with a desire to come back should we ask them again. We always set up hotel/dining/pay scale in advance just so expectations are clear. Personally, it also takes pressure off me as the host minister the more aspects are covered in advance. I do agree that each church needs their own policies and to be clear about them.

  • Churches need to take care of those ministers, missionaries, men and women of the gospel. That is a responsibility & duty. Don’t ever be cheap with a $25 Love Offering. Even if your church is 50 people. What an insult to God! What an insult to your guest! Sorry to be brutally honest!

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