“Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.” (Luke 10:7)

This month’s ministry manners blog will address the elephant in the room . . . honorariums. This topic is such a sensitive one to talk about. After all, should ministers be paid to preach the gospel? Are we not servants of our master Jesus Christ? We should serve the Lord without the expectation of earthly rewards, and in some cases this is true. However, Jesus spoke on issues of hospitality and humility in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus said, “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.”

There are several matters of preaching etiquette that can be gleaned from this text. First of all, the messenger is to be offered hospitality, which clearly includes lodging and meals. Second, and noteworthy, the preacher is encouraged to be a gracious guest. The guest is to be content with the hospitality that is offered. The focus should not be on the personal needs of the messenger but on the advancement of the kingdom. Third, the messenger is not to move around from house to house (weighing which engagements are financially better) seeking better accommodations. Finally, the laborer deserves to be paid (“check, please!”)

Ministers who preach the gospel must spend a great amount of time in sermon preparation, including research, exegetical work, and the capacity to be still and listen to God’s still small voice for direction. The great African-American preacher, Dr. Gardner C. Taylor once said, “Preparation time is as essential for a pastor as for any other professional. If a surgeon is operating the next day, and he or she is invited to a party and says, ‘Well, I can’t come, I’m in surgery in the morning,’ everybody would understand. If a major league baseball pitcher were pitching tomorrow he’d say, ‘Well, I’m pitching.’ But if someone said, ‘Well, I have to preach tomorrow,’ many church people would think, ‘So What?’”

Preaching engagements also involve travel, time spent away from family, and personal expense. Therefore, it is just good preaching etiquette to offer hospitality to a guest ministers. So what does that look like?

First of all, the sensitive matter of honoraria needs to be addressed during the invitation phase. The host church/pastor should inform the guest preacher of the expectations of the service, the theme of the service (if there is one), assess any travel needs, and by all means, address the honorarium up front! (Need a guide for determining an appropriate honorarium? Check out my new book, Manners and Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette!)

Second, the honorarium for preaching should be presented to the guest minister once the service is rendered. If for some reason the honorarium will mailed to the guest preacher following the speaking engagement, this should be communicated during the invitation phase. In some instances, reimbursement for travel may be a separate check sent to the guest minister following the engagement. However good preaching etiquette required that the honorarium be presented to the minister immediately following the worship service or event.

Finally, value the work of the minister. Consider the time she has spent in sermon preparation, travel, and her ministry experience/credentials, and welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints.

I love to preach the gospel! On occasion, I have refused to accept an honorarium for various reasons. Yet, I have also traveled great distances, paid my own travel expenses, spent numerous hours in sermon preparation and significant time away from my daughter only to leave a preaching engagement empty handed. Good preaching etiquette values the preaching ministry, communicates the honorarium when the invitation is made, and provides a fair honorarium to the minister immediately following the preaching engagement. So please, do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain. Check, please!

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton.