Should I Charge for Speaking Engagements?

After all the discussion in the comments of the last post about money and ministry, I thought I’d better tackle the topic!

Here’s the issue in a nutshell:

if speaking is a ministry, should we charge for it?

People come down on both sides of this argument, and I don’t want to argue that one is necessarily right. What I do want to do is throw some thoughts out there and start a discussion, because my dream for this website is that it be used as a resource for those beginning to speak; not that I have the final word on everything!

So, in no particular order, I present some of my thoughts on the issue:

1. We must always be open to God’s guidance

Because God is at the center of everything we do, we have to rely on His guidance for our ministry. That means that there may be times that we don’t charge. Corrie ten Boom, for instance, felt very clearly called never to charge a cent. She survived just on what churches gave her, and lived a very modest life. Many great heroes of the faith did similar things.

We are a business, but we aren’t solely a business. At times, even if we do normally charge, we may choose to forego the money so that we simply speak for Him. If we’re never open to that, then we’re shutting the door on God. So money can never be the absolute deciding factor.

2. Many speakers rely on their income to meet their budget

At the same time, many of us who speak rely on that speaking income to live. We can’t do things for free, and Scripture says that “the worker deserves his wages”.

In addition, when I speak it takes a lot of time. I have hours of preparation and prayer, and usually I’m driving at least two hours one way. That’s most of a day gone, and often a whole weekend. That’s a day I’m not spending with my children. A day I’m not spending with my husband. A day I’m not volunteering at church.

If speakers were never to be paid, it is unlikely that people would continue to work as hard as many speakers do. They simply can’t afford that much time away from their families unless there is also some kind of a reward. Many speakers that I know, for instance, are the second income earners in their families. Their money funds the family vacation, or the trailer, or the family outings and dinners out. Their income builds their families.

3. Most ministries do charge

Very few ministries today are free. At the very least, they have to cover their costs. As a speaker, I have costs in maintaining a website; travel time; creating promotional materials; and maintaining a home office. But I also have the opportunity costs of the things that I could be doing with my time that I’m not doing. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with transferring these costs onto the church that is asking you to speak.

4. If you don’t charge, you often aren’t as valued.

It’s sad, but true. People value what they pay for. They don’t value what is free. If the church has paid, they will expect that what you say will be meaningful, insightful, and practical. If they don’t pay, they also may not be spiritually preparing for the event to the same extent. I know this doesn’t sound like a fair assessment, but many ministries that I have been a part of find that they have better success in the long term offering paid events than free events. People take the paid events more seriously, and are more likely to try to remember the message and apply it. It’s not seen as entertainment as much as it is seen as something meaningful, relevant, and valuable.

The same thing happens on an organizational level. If a church has to put budget money towards an event, they are more likely to put prayer and effort into getting people out to the event. They want to make it as worthwhile as possible. If they didn’t sacrifice for it, it is, ironically, harder to get volunteers to staff it and to build enthusiasm for the event.

5. When established speakers charge, we actually make room for other speakers to gain experience.

That may sound counterintuitive, but let me explain what I mean.

I’ve found lately as my schedule has filled up that charging is one way that I can decide which engagements to take. Does this mean I always say no to engagements that don’t pay? Of course not. But we also have to think about it this way.

I am an established speaker. Churches will pay for me. On the other hand, some churches won’t pay for speakers who aren’t established. So let’s imagine that there’s a speaker out there whom we’ll call Susie Beginner. Susie is a gifted speaker, but she doesn’t have a lot of experience, and she doesn’t have many marketing materials.

Church A is looking for a speaker for a particular weekend. They have 90 women coming, and are willing to pay, and expect a good speaker. Church B has 25 women, and isn’t willing to pay. Let’s say that I take the engagement from Church B. Church A won’t hire Susie Beginner because they know little about her. So Church A hires someone from out of province or out of state, spending way more money than they wanted to. And Susie Beginner doesn’t get a chance to build up her own credentials and gain some much needed experience. If I took the engagement at Church A, on the other hand, and gave Church B Susie’s name, chances are they would hire Susie, and all would be well.

When established speakers don’t charge, I think we crowd out the field and don’t allow beginners to move up. That’s not always a good thing. As I said, there still are times when I don’t charge, but that really depends on nudging from God.

So what do you think? Should we speak for free? There are always going to be times when God is going to lead us in that direction. But is it wrong to ask for money? Absolutely not. We are providing a valuable service, that is also costing us money. That should be acknowledged and taken into consideration when we are hired.

Now, those are my thoughts. Please share yours, and don’t be afraid to disagree!

My audio download, Treating Speaking as a Business, goes into detail about how applying business principles makes us more effective for the kingdom of God.

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12 Responses

  1. GREAT thoughts and necessary to bring out into the open. Personally I believe it really depends on the reason you’re asked to speak. If it is a seminar, conference, or other presentation then charging is not out of the question. A Sunday service, rarely do I even accept the offering, and many times depending upon the situation give it back as a love gift to the church.

    The reason for the engagement … directs me. [and yes, the Holy Spirit]

  2. I personally feel that the church requesting you to speak should provide your transportation, food, and housing while you’re there and they should take a love offering after you speak. I also think it would be beneficial for the church to send a gift package to the family to thank them for allowing the mom and wife to be gone for those days.

    • I like the idea of a love offering. It feels different than charging someone. Has anybody tried it this way so we know if we could cover our expenses?

  3. That’s an interesting thought about allowing others to begin speaking and gaining experience. It’s definitely different when we’re referring to speaking here in the U.S., as compared to ministering overseas.

  4. Thanks for this post. This is something that I have always struggle with. I know I need to have my expenses covered but then I always have a difficult time coming up with a dollar amount for all of my time invested in the research, studying and writing that I have given to my talks.

    This was very helpful, thank you.

  5. It took me along time to begin feeling comfortable charging to speak. I always took a love offering but wouldn’t give the church a specific amount that I would take. Most churches / event planners want to know what you expect to earn. They do not have a problem with paying you for your time, energy and expenses. It has been a good step to take in charging a specific amount.

  6. What’s the best way to go about setting your speaker’s fees for one session and then for a retreat when you’re first starting out? What’s a fair fee to charge?

  7. [...] I want to revisit a few other themes and pick up where we left off. First, if you’re wondering whether it’s right to set fees at all, read this post. [...]

  8. This Is a topic I am praying about now. When I first came to Christ one of the
    major problems I saw with church is that sacred things had a price tag.
    If jesus were here today would he sell wooden crosses,photos of himself,holy water? would Jesus as for an offering after helaid hand on you?
    Would Jesus preach a prosperity message.
    Would the deciples print up individual copies of their testimonies about their experiences with Christ? Would the deciples paste their picture on the cover and sell each individual Gospel for $19.99
    I am praying about this because I have returned to my faith and have written quite a bit about my wilderness experiences.
    I also write poetry and prose praising God and our Lord and I intend to share it freely until I hear futher from the Lord. For Jesus said freely you have recieved,freely give.
    But as Paul says,”a workman is worthy of his wages,and if we preach the Gospel we should eat of the Gospel.
    But mega churches not only collect large donations they also sell books. where do we draw theline??

  9. Why has it become a $ sign, with doing things for the Lord. If God is directing, then you can trust that He WILL SUPPLY your needs. I was a Pastor’s wife for 42 years. And when God led my husband into full time ministry, we both quit our public jobs, and put our trust in God’s words, “HE Will take care of you”. and He has taken care of me even 10 years after the death of my husband.. We never lack of one thing that we NEEDED.

  10. Got thoughts and thank you for sharing. Asked to speak at a conference or seminar is OK to charge and probably expected. Speaking at a church service to me is a different story and situation. If you are called to speak to God’s people then He will give you the message and provide for your needs. Yes there are costs involved but if you are doing it for Him and and not for an income, He will provide the needs to help with your costs involved.

    Be Blessed,
    Bill

  11. Hi my name is Pastor Perez I m a author of the books The sixth Sense Fear and Just Believe. I put in my last two book where you can contact me for speaking engagements and I ask specifically not to ask me how much my Honorarium is. I do not believe in honorariums I believe it hinders the movment of the Holy Spirit. If I am speaking in the United States and the church has the funds I would let them pay for travel and hotel. But when I go to Haiti or Colombia I pick up the tab it cost about 1,000 dollars everytime I go but it is worth every cent and the Holy Spirit move like you never seen before healing and braking addictions. God Bless and have a good day.

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