Am I Being Shrewd or Stingy?

What is the difference between being shrewd and being stingy when securing services?

Many years ago I spearheaded a conference for youth. A musician friend, I’ll call John, agreed to travel with his family to lead the worship. He was FANTASTIC! His talented presence set an awesome tone that united youth groups from across the city.

The weekend was life changing for youth and adults alike. God was glorified. And I learned a big lesson. Price doesn’t equal value.

I thought I was being a good steward for the church and the conference. Too late, I realized I’d been inconsiderate of this major contributor. Let me explain.

John asked only that we cover his expenses. The speaker had suggested we bring in a band to draw students and celebrate after the conference. The singing duo cost more than the total price for John, the speaker, and the food. Our church chipped in to keep the cost down for the students.

By the time the conference ended everyone was spiritually high and physically exhausted. In hindsight, we didn’t need the band. I share this because if I’d realized the value John and the speaker would bring, I would have skipped the concert and gladly paid these men the difference.

This is an example of a problem I’ve seen repeated in various ways. Some of the same people who expect to pay for a restaurant meal or entertainment expect gifted professionals to share their life-changing services for a nominal fee or at no charge. On the other side, many in ministry are reluctant to ask a fair price for their services.

I’ve been on both sides of this: the one coordinating a conference and the one retained to serve. There are times it’s appropriate to contribute our gifts and time and accept other’s offerings. But we should expect to compensate those whose ministries are their livelihood.

As one in vocational ministry, I’ve often chickened out on setting a fee and hoped for the best. Even though I’ve been surprised by the generosity of some, I’ve learned you can’t count on that. Too often, Christian workers are dishonored by their honorariums.

I now realize, that was partly my fault. Those booking me had no clue how their groups would benefit or how much time and energy it took to deliver what they requested. I remember one coordinator averting her eyes when she handed me my check. She seemed to feel like I had with the worship leader: I wish I’d known. We’d have budgeted more for you.

When the church at Corinth didn’t value Paul’s work, he corrected their thinking. “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” (See 1 Corinthians 9:7-11).

Some questions to consider:

  • What hinders me from showing generosity to those who’ve “sown spiritual things”?
  • How should those in ministry be supported for their work?
  • How can I materially support those who have spiritually supported me, my family, and community?
As my view of God expands so does my generosity. Click To Tweet

Remember, the Lord Jesus Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 NASB). As a child of a generous God, I want to be gracious in serving and with those who effectively serve the body and me.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. I also welcome hearing questions and topics you’d like me to address sometime.

Click here to comment.


Debbie W. Wilson

Linking with: #LivefreeThursday,




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  1. Erin Robison

    Debbie, I love your points about how important it is to pay the workers a fair wage. My father has been the CFO of a non-profit foundation for over 30 years. And for most of those years he has talked about the mistake non-profits make in not paying their people well. It’s such a shame that organizations and the faith community that exist to help others are not helping the ones who do the work, in so many cases. My father’s other point was economics – if you don’t pay people well, you won’t get or keep quality people. Great job spreading the word!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Erin, thank you for sharing your father’s front line view. You brought out two great points—those who exist to help others should take care of those who do the work and “if you don’t pay people well, you won’t get or keep quality people.” Thanks again!

  2. Ann Johnson

    Very well put. I couldn’t agree more on both sides of the coin. Especially, I wonder if the “love” offerings that are not even enough to cover the expenses of His servants are what they are called. What an insult to God! Do we realize that we really are giving love offerings to our God when His servants come to minister in His Name? His people who serve him faithfully are worthy of double honor! I love the way you very graciously put this topic into perspective. Thank you.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Well put, Ann. Yes, are we giving honorariums or dis-honorariums. 🙂

  3. Ann

    Debbie I’ve experienced this from both ends – I have people contact me all the time expecting me to give them answers to their problems for free “because I am a Christian” and they just feel I should be willing to do it for free. All too often I worry about people being able to afford my services (I truly understand people having financial challenges) but I end up cheating myself. You made some very valid and really important points. Like how you said it, “There are times it’s appropriate to contribute our gifts and time and accept other’s offerings. But we should expect to compensate those whose ministries are their livelihood.”

    • Debbie Wilson

      Ann, it feels good to freely give when we want to, but it feels awful to feel used. Maybe that difference can help guide us in how we do our business. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Johanna

    WOW! Such an amazing post. You are so right! So many times people have expected my husband and I to do free work for groups at our church because we are graphic designers. But the Lord is stretching me to do what He has called me to do, and not do it even if they have an expectation that I need to. I am reminded of 1 Timothy 5:18b says, “Those who work deserve their pay!”
    Thanks for sharing your points! Very well said!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Johanna, when I have felt badly because people expected me to serve for free, I try to remember my Lord doesn’t lead with guilt or shame. Sometimes faith is shown by not giving in to pleasing others, even in ministry. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I’m sure you speak for countless others.

  5. stephanie sudano

    Thank you for another very thought provoking post Debbie…..I have been the beneficiary so many times of groups like Lighthouse who make their livelihood thru ministry. How fortunate we are that there are people who are willing to make their livelihood this way and we definitely need to value and compensate them for their essential services and time! I have never been in the position of making my livelihood this way, so am especially grateful for this article and the perspective it presents.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Stephanie. Wonderful to hear from you.

  6. Crystal S. Hornback

    Wow, Debbie, I needed this! Thank you for this shift in perspective on today’s #livefreeThursday prompt. Such solid advice for those of us on both sides of vocational ministry! Blessings!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Crystal, I wish I knew a way to better inform the whole body in this area. I still hate asking for a fee. But I have learned to be much more aware of those who serve me.

  7. Denise Roberts

    Thank you for these very insightful comments. As a women’s ministry leader I am hyper aware of how much things cost and needing to keep those costs down for our ladies while still delivering quality events. I want to pay our speakers something that says – we truly value the time you put into preparing for us. Our ministry is self-supporting (we do not have any funding from our church) so budgeting is very important. As a speaker, I know I would like to be compensated in a way that says they appreciate the time I put forth, but I am also sensitive to the “no budget” issue and do not want to take advantage of them.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Denise, I think some organizers have no idea how much time (and often money for personal education) goes into some speaker’s talks. If you are a speaker, you can appreciate that more. Sometimes we have to help those who will benefit understand the value. Many of them will pay for a movie or a lunch out. Just adding that price per person to the cost of the event will often go a long way to helping with the speaker’s compensation. This spiritual meal and entertainment will hopefully continue to feed them. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Tammy Kennington

    Good morning! I’m visiting from Live Free Thursday and appreciate your insight! Thank you for sharing. –Tammy

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thanks, Tammy.

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