THOUGHTS ABOUT OXEN AND HONORARIUMS
This is the part about speaking at your church or conference that I would prefer not to have to discuss. If it were up to me (and I didn't have a family to feed--writing, speaking, and leading tours is my day job) I would drop everything and come speak at nearly every event requested as long as God gives me strength and something worthwhile to say. Asking for a set amount for speaking makes me feel like a Medieval friar hawking the Gospel for cash, Douglas Johann Tetzel Bond, a pretty mercenary thought. Nevertheless, I often get asked what is an appropriate honorarium to give me for speaking at an event, an important consideration both for planners and organizers, and for me as I am forced to decide how best to use the finite time and energy God has given me.
When inviting me to come speak with God's people, it might be helpful if you think
of me as an ox threshing out corn for your folks and, by God's grace, blessing the
m thereby. That being said, here are some objective realities that it seems to me
factor in when establishing an equitable speaking honorarium for an ox like me:
1. An equitable honorarium will take into account the number of addresses
(lectures, workshops, sermons) you are asking me to deliver (how much corn do
you want me to thresh?).
2. An equitable honorarium will take into account the number of days I will be away from my family and writing to speak at your event, including the travel time to and from the conference (how long will I be away from my own barn and pasture?).
3. An equitable honorarium will take into account whether or not I have a long drive or flight to get to and from the conference. I was once asked to fly to and from a three-day Church history conference where I spoke six times. The honorarium they gave me was about what I would have made flipping burgers in Seattle at $15.00 and hour. That said, I was blessed being with God's people, and they seemed to take in what I fed them with enthusiasm and appreciation, but my stomach growled pretty loudly and the muzzle chafed a raw spot on my jaw (not to mention my wife's expression when she saw the meager scoop of honorarium corn they gave me). The week before I had flown across the country and spoken six times at a Church history conference. I was also blessed and I believe Christ's Church was built up. The honorarium was almost three times as much. I could flex my jaw and my belly felt pretty satisfied (my wife smiled and set off to the grocery store).
4. An equitable honorarium will also take into account whether or not I am being asked to prepare new material specific to a conference theme (or a sermon request on a specific biblical text or theme) rather than to speak on topics I often speak about (for example, historical figures I have written about in my books). If you are asking me to do new research and preparation on a specific biblical text or theme for your conference, I am delighted to do so, and an equitable honorarium will be proportionate to the need for more time in pre-conference preparation.
5. All of this said, I love speaking to God's people wherever I am called and wherever I can do Christ's Church some good. I recognize that different congregations have varying budget constraints; some are not able to give as much as others. I hope that churches and conferences, both well-funded ones and not-so-well-funded ones, will continue to ask me to speak. If there are budget constraints for a conference or event, please feel free to share those with me as we discuss the possibility of my participation as a speaker.