I Think I’ll Pay The Pastor . . . Nothing?

I wonder . . . what do you think a pastor should be paid for a memorial service?

penny-chubby-handA friend asked what she should pay the pastor for her mother’s memorial service. Her mother was a long-time and devoted member of the church. I said, “Nothing.” I said being involved in a church meant the use of the church building and the pastor’s role were “covered.” In some cases, a person might pay for the musicians and food and other odds and ends, but the pastor was doing his or her job. Do you agree or disagree with that?

I added that as someone’s pastor, I’d prefer a personal thank-you card from the family over a check. However, I did mention that about $200 might be an appropriate payment to pay a pastor for helping in the death of a non-church member.

Interestingly, in the next week I helped a family with a death. Since I’m on leave, I’m not serving a church. Neither was the deceased, nor the family. I never mentioned payment, but received a lovely note and check for . . . $200.

Interesting for different reasons, I got an out-of-the-blue call this week asking me to do a memorial service. Without hardly a word of introduction, the caller told me about his now-deceased sister and what time they needed me and . . . I finally slowed the barrage of fractured explanations to clarify the situation. As I learned more, I recalled a memorial I did for this family several years ago. They never paid me then. What will I say to them now about any fees?

So what do you think? Should a church member pay? A non-church member? And by the way, I always feel awkward in talking to anyone about any payment. What about you?

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  1. As a retired pastor’s wife, I have to respond to this. In most denominations pastors get paid for weddings. So I’ve never understood why they don’t get paid for funerals, especially those that involve as much time as a wedding rehearsal and wedding do. In the Moravian church, the funeral includes a sermon-length memoir, outlining the person’s life and using many memories and comments from the family – which usually is a meeting lasting several hours and then quite a few extra hours writing the memoir. And with a death, the pastor has to drop everything, rearrange his/her schedule and work with the family at their convenience. So yes, I think pastors should get paid for funeral. I think when you get a call for a non-member, part of the initial discussion is: My fee for a funeral is $200.” Your time and talents are just as important as any self-employed person!

    1. Joy: thanks for the response. I would guess no denomination has a policy for wedding/funeral payments to a pastor. More, that it’s up to individual clergy to decide. I didn’t “charge” any church member for weddings, funerals, baptisms. Many did volunteer to pay me and I usually put the money in a pastor’s discretionary fund. But do you see a wedding or a funeral for a church member “above and beyond” what a pastor does within his/her congregation? As noted in the brief essay, I struggle with what to “charge” non-members. For me a funeral often took from a few to twenty or more hours for prep…but I did see it as part of my “job.” I really am curious how others deal with this…

    2. I have been out of pastoral ministry for 10 years. Recently, I did a funeral for a former parishioner and had to take a vacation day from my job as a janitor in order to visit, prepare and do the service, etc. You know what I got – nothing. No card, no verbal “thank you”, no money, nothing. Now, I feel like I am supposed to follow up and check on the family. But Why? Apparently my time is free. I have performed several weddings, too – same thing. Nothing. Yet, people will spend thousands of dollars for a big party afterward. I don’t have a church. I receive no church salary. But I am expected to be there because I am a friend.

      1. Argh! So frustrating for you! Optimistically, I hope the family is busy with other things following the death and will soon send you their thanks and an appropriate fee. Pessimistically, I’ve also had situations where nothing was ever said, and there was never an effort to provide payment.

        What if you sent them a quick note, hoping they were doing as well as possible after the death, and included your address? Maybe even be bold enough to tell them that others usually pay you a $100 (or a $1,000 or whatever you think is fair) . . . but you will leave it up to them and their circumstances to determine the best amount.

        They still may do nothing.

        I do think some feel that pastors (whether active, retired, or “whatever”) just enjoy doing things for free for others. And some do! But the people requesting the service should always offer to pay for the service.

        Thanks for your comments, JM!

        [By the way, I sent you an email, but you provided one that apparently does not work . . .]

      2. This is something you CHOSE to do…to be of service to others who were grieving the loss of a loved one. If you expected to be paid, then that discussion should have taken place prior to the service being provided. And now, you bear a resentment or grudge toward the grieving family? How Christ-like of you. SMH

        1. Jeffrey . . . thanks for taking the time to comment. However, I wonder if you’re a bit judgmental in a situation we know very little about? When a person is a pastor (whether or not serving a church) and also a friend, it can get complicated. Expectations and assumptions can muddy the various levels of the relationship. Choosing to try to be Christ-like doesn’t mean we won’t struggle with how we perceive we are treating others and how they are treating us.

        2. I agree. There should be a written agreement so no misunderstanding. I believe it is very unfair to the grieving family to have to ask,look up on google, etc to find the answer out. It is nerve racking.
          If you expect money,tell the person. As for tipping anyone that works with funeral home is outrageous!!! Tipping in US has been out of control!!

        3. Jeffrey, I could not agree with you more. Some churches are ran like businesses now. It’s disgusting. Jesus would certainly be flipping tables over at some of these pastors’ churches. The least they can do is be upfront about it. If you’re going to run your church like a club with membership fees – you better be sure all your “members” are walking away with a list of EVERYTHING included in their membership. And since it’s a business transaction, you pastors get zero slack. This is your job after all; and us members are paying for a service. So make sure you perform for us each Sunday to our satisfaction. While you’re at it, I expect there to be a member services number I can call with my complaints. You know, since it’s all a business transaction. Get out of here. People are leaving the church because of YOU. I know, the first rebuttal will be about income and church overhead. Have you ever considered that maybe church was never supposed to look like it does today? Church can take place in your home. Maybe you aren’t meant to oversee 4,000 people. Maybe you should dust off your Bible and look at how the body did things in Acts…Get it together. Even you, will have to one day answer for how you exploited people with your greed.

          1. Melissa:

            As I’ve said to others, I appreciate you taking the time to add your thoughts to this “conversation.” What pastors and/or churches sometimes ask (or require) people to pay for funerals, weddings, etc. can become a tender subject. I don’t imagine Jesus being keen on any variation of “membership fees.”

    3. My mother just passed and our long time Pastor was going to say a few words at her Celebration of life.
      Now that you wrote this I ask him not to come.
      He can come as a friend but not to speak on be half of my mother. I have paid out every thing plus the care of my mother and know my Bible. I can say the words on behalf of this .. now I know why are staying away from Churches so much.

      1. I am officiating for a funeral on Saturday for a longtime member of the church I serve. My church has no established fee structure related to my officiating weddings, baptisms, or funerals. I have walked with the person who passed for two years as their health declined. Providing pastoral care to grieving families is as much a part of my calling as is leading worship, praying, and teaching. I have never requested or suggested a fee to a bereaved family. Having said that, I do appreciate when a family gives me an honorarium. The time, love, and prayer that goes into planning a funeral service far exceeds that for Sunday worship. Yes, it is part of my duties as pastor to perform funerals, but an expression of gratitude from a family, in whatever form that takes… is always appreciated.

        1. Lynn:

          Thanks for adding to this conversation. I so agree with you: “an expression of gratitude from a family, in whatever form it takes is always appreciated.” There are times when an honorarium/$$$ does seem appropriate. For me, a note of thanks can be a greater treasure. And it seems so odd when nothing is said or shared by a family in the way of thanks to a pastor officiating a service. That “nothing,” in my experience, was rare, but it did happen . . .

    4. Joy,
      I canceled out Pastor after reading your post. After years of donating to the Church and she paid a lot!
      You would think it was the respectful thing to do.
      It’s all about money! 🙁
      I did tell him though he’s welcome to come for his respect.

    5. Wow! I thought being a member of a church would guarantee final service no charge (you paid tithes/offerings and probably held an office or two).
      A wedding is beginning a life. Of course just my option…how can these services compare.

  2. This must be a fading intuition. My mother always remembered that the pastor got an honorium (makes it just a bit less painful when you say it) for officiating at a funeral. But I had two ordained pastors conducting mine, plus the church organist and a specially contracted vocalist. The church and church pastor were covered by the funeral home’s schedule of services, which covered use of the building, the pastor, and the organist. I paid extra for the second pastor and the vocalist. I rather like the fact that the Funeral home does that. It limits all the “business” matters to a single representative, who is probably really good at making it all go down as painlessly as possible.

    1. I’ll be careful here, Bruce . . . but I assume you mean you paid the pastors for your mother’s funeral…but not yours…right? When you said you had “two ordained pastors conducting mine” I hoped I was reading that wrong, and that you’re not commenting on my blog from heaven!

      I do appreciate the funeral director’s taking care of the “business,” but I’ve always been intrigued by the wide variety of fee amounts. Some are miserly; others generous. And I would guess the majority of payments I’ve gotten from a funeral home were linked to services for folks who weren’t church members.

  3. I like the idea of the honorium. Hal would probably answer this question quite differently since he was the pastor. I think he saw it as part of his responsibilities and I do understand that. However, with a funeral, a pastor has to drop anything previously planned and the mourning family becomes the priority. I personally feels the amount of time he spends on this needs to be acknowledged (which is why I like the “honorium” idea.) It would be nice if more funeral homes would addres the expenses within the church, but that doesn’t happen down here. Also, the salaries of many of our Moravian pastors in small churches are so poor that any extra money is badly needed.

  4. I like the word honorarium, as Bruce mentioned. I learned this word in my event planning class this summer. It basically is saying “Pay up!” in an unobtrusive way.

    1. Brian…thanks for your thoughts. And I think most people (though not all) really prefer to be told what the “honorarium” would be. As Joy said in another comment, pastors can easily be taken for granted.

  5. Re: weddings. My home Presbyterian church had a list which the pastor gave to us when we approached him about our wedding. It told us how much to give the pastor, organist, custodian, and what was expected of the family as far as helping the custodian! I’m sure that was a local board decision (not denominaton) and frankly, I liked the idea. It took the guessing out of it. Re: funerals of non-members. Quite honestly, I think they’d use any pastor just to get it accomplished – same as non-member weddings. So I think announcing a fee is quite appropriate. I guess after 40 years in the ministry, I’m just tired of seeing pastors taken for granted.

    1. I think weddings are easier to deal with regarding reimbursement. And often, in a memorial or graveside service, there are only a few “professionals” involved (pastor and maybe music) compared to a wedding. Weddings…yikes, don’t get me started. Still, as I’ve mentioned, I have tended not to “charge” church members…though even the smallest church I’ve served (rightly) expected members and non-members to pay for the custodian, musicians etc…

  6. What an interesting dilemma, Larry. To be honest, I never really thought about it, mostly because I’ve never had to (thankfully!) but your time is just as valuable as anyone else’s and I’m sure this does take a significant amount of prep time — you should be compensated. Me personally, I’d probably go for a sliding fee scale. Perhaps a thank you note would suffice for poorer families (or say, a sudden death of the breadwinner), but I’d have no problem requesting a $200+ honorarium or church donation from families that I know could afford it — members or not.

    It IS a terribly awkward matter, isn’t it? It’s not really something you want to bring up before, during the time of grief, but slapping the family with a bill in the mail two weeks later seems callous too. Ideally, the fee should be broached by the funeral director or church secretary but if they approach you directly, gosh…can you refer them to your wife for scheduling? Is she the type that could just come out and say something?

    1. Jen…thanks for your comments. The whole “payment” (or fee, honorarium, etc) for pastors can be very interesting. I had to laugh out loud when you mentioned my wife. Should would NEVER handle any scheduling for me, among all kinds of other things she wouldn’t do. And I wouldn’t want her to do. Her mother was also a pastor’s wife and handled music, teaching Sunday school, cooking, organizing…all for the church. But times have changed!

      1. Heehee! I only say it because every time I’m faced with an awkward situation such as this, my husband is always “You want me to do it for you? I’ll do it. I’d love to do it!”

  7. I think we should ask people to pay the pastor on these occasions. For the record, since I know how it is from the pastor’s perspective, I made fairly good offerings to the church that hosted my husband’s memorial, and the pastor who presided. A different pastor presided for the burial a month later, and I paid her well, too.

    Whether it’s the happy occasion of a wedding or the sorrow of a death, it absorbs a pastor’s time way beyond normal. It really helps if the church has a printed brochure with “suggested offerings.” We had a nice hand-out at UMC Rancho Cordova that I used when I met prospective couples. I wrote it in nice language that included a “We will work within your overall wedding budget” disclaimer. This enabled us to reduce amounts greatly for the poor. But it caused no problem at all to the couples who were doing typical weddings. Nobody ever complained. The church part of the typical wedding budget is sometimes less than the bride’s gown! We should not be timid about this.

    1. Thanks Becky. Good points all. You (like me) are an “insider” with weddings and funerals, and know the time, work, disruption, etc. A part of me still thinks, especially with funerals/memorials of church members, that they are already “covered.” But I understand the various viewpoints. I enjoy what our colleague Steve Lundin once told me regarding weddings he did…

      A couple would ask, “How much do you charge, pastor?”
      “Tell you what, just pay me 10% of the wedding’s costs,” Steve said with a straight face.

      They would usually stare in shock. He told ’em he was kidding. Mostly…!!

  8. The pastor at the nursing home knew my mom for 11 years.
    I have asked him to officiate at her graveside memorial service next month and I plan to give him $100 for his trouble. The family will be going out afterwards for a meal at one of the local restaurants. Should I invite him to go and do I need to pay for his meal?

    1. Gail:

      Hopefully you’ve received my emailed reply. I’d delight in anyone else responding to your question…

    2. It would be nice and appropriate to invite him to the restaurant and I would definitely pay for his meal. It’s good manners.

      1. Patsy:

        Good idea! If not possible to take a pastor out, giving a restaurant gift card would also be a way of saying thank-you.

  9. In the ELCA the job description for a pastor is to baptize, confirm, marry and bury for all congregants. That is almost always stated in the congregation’s constitution. If any honorarium is given, it really belongs to the congregation.

    1. John…

      Really? But when you say “almost always stated”…does that mean the church may choose not to include it?

      But I think I like that it’s included, as a reminder to pastor and congregation of their shared work in the baptizing, confirming etc.

      Thanks for the comment!



  11. We chose an old family friend to preach at the funeral of our family member and to do the graveside service. We paid him $200 which included travel. Our pastor visited our home 3 times prior to the service, brought food and arranged for us to have a dinner at our church. He stayed with us during the entire visitation time and the during the service. We did not pay him anything. We had no idea if we should give him a donation and if so how much. We sent a thank you note to him. We also sent a thank you note to the church with a $150 donation to the church for the use of the facility and the food. Most of the food is donated and prepared by members and we also donate food when there is a death and we are on the funeral rotating committee to set up, serve and clean up after dinners. Should we give our pastor a donation now even though it has been several months since the death and if so, should it equal to what we gave the other minister? We are of low income and there was no life insurance to cover the expenses, but our pastor really was a blessing and he had a lot of hours involved.

    1. Susan:

      Thanks for your comment. I have several reactions. It sounds like you have done all the right and good things to make sure the pastors who helped you, and the church that supported you, were appropriately thanked. Between the costs you paid, your donations, and the thank-you notes, you have made sure each person and place knows how much you appreciated their support during this time. My feeling, and other pastors might disagree with me for good reasons, is there’s no need to give additional money to your pastor. However, I sense something is “nudging” you, something is causing you to wonder if you’ve done enough for you pastor. I can’t “tell” you what more to do since I don’t know you, or your pastor, or the church’s/community’s “expectations.” However, my one suggestion, based on what always warmed my heart, was when a church member made sure to tell me how much they appreciated my ministry. Since it’s now “several months” since the death, if I were your pastor, and you took time to call me, or to talk with me after worship, and told me–again–how much you appreciated my help in that months-ago funeral . . . it would make me feel great. In ministry, pastors often go from one crisis to the next, or one Sunday’s sermon to the next, and our time becomes a blur. When a church member reminds us of how much they appreciated us from months before for something, it can really make a day sing! I’ll take heartfelt compliments over a little cash every day of the week!!


    1. A couple of thoughts, Caryl. The $200 seems in the ballpark. Realistically, it’s also not “20 minutes.” There is preparation of some kind, and certainly time traveling . . . even if only a couple of blocks from his house to the cemetery. Sometimes the funeral home/mortuary that handles the burial “automatically” adds a fee to your bill for the clergy expenses that they then “give” to the clergy. If you want to pay this reverend directly from you, you may want to ask the person from the funeral home about their policies. Finally, while the $$$ is always appreciated, I do treasure the simple thankyou notes I’ve gotten from families for funerals and weddings I’ve done. If he did your father’s service, and now your mother’s graveside, he has some “history” with your family. A heartfelt thankyou matters.

      And my sympathies to you and your family as you deal with your Mom’s death. Sigh. Always hard.

  13. Larry, I was glad to see the discussion is still going after all this time, because we are really struggling with this as a ministry couple. Growing up in the Bible Belt – it would have been unheard of to NOT give an officiant an honorarium for a funeral or wedding. My husband is now the solo pastor, and I am his assistant, at a church in the Southwest and in our 5 years of ministry here – he has never, not once, been given and honorarium for services. I have served as the coordinator for several events held on our church campus and not received honor for my services either. Funerals & weddings are above and beyond the normal work week of a pastor. 6-8 one hour premarital counseling, plus rehearsal, plus event day activities. for funerals there is often grief counseling, and just trying to get the family to decide what to include in a service and what to leave out takes hours and multiple meetings. Sometimes our family gives up the one day a week we have off in order to participate in a wedding or funeral. people do not mind spending thousands on dresses, flowers, and fancy parties for their wedding, but they have NO regard for the counseling (and counselor) that might actually hold the marriage together in the long run? we were involved in a 3 day funeral “event” with everything from Chinese lanterns to live butterfly releases – but no consideration for the weeks of grief counseling and hours of service during the multi-day event? we are prayerfully considering declining to officiate services for anyone besides active church members – at least we feel a sense of obligation to them whether they offer an honorarium or not.

    1. I am not being trite here when I say . . . I feel your pain. In some churches I served, there were traditions and unwritten guidelines about paying the pastor for services “above and beyond.” It just happened. It made my ministry life easier. I’ve heard old timers (though I’m close to being one now!) talk about meat or fresh fruit/vegetables or services (plumbing, carpentry, etc.) as payment for weddings and funerals because the community families had little money . . . but there was still an effort to offer some kind of reimbursement.

      However, inexplicably, there are places (whether individual churches or regions) where the surprising “assumption” is that the pastor does the non-member services for the love of God and doesn’t need or want money! Yikes!

      I was usually comfortable with explaining costs for weddings to both members and non-members. I was less successful with funerals. Though you’ve probably already thought about this, I’d encourage you to create a simple “hand out” (along with something online if you have a church webpage) that explains the costs for non-members. Be upfront.

      I wish you well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!!

  14. Hi. I just got married, and a week after we got an email to write check for pastor for $350fir his service. He has never mentioned this to us, and when asked few weeks prior to the wedding he said “not to worry, we are not Catholics” .( I was raised as catholic and I mentioned before reasons why I turned away from church so our pastor always teased me about it ). Anyway, that email was a surprise. First because we asked before and we didn’t hear any number ever. My husband belongs to that church for 6 years now, and I started attend that church for over 2 years. I volunteer at church witch children ministry, on occasions we bring some goodies. So I could call us church members. However we feel very awkward right now since we don’t know what to do. If we were told earlier about the price, it is one think, but not after. Just to clarify, we didn’t get married in church. We had ceremony somewhere else and we invited our pastor for the wedding with his wife. What do you think? I would appreciate thoughts.

    1. Alex:

      I suspect the most important action to take is to talk with the pastor. Of course you will “feel awkward” (and rightly so), but it’s better to get a clear response from your pastor than to wonder what is going on. The email could’ve been a mistake. I wish you well with this.

  15. Thank you all for your contributions to this post – we are now working through the plans and services for my husband’s mother (best mother-in-law ever); when I asked our pastor about services for Mom, he assured me that there was no fee. I asked again, because I knew a donation was appropriate, and he said that an honorarium would be accepted. I then struggled with how much (Pastor of course said – ‘whatever is placed on your heart to give’) and how to split it between the pastor and the church. I honor what he is doing for our family, and I know it has taken time away from his. Your post helped me decide – and helped me put in to perspective the hours and effort he will be giving to us that we would never otherwise have realized.

    Grief is a rather introspective thing for many (me included); thank you for helping me to see it from another perspective thus ensuring I honor and respect the man providing us this service!

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Deanna. If anything I wrote (or others who have responded to this “old” post) helped . . . wonderful! I’m glad you have a caring pastor, especially at time of grief while you plan a service for your mother-in-law. Take care!

  16. My mom recently passed and we had a celebration of life at our church. We planned the ceremony and asked 2 men of the church to speak the eulogy and the message. We also had a song leader. My mom was active in the church. I have limited funds. What would be appropriate to pay these men. They did a very good job.

    1. Susan:

      Thanks for finding my web page (how did you find my web page?) and asking your question.

      First, I am so sorry about your Mom. It is never easy to go through the dying and death of a parent. I hope you have good support for your grief from friends and family.

      It sounds like your are involved in this church. You may want to ask your pastor about what to pay the people who helped with the service. The church’s minister would know far better than me about what is appropriate. Truly, there is no “standard” fee for these “jobs.”

      If you don’t feel comfortable, or maybe don’t have the time, to talk with the pastor, here two suggestions based on your limited funds . . .

      If you feel you should give money, but it can only be a small amount for each person, any amount would truly be fine. But I would encourage adding a note, explaining that you can’t give much, but it is important for you to “pay” them something. If you add some cookies or anything else that you make, that would be a wonderful bonus!

      Based on what you’ve described, if it had been me helping with the service, getting a nice note from you thanking me for what I did or said would be all I would want! In other words, don’t feel like you have to offer money. A lovely, honest, heartfelt note is a treasure to read and to keep. I’ve been paid lots of money to do funerals and weddings over the years, but it’s the kind, tender notes that I’ve kept, tucked away in a desk drawer, and in a special place in my heart.

      Any decision you make to honor those who helped will be the right one. It’s never how much money “paid” that matters, but the generosity of our gratitude.

      Hope this helps.


  17. sorry, another question about how much to pay my pastor… he will be hosting a celebration of life for my deceased mom… at a restaurant… so he will welcome 30 people, introduce the slideshow of her life, transition to lunch, notify people of family only memorial gathering outside after lunch, then perform a short 15 min ceremony of some sort. his wife will also attend. this is in expensive california. how much is reasonable/

    1. Doreese:

      If you’ve read any of the other responses from readers (and my comments), you’ve probably seen that there’s no set answer.

      Some questions for you to answer . . . What can you afford? What do you pay others in your life for their services (the person that does your hair, the repair guy that fixes an appliance?)

      Are you the only one thinking about paying him, or will others in your family help/contribute? If so, what do your siblings or cousins (etc.) think?

      Is this a pastor you know? Was he your mother’s pastor? If he’s a familiar/important person to you/your Mom/your family, a combination of a personal note and/or gift along with a modest amount of money seems appropriate. Ah, what is modest? Again, that goes back to what you think you can afford.

      Even if you don’t know this pastor, one way to start a conversation with him about payment would be that you’d like to honor his help with this and ask if he’d prefer payment or a donation to his church. If you feel comfortable with it, it’s okay to put a pastor “on the spot” regarding money. He, or his church, may have established costs . . . and one of the ways you can find out is to ask.

      Whether it’s “expensive California” or elsewhere, he will likely be able to give you a non-embarrassing simple answer about expenses. If you don’t want to ask him, or he “avoids” answering, give him money based on what you can afford. If your “gut” tells you it “should” be more (but you can’t afford more), add a lovely, thoughtful note. As I have said in other comments, what I remember most from the services I’ve done is not how much I was paid, but how much I was appreciated by the family.

      For me, getting $20 and a truly heartfelt note for my hours of preparation and work is far better than getting $200 or $500 without a word of thanks.

  18. Thank you for writing this blog. It has helped me in understanding these fees.

    My family recently passed. Long faithful lifetime church member. In fact he died on his way to church.

    I am disgusted at the fees we were charged. $600 for a facility fee and $150 pastor fee? My father wished memorials be made to the church and over $800 was received in lieu of donations.

    At this point it seems as though the church profited quite well off my fathers death. This is how they treat members?

    I’ve made the difficult decision to leave the church. My father never missed a tithe. He never asked anything from the church. Not even in the hardest of times. A facility and speaker should have been automatic.

    Of course we paid the fee. Not much choice in the matter. But you do not dare even bring up the subject because you seem ungrateful.

    Would Christ approve of profiting off of a funeral? What message is this sending? Why not charge for baptisms? When did a pastors salary not become enough? This ala carte pricing seems greedy.

    1. Carson . . .

      Thanks for writing about your concerns. This situation sounds unfair, unfortunate. One feeble suggestion that comes to mind: maybe in a few months, when you have some distance from these events and decisions and frustrations, write a note to the pastor and/or other leaders of the congregation. Tell them your concerns.

      Sometimes (and I have no idea if it applies to this particular church), churches have had enough prior bad experiences with when or how people pay–or don’t pay–for the building use and personnel expenses related to funerals/weddings. That can lead them to charge hefty fees and can make the situation seem like a business deal. And a greedy one at that.

      Regardless, I wonder if a note from you might help the church’s leadership understand some of the consequences of their “fee schedule?”

      And, finally, how difficult this time must be for you and your family as you grieve your father’s death. The death of a loved one is always hard. During the holiday season, the anguish can deepen. Take care . . .

  19. I always feel awkward talking about payment as well. I am actually looking for a pastor for my grandmother’s funeral and the way that I avoided an awkward conversation was simply telling the pastor that we are paying $300 for the service and asking whether he would he be able to do it. That way, he didn’t have to wonder and I didn’t have to put him in the awkward position of telling me what his “charges” are. As a minister, you serve the community from the heart but the community should understand that it is called to serve the pastor from the heart, too. We are all ministers to each other.

    1. Thanks for this comment, Kameron. Offering a pre-established fee seems a worthwhile idea. That pastor can then respond based on her/his values/expectations/situation. Some may ask you to write the check out for a church’s mission, some may happily cash it and feel an appropriate fee has been paid, and maybe even some would clear a throat and say they normally charge more. Regardless, any next response is up to them. And I believe you are right . . . “We are all ministers to each other.”

      I also appreciate your willingness to respond to Carson.

  20. Carson, I hope this doesn’t come off the wrong way. You did a good job explaining the dynamics at play with the church. I probably am in the wrong to think like this so please forgive me if I offend you-I am only trying to widen the grace between all of us.

    When your father gave of his time, money, and heart, he did it for the right reason: he did it for the Lord. For the Lord your father worked, your father gave, your father lived and breathed. Your father did not work for the church when he served. His time and energy was not spent to bless the church; it was spent to bless the Lord. Just reading about your father makes me believe that he would not begrudge the church for its fees. And, if that is true, I imagine it would bless him if you saw the church the same way he did.

  21. Hello!
    I see this article has gotten comments for some time. Let me add in! My grandmother passed on Sunday. She was my mother’s step mom and in her 90s. She doesn’t have any young living family related by blood. What she does have is a church she was a member at for 50 years. (Now days that’s a rare feat.) She prearranged most of her funeral and also made it clear she wanted her Pastor (who hasn’t been a member as long as her for sure) to do the funeral.

    Right away we got notice from the pastor himself, that the church will not do any repass. Also, they’ll get back to us on the honorarium. Now, to my mom and her sister (a different generation) that didn’t seem like a big deal. To me it is shocking and hurtful. You mean to tell me you can be a tithing member at a church for 50 years and the people that were your church family and the pastor that you were faithful to as a congregant won’t do A THING for your going home service? Not a single thing? No cover dishes. No doing the funeral without pay?

    My first honest thought? What a waste of a lifetime of service to a church. If a church can’t even look after it’s own people, I really don’t get the point. Sure I get it, it’s time away from their personal time, but I grew up in church. Church was a TON sacrifice to personal time. Every choir practice. Every youth meeting. Every woman’s meeting. Every volunteer activity from cleaning the church to painting the church to ushering to assisting with cooking for bake sales for a new roof or giving to a building fund to add a nursery. Not to mention leadership training and deacon training and sitting on the board.

    Most of the things to a congregation do go unpaid and outside of their work schedule. I cannot imagine any way that a good pastor would form his lips to ask for money to bury one of his own. Don’t get me wrong it’s not that I wouldn’t pay, or offer. But, there is something that seems very wrong. How do nothing for a woman who has been sitting in church next to you, that you’ve prayed with, and spent time with for years? Just seems wrong. Doesn’t seem like something that makes spending a lifetime with a church family worthwhile.

    1. Cheree:

      Thanks for responding. As you noted, this post has gotten many prior comments. (And there may be more in the future!)

      This subject (what to pay a pastor) can stir a lot of reactions. You might consider writing your grandmother’s pastor a note. It may not make any difference to his decisions or preferences, or that church’s policies, but it may be helpful for him to learn about your concerns.

  22. I am a pastors wife as well. You’re absolutely right. They have to drop everything, because they have a time frame given by the family. My husband also works a full time job and we have 4 children. I don’t think people realize the amount of time it takes for a pastor to do a funeral service. I our case he has taken many days off work and it cuts into time with our family. The bible says, a man is worth his hire. A funeral is a service. It takes a lot of time, emotion, and effort to do it right. He literally just did 2 funerals in the past two weeks and hasn’t gotten paid for either of them. Both were not members, but related to members.
    I ask the ones who believe they shouldn’t get paid, would they feel alright giving up many hours through the week studying, AND 3 to 4 days out of 8 (away from family) for nothing?
    Many people only see what they’re asking from the pastor. They don’t see all the hours he has already given to others in need.
    A pastor’s salary covers the sermon, visitations, & counseling (in some cases).
    A funeral and wedding is above and beyond a normal weekly duty.
    The sacrifice isn’t just from the pastor, it’s from the wife and children. Our church is small and he gets paid like he’s a part time pastor. We are not selfish people at all, and I believe with all my heart, a pastor should receive something for all the effort poured into honoring your loved one.
    In our case he has refused to take it from widows and single moms who aren’t well off, but at least they made an effort.

    1. Stace:

      Thanks for adding your thoughts. There is, for a pastor and the family, so much sacrifice. And so much of it is never seen by others.

      Take care!

  23. I always feel so uncomfortable asking for a fee so I never do. In most cases someone in the family will hand me an envelope. In some cases I do not receive anything. I find it interesting that the cases where I am not paid seem to be the ones I have had to travel the furthest for and have put the most time into. That being said, I love what I do. I have learned over my 20 + years as a chaplain to not expect anything and when I do receive something I am very grateful. I always take into consideration what the family is going through. It may have not have even occurred to them that they should pay for the clergy persons service. For that reason I never feel resentment or upset if I am not given a honorarium. The greatest blessing for me is to be there for a family who needs someone to guide them. If I can help them through this time then I have offered what I have been called to do with a pure heart. I believe that what we put out into the world will always come back to us in some way.

    1. Hey, Rauncie:

      Thanks for this comments!!! Especially thanks for this: “I believe that what we put out into the world will always come back to us in some way.”

  24. My mom passed and left little requests for the service, but one request was to have the memorial service at her church. After 5 weeks of planning the memorial service with my siblings, due to many reasons I won’t go into here, the pastor quit and the church asked us to find another venue for the service. We had her service at the funeral home. The pastor had prepared the entire service. I donated $100 to mom’s church’s memorial fund, but how do I show appreciation to the pastor who did all the work ahead of time?

    Please do not use my name. Thank you.

    1. Two questions:

      What do you think your Mom would do?
      What do you think the pastor needs most right now: your gratitude, financial reimbursement, or both or . . . something else?

      Though I obviously do not know any of the circumstances, my own preference as a pastor would be a heartfelt note from the person I helped. I would want to know how the service for your Mom went, and I would want to know how you are doing.

      I suspect you will make the best decision.

  25. We paid our pastor $200 for doing my wife’s mom’s graveside service. She wasn’t a member of the church so he had to go out of his way to learn about her life. I think he was in on a phone call with my wife and her sister for an hour going over her life and so he did like half of the hour+ long service first detailing her life and then the service itself. To me, it was worth it because he did such a great job. To me this is bigger than a wedding because all he does is read the wedding service but here he learned everything about the deceased.

    1. Patrick:

      Glad to hear that things went as well as your describe. I always preferred funerals over weddings . . . and some of it has to do with your comments. With many funerals (though not all!!), I did feel like I got a chance to “know” the person who had died. And, in seeking information from the family, I also got to know them. This also happened with weddings, but less often and with people wearing ill-fitting clothes!

  26. I’m having a hard time reading some of the mean and nasty comments on this subject from people who claim to be Christian and church members. My son passed away recently and our pastor was always available to us anytime we needed him, he constantly calls us to check on how we’re doing etc, so yes we gave money to the church and to our pastor for his extra time and expense he incurred while helping us through a difficult time. People always have money for all sorts of things but then complain when it comes to giving a little extra to the church or pastor.

    1. David:

      Thanks for your response. This essay did (and continues to) generate quite a few comments. How we perceive pastors can be reflected in the subject of money. It’s no surprise to me that there are negative, even “nasty” comments because how/what we pay a pastor is influenced by a variety of things: personal experience, comparison to other professions, stereotypes, like/dislike of religion, poor communication, and a lot more.

      I very much appreciate you adding to the “conversation.”

  27. My husband just recently died and was just looking up something related to his upcoming graveside service and saw this ongoing conversation of whether to pay the pastor for doing a funeral. I am confused now. I would think that they should most definitely be compensated for doing such a service and had wondered what would be the amount to give when done? But, when looking at itemized billing from the funeral home, I see they have included a charge for the clergy. I am assuming that that will be given to him? Is this not a normal thing to be done?

    1. Linda:

      The quick answer: yes, most funeral homes include a fee for the clergy and it is typically given to them.

      Any longer answer would involve your relationship with the pastor and what your think is “best” or “right” for the situation.

      There is a potentially big difference between the clergy being your pastor versus the funeral home finding one for you specifically for this (and only this) graveside service. If the clergy was asked by the funeral home to do the service for you, and did a nice, but minimal-effort job, they have obviously been paid as part of the itemized billing. If you felt they went “above and beyond” in how they handled your husband’s service, you may want to find a way to pay them some “extra” from you and your family.

      If it’s a clergy you know personally, and especially if he or she is “your” pastor, my suggestions will get murkier. I typically didn’t expect any “payment” to do a funeral (or wedding, baptism, etc.) if it was a member of the church I was serving. After all, they were part of a congregation paying my salary already! But every pastor and every church has different traditions and expectations.

      I go back to my easy answer. Yes, in most cases, the funeral home will have a line item for paying the clergy. And that clergyperson will get a check from the funeral home. If you think you and your family should include “more,” that is up to you.

      Finally, I am so sorry to learn of your husband’s death. I hope you have good support from family and friends during this time.

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