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Ministry and Money

November 8, 2010

It’s that time of year again – as we wind up 2010 we start to look to 2011 plans. As part of that planning, we are in the midst of budgets. I balance numbers all the time – I actually enjoy doing it. Call me crazy! And I know a lot of artists downright hate it. Yet for all of us, the inflows need to equal (or if you are fortunate, exceed) the outflows. But asking for money is one of the hardest things an artist has to do.

You need to make a living – and hopefully you can make a living at something you have been given talent for and love to do. You might start out doing free dates, and if you can find a way to eat and pay your bills, you should do this to get experience.  However, in order to make a living, you need to receive payment for your work. And yes, ministry is work. In this world of a tough economy, you might be afraid to ask to be paid – but you need to do so! Maybe the first time you play somewhere, you can play for free and get to sell CDs/merch, get a meal and a roof over your head for the night- in essence if you are getting food and a safe place to sleep, you are getting paid! You are covering your expenses for that date. Then the next time you play the same place, you play for a love offering as well. Then the third time, ask for an honorarium – if you are able to play the third time at the same place, they want you back – you are connecting and serving those people or you wouldn’t be able to come back. And believe me the leaders of the venue know you need to make a living.

So here are a few of the roadblocks I have heard artists encounter and a possible response. If you have some other roadblocks you would like help dealing with, post them and maybe we can work on them together. If you have overcome roadblocks, I hope you will post some and how you dealt with them.

  • I am sorry we just don’t have any money to pay you but we would love to have you play at our conference – response: I would really like to play at the conference but I will have expenses to get there. Could you pay me $XX to cover my gas and then let me sell CDs?
  • We would love to have you come back and play – last year your played for free, can you just do that again? Response: last year was great and I needed to get experience so we both benefited. I have expenses to cover like you do. Rather than paying me a fixed number, can you ask for a love offering and hopefully I will connect and your congregation will be led to support my ministry.
  • We just can’t afford $XX as a guarantee can you play for free or for less? Response: Can you help me get a date somewhere else to help cover costs. I have Saturday and Tuesday open, could you make a few calls or emails to introduce me to some other venues within a reasonable drive and hopefully together the two (or more) dates will be sufficient.

I know for some of you this seems easier said than done or really scary. But the first time will be the hardest. While your career is a ministry, it is also work, and you need to work harder than anyone else to make it a success and pay your bills.

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