HOW SHOULD A PASTOR RECEIVE A TRAVELING MINISTRY?
By: Judson Cornwall
In the past few years a fresh appreciation has come for the five-fold ministries Christ gave the Church. We also acknowledge that the apostle, prophet, evangelist, or teacher is often a traveling person, while the very nature of the ministry of a pastor calls for residency among his people. In a broad sense then, Paul said that Christ gave resident ministers and traveling ministers “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12, NKJV).
That each of these ministers is gifted with the grace of God is scripturally declared, but that each is distinctively different is obvious to even a casual observer. Someone gifted in alliteration has described the differences in saying that the apostle governs, the prophet guides, the evangelist gathers, the pastor guards and the teacher grounds. So be it. Thank God for the differences, but the very fact of difference means that a local congregation needs exposure to ministries that are diverse from the ministry of the resident pastor. The pastor needs the input of these traveling ministries, but how does he recruit, receive and respond to these traveling men and women?
If the formula Paul gave the church at Rome is followed, there will be no difficulties. “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God,” he wrote (Rom. 15:7). A traveling minister must be accepted as an active member in the body of Christ, fulfilling a calling as valid as pastoring, if that ministry is to be viable to a congregation. Different does not mean inferior or superior; it merely means different. A traveling minister should not be viewed as a novice needing practice, nor as a superstar demanding pampering. The pastor and the traveling minister are co-laborers in the Lord’s kingdom. Each must respect the other in all things or they will not work together successfully. Christ’s acceptance of them by calling them into ministry must be the basis for mutual acceptance of local and traveling ministries and ministers. They are interdependent, never independent. Neither develops well without the input and ministry of the other, for none is the body of Christ; we are but members of that body.
The failure to plan ahead often deprives a local congregation of quality traveling ministry, for the very nature of the task of a traveling minister requires considerable lead time in his planning. Scheduling a year in advance is quite common for traveling ministers, and some must plan up to two years in advance. This is especially true for ministry that will be conducted outside a local church, such as conferences, camp meetings, city-wide rallies and so forth. The logistics of these meetings require advance commitment before the local committee can secure the facilities.
There are few traveling ministers sitting by their phones just waiting for a call to minister, even though they receive repeated contacts which indicate many pastors have this impression. (They can’t sit and wait and go out and preach at the same time.) Look ahead, plan ahead and schedule ahead of your need. Those who feel this is unspiritual should remind themselves that God is a God of eternity who sees next year more clearly than we see today. Spur-of-the-moment action is no more godly than advance planning, although, obviously, the Spirit is capable of both actions.
In the interest of saving time, many pastors prefer to make the initial inquiry by telephone. This is probably beneficial for both parties. Whatever arrangements are made by phone should always be confirmed in writing; some of us have hopelessly short memories. If the initial contact is made by letter, a listing of several acceptable dates usually shortens the scheduling process.
Once a date has been scheduled, further arrangements need to be made. As the scheduled time approaches, you will want to recontact your chosen minister to request a photograph and some sort of biographical material. At this time, it would be courteous to invite him or her to bring along his or her spouse or family member, but specify what responsibility you accept in this invitation. Are you offering to pay for the ticket, or just the additional motel expense? Traveling ministers spend many lonely weeks away from their homes, so an invitation to bring along a family member is always heartwarming, even when it is not feasible.
It is also wise to find out what type of accommodation is desired and if books, records or tapes will be brought for sale; if so, does the minister want the church to be responsible for the sales? It is only fair to report the number of services you are planning and in which of them your guest will be ministering. If anything special has been scheduled, such as a ministers’ breakfast, a staff luncheon or anything that will affect his time schedule, you should make it known at this point in your relationship. Be sure to ask him ahead of time if he is willing to minister at “extra” events such as a staff or pastors’ meeting, rather than simply scheduling it and informing him that he is supposed to speak. Help your traveling minister serve your congregation at his best level by giving him ample time to prepare. Surprises often produce shoddy ministry; advance preparation leads to excellence of performance.
Unless the guest minister has requested otherwise, or there are no such accommodations available in the area, a motel or hotel offers the best accommodations for the traveling minister. A time away from people is necessary if one is to be at his best for public ministry. Even Jesus insisted on getting away from the crowd from time to time.
Perhaps nothing is more disconcerting to the traveling minister than to arrive and find that no provision has been made for his lodging. Being driven from motel to motel while the pastor tries to “pull rank” to get him registered is embarrassing to both the pastor and the traveling person. It is difficult for him to feel wanted when it becomes obvious that no preparation has been made for him. Double-check the registration the day before the speaker is scheduled to arrive, and, if reasonably convenient, pre-register the guest so that he can be taken directly to his room. That is a sure indication he is both wanted and welcome.
Pastors who seldom use the facilities of a motel may find it difficult to comprehend how cold, sterile and commercial a motel room can seem. There is nothing homelike about it. A bouquet of flowers, a basket of fruit or a box of candy with a welcoming note attached will be like a sunbeam on a cloudy day. Flowers are often provided for women in traveling ministry but omitted for
traveling men on the mistaken assumption that they are not masculine. Still, flowers give any room a homey touch, and although men will seldom purchase flowers for themselves, they appreciate having them in the room. The little touch of femininity that a bouquet can bring into a room is often a balancing factor which helps temper the loneliness that accompanies a traveling ministry.
If it is absolutely necessary to place the minister in someone’s home, be certain the home offers a considerable measure of privacy, without undue noise from small children. Placing a traveling person in a home with a troubled marriage or other family problems in the hopes that some counseling may occur is grossly unfair to all parties concerned.
In all circumstances, make ample arrangements for eating. Not all motels have acceptable restaurants, and some of them do not allow the meals to be charged to the room. If such a situation exists, a cash advance is far superior to asking the speaker to advance his own money and keep receipts to be presented to the church treasurer later.
Today’s best motels are often far from everything. They are placed for the convenience of travelers, not visitors. Arranging to leave a car for the speaker’s use is a courtesy far rarer than you might expect. If a car is not available or was not desired by the speaker, assign a person to act as chauffeur for the speaker, and have an understood schedule for picking him up and delivering him after services. I have actually experienced having to hitchhike to and from my motel to the convention site because this provision was not offered.
A final suggestion in the accommodations is to have a typed agenda of all services, appointments and schedules with home and church numbers that can be called. This should be in the hotel room right next to the flowers or fruit basket. Let the traveling minister begin to adjust himself mentally before the first service.
Once the speaker is in his hotel room, your responsibility to him has not ceased. Don’t just “dump” him and merely wait to see him function in the pulpit during the services. Budget in advance some time to be with this person. The richness of his experience can enlarge your own perspective, and the vision with which you work can enlarge his vision. Perhaps you can arrange to share a meal each day with your guest. Sometimes it is wise to have other members of the church staff join you in this time of fellowship. This time slot should be arranged for the mutual convenience of both of you. If you do this, make sure this is a pleasant, relaxed time of fellowship-not an opportunity to “pick the brain” of the guest. Don’t make him “pay for” his meal (which he then may not get a chance to eat) by answering all the questions you’ve been saving up for just such an opportunity.
Unless your guest indicates a desire for extended fellowship, don’t consume his every waking moment. Allow him or her some time alone. You will penalize the services if you drain all of his energies between the services. All batteries need to be recharged regularly. Don’t exhaust a person and then rationalize your guilt by saying, “I’ll be praying that God will give you rest at the next place.” That’s what they told him at the last place.
A gentle but honest questioning, to determine if he has any shopping needs, shows consideration. To be out of toothpaste or shaving cream can be a real irritant in the motels that do not have a gift shop in them. Even the most experienced travelers fail to pack everything that is needed every time they go on the road.
If the traveler has been on the road for several successive conferences, he or she might deeply appreciate a family situation. How about taking him to your home to share a meal with your family, or at least have your family join the two of you at a restaurant. We all need to keep in touch with the family unit. (Again, make this a relaxed time-no counseling or question-and-answer sessions, please.)
One further word concerning your association with your ministerial guest: find out if he or she would like some protection from people after a service. Some like to mingle with the congregation after a service; some enter into personal ministry after preaching. But others have given every ounce of emotional energy they possess while ministering in the pulpit, and they do not desire to have to repreach the sermon on a one-to-one basis, or hear about problems for which they have no answers. A staff member assigned to conduct the speaker quickly to the pastor’s office or directly to the motel after the service often becomes a true deliverer to the speaker.
Some pastors explain the financial arrangements at the very beginning, but most tend to leave the guest wondering about how he will be rewarded financially. Those who ministers to the Church at large are usually expected to finance their own ministries and to “live by faith.” This often means accepting a single offering as a love offering for an entire conference. Seldom is a plane ticket, or money for one, sent in advance. It has happened to me only twice in 15 years of traveling ministry. Furthermore, it is not too unusual for the speaker to have to use his personal credit card as security when registering at the motel. The church’s only front money has been for advertising. Everything else is financed by the guest speaker, but he is often left guessing his financial fate until he is taken to the airport at the end of the services. A brief explanation of how the finances will be handled can relax tensions in the traveling minister, making him even more valuable in his ministry.
Determining how much to give a guest speaker is a problem for many pastors. One way is simply to take a “love offering” and give whatever comes in, hoping it will be sufficient. If you elect to use the “love offering” system, please be honest in the way it is done. Don’t choose the night with the lowest attendance to take that offering. If an offering is declared to be a love offering for the minister, it is deceitful to take part of it for advertising, overhead or anything else. If the offering is to be shared between the church and the guest, say so. Integrity in the handling of offerings is vital to the life-flow of a congregation.
In trying to determine a fair honorarium, some pastors overlook the days of traveling to and from the service and count only the actual days of ministry.
Many people also overlook the fact that the traveling person must maintain a home, a family and an office, as well as recover all traveling expenses, entirely from what he receives from his ministry. It is his only source of income.
The local pastor may have difficulty presenting a check that greatly exceeds his personal salary because he overlooks the harsh reality that the traveling person receives none of the usual pastoral benefits. He receives no housing or car allowance, no paid days off, no sick leave, no vacation time and no entertainment allowance or expense account. He has no office, no secretary, no free phone or mailing service. He does not receive a check 52 weeks of the year; he has no hospital or life insurance paid for by a church; and, of course, he has no retirement program. All of these benefits the pastor enjoys must come out of the traveling man’s honorarium.
What is a fair measurement for an honorarium? Perhaps Paul gave a standard of measurement to Timothy when he wrote, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Tim. 5:17). That the “double honor” of which Paul spoke concerns the honorarium is made clear by other translators. Norle translates this phrase, “considered worthy of a double reward.” Williams says, “considered as deserving twice the salary they get” and the New English Bible puts it as “reckoned worthy of a double stipend.” Perhaps a beginning basis for determining the honorarium might be double the weekly salary of the senior pastor (and don’t forget to allow for non-cash benefits). It may well be that the cost of the guest’s air fare should be paid above this.
A final suggestion: present the speaker with his check before he leaves town. Promising to mail it to him as soon as the offerings are counted is a withholding of earned wages against which James speaks with prophetic sternness. Financing a great portion of a series of services and having to leave town with only a promise of better things to come leaves one feeling empty. Too often the check is never sent.
Usually the pastor feels he has discharged his obligations when he deposits the speaker at the airport after the meetings are through. But he can share two further kindnesses with this traveling minister. If tapes of the services have been made available to the congregation, send a set of these tapes to the speaker’s office or home. He really does not need to crowd them into his luggage, but he would appreciate having them awaiting him when he returns home.
After a week or so, few pastors will write a thank-you letter sharing their observations of the fruit of the ministry. This is very seldom done in the circles in which I travel, but when it is done it is deeply appreciated, for the traveling person rarely sees the fruit of his labors. When the pastor shares a report, it puts fresh courage in the traveler’s spirit and helps him forget his weariness.
How do we receive a traveling ministry? With care in our choice, with candor in the contact, with helpfulness in hospitality, with joy in the joining of ministries, with honor in the honorarium and with gratitude for this gift to the Church. Perhaps the pungent words of Jesus would set the tone of four relationship with traveling ministries:” ‘In as much as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me'” (Matt. 25:40, NKJV). Let’s receive one another this way.
Judson Cornwall describes himself as a traveling teacher. He has spent over 50 years in the Christian ministry, nearly 30 of those years as a pastor serving in four churches and the remaining 20 years as a traveling minister. He also taught Bible school for four years and authored a number of books.
(The above material originally appeared in Ministries Magazine.)
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