How to Pay the Evangelist



How many sentences have been started with that rhetorical line? When one attempts to construct a policy or develop a practice he
quickly learns that not many things are equal. That is certainly true in the matter of an evangelist’s remuneration.

Circumstances vary, needs vary, economies vary, ability to pay varies–virtually every aspect of this field is a variable. That truth,
however, should not negate the formation of guidelines to help a church and pastor determine how to pay an evangelist. The task is not an altogether simple one, but a necessary one.

We must nurture the evangelistic ministry. God gave it as a gift to the body of Christ. We need men who can visit congregations with a fresh voice of faith and a spiritual anointing that will stir the saints and convict the sinners. For good men to continue to fill this role, pastors and churches must take to heart the real needs of those who are willing to make huge sacrifices to be available.

Before writing this article, I mailed a survey to every evangelist listed in that category in the UPCI Ministerial Directory. Scores of them responded with helpful information and statistics. A few of the recipients were no longer engaged in evangelistic ministry
because the list was not updated. Others who are active were not listed so they may not have received the survey. I want to personally thank all those who took the time to respond. The respondents could remain anonymous and no pastors’ names were ever mentioned.

Please understand that space will not permit every facet of the evangelistic ministry, even the financial aspect, to be covered
exhaustively. There are many extenuating circumstances causing evangelists’ pay to be quite erratic–some justifiable and some
probably not.

What the survey revealed:

Almost 60% of them were full time during the year 2000. Others served as an evangelist part of the year. The average number of weeks they evangelized that year was 37.

39% of them had previous experience as a pastor. Many of the others had served either as assistant pastors or youth pastors/leaders.

The vast majority of them were married (89%), and over half had children. Of those who had children the average number was 2. One out of five said that their families were not satisfied with life on the evangelistic field. Surely that is due in part to the stress resulting from lack of finances.

Their primary mode of transportation varied widely with 40% traveling by car, 12% by van, 33% pull a trailer, 6% drive a motorhome, and about 20% travel by air either some or most of the time.

Their usual accommodations during a revival included 37% primarily staying in a trailer, 36% in a church apartment, slightly
over half in a motel, and a surprising 30% said they normally stayed in the pastor’s home.

The average Sunday morning attendance at the last ten churches visited by the responding evangelists was 139.

The survey revealed that pastors virtually never (less than 5%) discuss the evangelist’s financial needs with him.

This background should assist us in better recognizing the financial needs of our brethren who serve us as evangelists. They want
to do what they are doing. Most do not want to enter another ministry now, but 41% of them said they either plan to leave the field soon or foresee that possibility because of financial considerations. What a great loss that would be to the kingdom.

It was shocking that the total average weekly offering from the last ten churches they visited was barely over $500. If that amount was plugged into a 52-week year with 15 weeks taken out (see average number of weeks above) for holiday seasons, camp meetings, conferences, travel time, sickness, emergencies, rest time off, etc., the average is only $356. Few complained, as evangelists lists rarely do, but we all know that amount will not sustain anyone for long, especially a man with a family and a “rig.”

The average needed per week (over 52 weeks) to maintain their ministry was modestly estimated at $686. They are currently far from that. To average what they need they will have to have a number of weekly offerings of $1000 or more. With the current cost of fuel, traveling expenses are extremely high, especially when you are pulling a trailer or driving a motor-home. Some evangelists reported that they are receiving virtually the same offerings per week that they received five or six years ago. By the time the evangelist pays his taxes, tithes, his ministerial dues, and gives personal offerings, 30-40% of his income is already gone. He then has to think of insurance costs, clothing and cleaning bills, phone bills, educational costs for his children, food expense, and many incidentals connected with his ministry. And why shouldn’t he be able to squirrel away a few coins for a rainy day or future retirement? “The laborer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7).

It is true that a single evangelist can get by on less than a family of four with a truck and trailer, but pastors and churches have to think of the present circumstances-not back when itinerant evangelists were staying in Sunday school rooms, living on garden
poundings, and were glad to get $100 or $200 per week. They could make it on that then, but then is not now! God expects the evangelist to pay his bills just as he expects it of the pastor and saints. Many pastors have never served as an evangelist who is asked to embrace a rigorous, demanding lifestyle, and become totally dependent on the generosity of the saints and the pastor. Most of those who have served as an evangelist know how to take care of a visiting minister-they remember how it was.

It was interesting to note that certain types of evangelists (e.g.: children’s, youth) tend to earn less the’ than others. Are their
expenses less than others?

Everyone understands that there are many variables to be considered-how experienced is the evangelist? How capable is the church financially? How long since the last revival? These are legitimate considerations, but the gas stations, service garages, and insurance companies don’t set prices based on those situations. It is an anomaly that many small churches pay better than some large churches.

What criteria should a pastor and church use in determining how much to pay an evangelist? Let me share some observations and
suggestions submitted 1 by evangelists.

1) As a rule, the larger the evangelist’s family the greater the offering should be.

2) The mode of transportation should be considered. Ordinarily, the family with a truck and trailer need more than the single guy who arrive in a Toyota Corolla. Some evangelists mentioned that if they fly to, city, the church will pay the entire plane fare, but if they drive the, receive very little travel expenses, if any. How far did the evangelist hay’ to drive to get there?

3) A pastor might evaluate hi own situation: Could he make it on what he will be paying the evangelist? Would the Golden Rule be, good measure of how to think about evangelistic remuneration? True, pastor may have many expenses that an evangelist does not have (evangelists should remind themselves of this fact), but there is a flip side to that coin too. Unlike the evangelist, a pastor’s income is usually steady whether he is in his service, or out sick, on vacation, at a conference, or whatever. He may also receive perks like housing, vehicles, retirement, and insurance provided by the church–along with gifts, trips, or other expressions of love on his birthday, anniversary, Christmas, etc. That is only right, but how nice it is when a pastor remembers his evangelist on special days. I heard of one pastor who remembers all the evangelists he has had during the year at Christmas, sending a nice offering and gifts for the family. How thoughtful. (Evangelists, please don’t call for his name!) The word about how a pastor and church take care of their evangelists gets around.

4) An evangelist should be paid for the time he is at a church, not just for the number of services he conducts. In other words, if he
only preaches Wednesday through Friday and Sundays, he still should receive the same amount as if services were held every night.

5) Pastors are wise to think of the evangelist’s weeks off, vehicle maintenance, cancellations, and unexpected expenses. Many have
no insurance and one hospital stay or serious sickness can devastate them financially. Add a little to the check, or make a separate check designated for such purposes.

6) For evangelists with travel trailers or motor-homes, the pastor should make sure that adequate-arrangements are made for
electrical and water/sewer hookups. Most trailers today need at least a 50 amp service with an RV plug. If the church has a space for this, fine, but if the church is in a poor neighborhood, or does not allow privacy for the evangelist, it may be preferable to make arrangements with a trailer park. Most pastors understand that evangelists with trailers save them motel and restaurant bills. Churches save on utilities and other expenses when they don’t have to provide and maintain evangelists’ quarters. A grocery allowance and food donations help the RV family a lot.

7) Many evangelists expressed appreciation for savvy churches and pastors who write separate checks for expenses and offering. If the church was going to give $1000, consider making it for $700 and another check for $300 for expenses. Checks drawn on a local bank make it more convenient for the evangelist to cash. It also helps when a pastor makes arrangements to cash the check for the evangelist. He may be leaving early the next morning before a bank opens. Little things mean a lot.

8) Pastors and/or church secretaries should ask how the evangelist wishes his check(s) to be make out. He may prefer two
checks-one to him and one to a credit card company or a “ministry,” or to him personally for travel, housing, insurance, and other expenses. He may need some of the amount to be in cash.

9) Many evangelists swallow their pride and sell items ranging from hair clasps and neckties to shoestrings and what-nots in order to make ends meet. When saints see the evangelist’s wife setting up a table in the foyer that looks like a transplant from F.W. Woolworth’s, they ought to get the message. To promote helpful books, reading, and evangelism tools is one thing, but to have to sell plastic tie-tacks to pay one’s bills is degrading. This may even be somewhat self-defeating if the pastor or the church get the idea that the evangelist is making quite a bit of money from sales. An evangelist who doesn’t have to push sales or constantly worry about the amount of his check will be able to concentrate more on his messages and the services.

10) Good planning will help alleviate some of these problems. Fundraising by churches with smaller reserves before a revival begins is important. Many times offerings taken in the services are insufficient. Just as planning is done for visitation, prayer
schedules, and other preparations for revival, thought should be given to the evangelist’s travel expenses, personal remuneration, groceries or “eat out” money, and other costs involved.

11) Pastors of smaller churches with limited resources might consider shorter meetings–i.e., pay more for one or two weeks rather
than less for three or four. If pastors of larger, more financially stable would pay accordingly, more evangelists could afford to
occasionally go to, or stay longer at, the smaller assemblies.

12) To a traveling family, common things like washday can be a major undertaking. Pastors do well to consider such needs beforehand. If it is not convenient for the evangelist’s wife to use their machines (and it is often not), then locate the most accessible laundromat and point it out to the evangelist when he arrives. A roll of quarters to pass along is a thoughtful touch.

13) If a pastor wants an evangelist to come for only a weekend, he should consider that such a request might mean that he will have to take an entire week off. Two or three hundred dollars plus expenses may seem sufficient for one service, but not if loss of potential income is included in the equation. Instead of thinking that “he was only here for one day,” remember that it may have caused him to miss several days of preaching elsewhere.

14) IRS Form 1099 is required when personal remuneration from a single source during a calendar year exceeds $600. The law requires these to be mailed to the evangelist no later than January 31. Pastors and/or church secretaries should comply so the evangelist can get his tax forms completed in a timely manner. Negligence has caused some evangelists to have to pay penalties.

15) In the case of more lengthy revivals (8-14 weeks), can the church afford to pay for a week off for refreshment? Everyone needs a breather now and then.


In consideration of the above, it seems reasonable that a church–all things being equal establish a base of $750 per week plus
expenses. That figure could be adjusted upward or downward depending on the evangelist’s particular circumstances as outlined above. Whatever base is used, it should be increased each year to allow for cost of living escalation.

Perhaps a lot of things will come to a pastor’s mind as he reads this, but this article is not attempting to cover pastor/evangelist
relationships, ministerial ethics, do’s and don’ts, the direction of the evangelist’s ministry, or the spiritual preparation of the church. It is dealing only with financial remuneration for the evangelist. It might be appropriate to think from the other side of the aisle–suggestions from pastors for evangelists that might help toward increasing their pay. Pastors are invited to submit their thoughts on this subject. That might make an interesting article in the future.

Speaking of ethics, is it right for a pastor not to make an effort to compensate an evangelist well if there were few external results of the meeting? If so, would that same pastor pay extra if there were several or many who were converted? Sometimes just a few new individuals can add thousands of dollars a year to the pastor’s income. Are “results” a fair rule of how an evangelist should be paid? Numbers are rarely an equitable measure of real results. Perhaps a conversation among the spit and whittle crew in Noble, LA in the 1930s went like this: “Anything much happen in that revival down there at the Pentecostal church?” “New, I think just one boy was baptized.” “Yeah? Who was it?” “I think it was that Pugh boy…the one they call J. T.”

Most itinerant ministers never mention their personal needs to the pastor or anyone else. They know going in that there is no way to predict their income and that they must depend on the Lord and the generosity of the people. It is an interesting observation, however, that pastors (and rightly so) usually discuss this in detail with church boards before they agree to accept a pastorale. Missionaries will know exactly what their remuneration will be before stepping on the plane or boat. That is not necessarily a lack of faith in God, just good communication–and wisdom. Evangelists want to trust the Lord, too, but should they be expected to trust beyond the level of pastors and missionaries? “Let’s all trust the Lord together,” would not be an unreasonable request.

If we want the evangelistic ministry to continue among us, we need to nurture it with sufficient compensation. Paying an evangelist well is an investment–not an expense.