Do you have a heart to serve and skills that people need or want, but harbor Christian guilt about accepting payment? At the end of this post, I offer two statements to consider and use for yourself. Once I lay a little foundation, maybe they’ll provide clarity that empowers you to leave guilt on the curb for pick up next Thursday.
In a recent meeting, two Christian creatives wrestled with whether to charge for their products and services or just give them away. Both are talented, gifted servants of Christ who believe that money changing hands may contaminate their service.
They have a heart to serve but can’t square earning a living with being ministers of the Gospel. This isn’t a unique issue. I’ve had this conversation many times—even with myself!
Should You Be Paid to Serve?
You’re in good company if you’re having trouble figuring out how (or even if) you should get paid for your service to God. This is a HUGE issue. I know, because I faced it myself. I’m still in transition from ministry back into business, but I’m almost there.
Maybe you’ve been a volunteer, teacher, or played a support role for a non-profit and now feel called into the world of commerce so you can help more people with the abilities and gifts God gave you. When God calls, the best thing to do is answer “Yes, Lord” and begin walking it out.
From Business to Ministry and Back Again
From 1970 to 2009, I worked for compensation. Whether the gig was in corporate America or as an entrepreneur, I got paid. Then I was called into a new life as a Christian author and minister. The Holy Spirit kept me on a short leash until I could reflexively serve His will and not my goals, and work for what He provided, not by charging what I used to for services rendered.
Ten years later, it felt perfectly natural to give without asking. But, as many of you know, God seldom leaves you in the same place. Once you learn the lesson He has for you, He promotes you to the next vision to climb another hill.
There’s also this—it’s easy to offer what you do for free because there’s no proof of value required. I’m being honest. It’s easy to put the bar of excellence lower when you’re not getting paid or evaluated as a “real professional.” I hope I never did that, but someone might read this and realize that it could be an excuse they didn’t know they used to stay in the work for free zone.
My First Paying Client
After years as a “you can’t pay me” server, whether it was for a seminar, horse lesson, marketing consultation, or working with a non-profit board, I cracked my comfortable habit and accepted a paying client.
You may be surprised to find out why.
I Failed to Serve
I accepted payment because I knew that I was the best person for the job and that the client would walk away if he couldn’t pay me. Sometimes, “you can’t pay me” is a deal-breaker.
I knew that because this wasn’t the first time I encountered it. Because I wouldn’t accept payment, I failed to serve in the past when clients asked me to work with them but walked away when I said, “Sure, but you can’t pay me.”
Honestly, it was easier moving from getting paid to offering everything for free than it is going the other direction. In 2008, I clearly heard, “Give it away.” Obedience to such a direct command was easy once I knew what I was supposed to give away.
What About Being a Cheerful Giver?
God’s word is clear and we should be cheerful givers. But, unless you’re first a gracious receiver, you won’t have anything to give. Some folks need your service, but others need a meal, a pair of shoes, or someone close to them to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Supporting other ministries is how we provide for others outside of our niche.
Ministry Isn’t Synonymous With Not-For-Profit
First, be clear about where God wants you. Whether you’re a teacher, songwriter, or a physician, there is value in what you do. The topic we’re considering today isn’t your value, but whether you deserve payment for service.
The IRS and organizational paperwork have nothing to do with defining or creating ministries. The definition of ministry I use is doing what God calls you to and obeying His guidance.
As a side note, one reason our ministry dropped its 501.c.3 non-profit status and officially dissolved is because we no longer felt comfortable partnering with the government. That decision kept us in line with God’s calling for us and may have nothing to do with you. I only share it as an example. Our commitment to serve where God called didn’t change with our legal status.
What’s Your Ministry?
Ministry reflects the character, face, and blessings of God to others. Preaching the gospel of Christ is often more powerful when shared by example rather than words.
If you’re confused about what your ministry is, jot down everything you’ve done over the past three days. That’s your ministry today. If what you’re doing isn’t what God called you to do, begin doing different things.
Society teaches people that “you get what you pay for.” Working for free was a ministry agenda item at every annual board meeting. God’s instructions for us were clear: Offer but never ask. Every board member had an entrepreneurial background and knew the risk we took by offering everything for free.
Our policy never changed because this was the obedient choice, even when it didn’t make the most financial sense. We learned that when God assigns, He provides. Somehow, we always received what we needed.
Marketing According to Lynn
My last corporate job was as Marketing Director for a large national corporation. Later, as a business consultant back in the 80s, I specialized in service and marketing. Now I’m transitioning back into consulting and coaching, helping creatives, entrepreneurs, and organizations get laser-focused clarity on their mission and identifying The Next Step toward the goal God assigned.
If God calls you to serve through horses in ministry, therapy, or as a trainer, I’m still here for you!
I hope that this overview of marketing will encourage you.
Marketing is service-oriented, offering what you have to people who want or need it in the most efficient way.
Two Statements: When to Expect Payment
Congratulations, you made it to the two statements that (I hope) will provide context, permission, and help you move forward in service to others. I use them myself on a regular basis because it puts everyone on the same page.
The only good exchange is when everyone communicates well and walks away with a win. At times, God may call you to serve without charge. Always follow His lead.
- “If you pay anyone to do this, you’ll pay me.”
- “If people who do this get paid, you need to pay me.”
Well, the cat’s out of the bag—I’m returning to business, not just as an author and speaker, but as a consultant and coach, because this is how God intends for me to serve Him now. There’s more ministry coming as well, but everything has it’s own order.
For those who have walked with me through the past years and wonder about when I expect payment, I hope the following points make it clear. I signed up my first paying clients because they were going to pay someone for the service they needed and weren’t comfortable getting value for free.
- If you don’t pay speakers, I won’t expect payment to speak. But if you do…
- If you pay others for consulting or services I offer, then I expect payment.
- Unless it’s a gift or donation, the usual way to get one of my books is to buy it.
If you have a question, please ask. Changing the terms of relationship is always tricky and I am grateful to each of you who continue sharing the journey with me.
Your Next Step
If you’re getting stuck thinking of ministry as business and want feedback on your unique situation, maybe I can help. Exploratory conversations are complimentary (free). I invite you to contact me HERE.
We’re all on this glorious journey together.
Help For Pastors and Equine Ministries
Do you pastor a Cowboy Church or have a dear friend in equine ministry? Consider sharing one or all of the Gospel Horse Series to encourage, inspire, and provide targeted stories, lessons, and Bible applications to use in their ministry.