A frequent complaint I hear from Christian entrepreneurs is not being paid for work they perform for the church. They love their church, and want to help, but their Church often expects it for free. Many report that they feel ostracized for even asking about payment when called upon by the church.
Some have even left a church because they no longer felt welcome. Many others have been made to feel so guilty about the matter that they do the project for no cost, even at the expense of the financial stability of their small business.
Should the church be expected to pay for services from its members? Does a Christian entrepreneur have the right to ask for compensation? How do you effectively get paid by the church without causing an issue?
Christian Small Business – Ministry or Business?
In Should You Advertise as Christian Owned?, one of the issues I pointed out when deciding to slap the Jesus fish on your small business is that other Christians, and the church, will be looking for the “family discount.”
I was going to quote from an article that Melanie Hope wrote for Examiner.com on October 7th called Does the Church Take Advantage of Entrepreneurs, but it appears the article has been removed. Perhaps she was pressured to take it down? I don’t know.
In the article, she expressed her frustration at how the church approved a major renovation expense from a contractor that was not a church member, but caused a minor uproar when she requested payment for a conference she was to host for the church. The church had historically paid the host each year.
She eventually decided to perform the services for no charge, and maybe she decided in the end that it was a offering so she took down the article. It does bring up the question though, is your business a ministry or a business? Maybe it’s both?
To Charge or Not to Charge
When Christ sent out the 72 men ahead of Him to prepare the people to hear the Gospel, he told them in Luke 10:7 to not worry about paying for lodging or meals because “the worker deserves his wages.”
It’s a verse often used to justify salaries for pastors, church musicians, and even for Christian entrepreneurs. While this is true, it doesn’t really answer the question regarding the church paying for services from its members.
Here’s how I approach the issue with my business. If I pitch services to my church it is always as an offering. If my church approaches me, then I earnestly seek God’s will through prayer and do what He places on my heart.
Your Small Business Services as a Donation
As a general rule for all my businesses, I bill for everything – including donations. Many times we are taken advantage of by our clients and the church because they do not appreciate the value of the service you are providing.
This is the small business entrepreneur’s fault – not theirs. How are they to know how much all the little extras you provide to your clients cost, or how much your donation was truly worth? You should bill them. There’s two approaches you can use.
Approach #1 – Bill, Collect, & Donate
Under this first approach you bill the church, receive payment, and then donate the money back to the church (depending on your structure, this could become a transaction upon which you pay taxes). It maintains your business as a business in the eyes of the church, yourself, and other parties that may look at your financial statements.
Approach #2 – Bill & Credit
This approach works great for clients who frequently calls you for a 10 minute freebie consult, but also works concerning work performed for the church. Simply invoice your client itemizing the price as if you were to charge them, and then list a credit on the invoice or in a credit memo.
This method avoids creating a taxable transaction, and it also is reflected in the financial statements and tax return. While not as effective as the first approach, it does reinforce the idea that your time is valuable and you are running a business.
Get Paid Without the Church Knowing
There’s another method that some Christian entrepreneurs use, and I must admit that I have been tempted to do this myself. If you do not believe that God is speaking to you to donate your services to the church, but you feel there will be an uproar if you ask for payment, deduct it from your tithes and offerings.
I really feel for those entrepreneurs who feel they must use this approach, it seems like such a logical way to avoid confrontation and not appear to be a greedy Christian. For me, I can’t shake the image of Ananias and Sapphira dropping dead at Peter’s feet in Acts 5. I’d suggest looking for another church.
Give Them a Way Out
The best approach I’ve found when asked by your church to provide your services for free, when you do not feel led to do so, is to be direct and provide them a way out.
After prayerful consideration, the best that I can do is X dollars. I understand that you were hoping to receive my services for no charge, so please do not feel obligated to accept this proposal. If you felt led that God wants this service provided to the church for no charge, then I will pray with you that the church finds that person.
Will this satisfy everyone? Probably not, but we cannot live our lives by what others think we should do. Even Christ faced this issue when some thought He should be somber when He and the disciples were merry. You can’t please everyone.