Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Quite a discuss in class over whether a pastor should accept an honorarium for conducting a funeral. Everyone seemed to have no problem with accepting one for a wedding, but it was a split decision on funerals.

One said that we shouldn't and that it was prohibited by our rules. The subject isn't in the Book of Discipline. We have only two official guidelines. One is the following statement that appears in the rubrics (instructions) to the service of Death and Resurrection in the Book of Worship: "Traditionally pastors have not accepted an honorarium for this service when the deceased was a member of the church." The second is the statement in the guideline on Accountable Reinbursement Accounts: If the pastor receives an honorarium for a funeral, then the mileage incurred in doing the funeral should not be turned in as an expense.

So, if asked what you should be given for doing the service, you reply, "Nothing, it is part of my ministry." But what do you do if three weeks later a Thank you card arrives in the mail and inside is a check ot a gift card to a resturant in appreciation for your services? Or as happens in many rural settings, the family brings by farm products as a sign of their gratitude?

I realize some churches have this issue spelled out in their policies, but most churches don't have policies regarding funerals. So what's ethical and what is proper? I think the right way to handle it is do every funeral without any expectation of a gift. If asked what is to be given or paid, you reply as mentioned above, Nothing, it is part of my ministry. But if someone brings or sends a gift, you accept it graciously, and thank them. I have found that using such gifts to bless others is a great way of "paying it forward."


roadtripray said...

Man, is your blog post ever timely. I did a funeral (my first) and of course did not expect anything for it, and had I been asked, I would have refused. But just as you described sent a thank you card with a check in it. It has been two weeks and the check is still uncashed.

My wife Vicki and I talked about it and we really didn't feel comfortable accepting it, but sometimes refusing a gift can be rude, too. I have a scheduled meeting with my mentor on Saturday and was planning on getting some advice on this very subject.


Syd said...

Not sure what the problem is. If you feel uncomfortable with it make a donation to your favorite charity. Funeral homes and Florists have no problem exploiting the grieving families.
If a family feels the need to pay you an honoraria what does it hurt to accept?