This blog is adapted from an original blog by Mike Kim, personal branding expert, speaker, and host of the top-ranked personal branding podcast, the Mike Kim Show. This is a subject I have been asked about most frequently by people who have been “reinventing” their lives. As we transition out of traditional roles, we are looking for more creative ways to share our message and value with the world. Here are some nuggets of wisdom as you build your itinerant ministry:
1. Ministry = People. Never forget this. I don’t like using the word “business” in this context, but in all honesty ministry is a people business. When a church pays for you to come, the money comes from tithes and offerings—the literal representation of time, sweat, tears from hard-working people. The moment you start seeing God’s people as $$$, repent, tell your leaders (you shouldn’t be on the road without real accountability), and give stuff away. Did you record that teaching series or worship album to make you money…or to bless people? We understand the need to charge for merchandise, but don’t lose sight of who it’s for!
2. Relationship is key. Unless you’re so famous and awesome that you get invitations by merely posting a Facebook update, someone is going to have to put their name on the line for you. You have a buddy that convinced his church to let you preach at the event they’ve been planning for a year? Guess what? His name is on the line, and quite possibly your friendship is as well. I’ll never forget the guys that put their names on the line for me. I recall as a young “revivalist” pastor and get an email: “Hey Jeff, this is Pastor —-. Our mutual friend so-and-so recommended you for an event…would you be able to come?” I owed it to my friends and mentors to make them look good for recommending me. Conversely, I’m not going to risk years worth of relationships I’ve built for someone I barely know to simply have an opportunity behind a microphone. If you feel called to itinerant ministry, it will happen but it involves someone taking a chance on you. So, 1. identify the person you are in a relationship with that can be your first endorsement and 2. do an honest inventory of yourself. Are you worth that person putting their name on the line for you?
3. Stay in touch. In itinerant ministry, “out of sight, out of mind” takes precedence over “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Follow up with emails or texts, use Twitter or Facebook. After the event, follow up and say thank you. We need to change our paradigm in ministry culture from contractual to communal, and this is at least a step in the right direction. When guys I’ve hosted for events contacted me months after with a message like “Thinking of you and Sheri…hope you are well!” it does wonders. A tiny thoughtful gesture can go a long way.
4. Off-stage matters just as much as onstage. It doesn’t matter how great you are onstage—if you are rude, immature, or make life a logistical nightmare for your hosts, you will never get invited again. They will also tell ALL their friends to avoid you. Satisfied customers are the best advertising, and the meter starts running with the first email or phone call. When it comes to people you bring with you, your host will operate (rightfully so) under the assumption that they are of a certain maturity and fully represent you. The road is not the place to work out character issues. If I look into inviting a guest I always looked to see if I knew someone that’s had them to their place and ask the good and bad. When I’ve hosted guests for my events, I’m more concerned with how they interact pre/post event than their sessions. I already know what they can do as a speaker or worship leader (I’ve researched them), but my concern is, “Is this person, someone I want my team and people to learn from and emulate?” That was a major factor on whether I would bring them back or it’s a one-and-done
5. Be presentable. Be yourself (even if that means jeans and a tee!), but also realize that itinerant ministry—where you are the main contact point—means that you have to be able to rub shoulders with people different than you. Good pastors and event coordinators are sharp people, regardless of their personality. This doesn’t mean you have to be a type-A leadership guru, but you should be able to have a normal conversation (we’re adults, right?) with them. They are the ones writing your check, after all. If your host is an author or blogger, read up on them before you go. Chances are they’ve done the same with you and it will give some common ground for conversation. Always bring business-casual clothes in case. Shower regularly (I’ve wanted to suggest this many times!). If you are a slob, you’ll never get asked to a church or event that does television. It’s kind of common sense.
6. Be realistic about finances. A worker is worth his wages, but at the same time be realistic. Sheri and I have never had to depend on honorariums to live…we have other sources of income. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is not to have to solicit an invitation just so we can pay our phone bill. I can tell you how weird it can get when itinerant guys get pushy because they need a check or they need to ask you to increase the honorarium. Ask yourself: “What number do I really need?” This is ministry, not billionaire CEO consulting…the financial pool is not the same. However, request the host to cover food, transportation, and meals. The honorarium/offering should be on top so the worst-case is that you aren’t losing money. I don’t do a set-rate but I do feel a church of 100 people shouldn’t pay me the same as a 5,000 member church. But if you’re a young person starting out on this, don’t quit your day job and call it faith. Transition into it gradually vs. transforming into it overnight. You can do all these things but God is the one who opens the doors. However, since those doors usually open up through people, fruitful itinerant ministers are launched from a track record, covering, and grounded-ness in a local body of ministry. An itinerant ministry isn’t necessarily a higher calling, it’s just different. If you’re not called to it, it won’t work, bring you joy, or yield much fruit. If you are called to it, there are things to be aware of so that you don’t squander opportunities, fall into a gig-mentality, or lose touch with reality.
For me, the biggest key is about adding value. Focus on cultivating a deep reservoir of love and wisdom from your personal time with God then bless the world from the overflow of that relationship. You will be amazed at how many opportunities open up to you when your focus is on the Main Thing!