As preachers, we tend to live and die by our words. But after learning how much some other speakers are making these days, I’ve decided my words are quite a bargain.
According to Forbes magazine, John Madden makes about $35,000 every time he accepts a speaking engagement. (I assume that includes bus fare.) Same goes for Ted Turner of CNN and Atlanta Braves fame. Frankly, I’d rather hear Madden — he’s a lot funnier and knows more about football — but I’d pay Ted extra if he leaves Jane at home.
I was amazed to learn how much we pay former presidents and politicos. Jimmy Carter makes $25,000 a speech, while Gerald Ford makes $20,000. And neither one could even hold a job more than four years. Of course, Henry Kissinger makes them both look like amateurs, pulling down $40,000 a speech. (But he throws in ten minutes of great Nixon jokes at no extra charge.)
If politicians aren’t your cup of tea, you can have your choice of journalists for a modest sum — $15,000 (Deborah Norville), $20,000 (Katie Couric), or $25,000 (Jane Pauley and Barbara Walters). I don’t even want to get up in the morning to see Katie Couric for free! Then there’s Sam Donaldson, who receives $20,000 – $25,000 to speak; the cost to get him to shut up is significantly higher.
Economists and business leaders get their fair share as well, it seems. Louis Rukeyser (of PBS’ “Wall Street Week” fame) receives $25,000 per speech, and is adamant about speaking for two hours. I’m thinking about trying that technique at my next church, perhaps with a bit of a twist. (“That’s right, I must be paid $5,000 per sermon and I am adamant about preaching for an hour; however, for $7,500 a sermon my determination may waver a bit.”)
Sports figures are favorites on the speaking circuit as well, even if they’re no longer active. For instance, former New York Yankees Whitey Ford and Joe Pepitone each receive $7,500 for speaking engagements. Former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry makes $15,000; now that his successor, Jimmy Johnson, is also a “former coach,” maybe he and Tom can do joint appearances. Or not.
My choice for the next church youth banquet is Bobby Knight, Indiana University basketball coach, who comes for just $25,000. That’s a small price to pay to get rid of old church furniture that needs to be thrown out. (And Bobby has a way with throwing furniture.)
In an age when some school teachers live on food stamps while kids with good backhands live in mansions, I suppose we preachers shouldn’t be surprised to make in a year what some of these characters make in an evening. But then, we’ve got a much better benefit plan than most of them.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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