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What is the standard donation for a minister who performs a memorial service?

9 answers | Last updated: Sep 18, 2015
An anonymous caregiver asked...

What is the standard donation for a Lutheran minister doing a small memorial service in their small chapel? I was told there is "no fee but will accept a donation". There will only be a small amount of people and an urn from the cremation. We live on Long Island , NY if that makes a difference. Thank you.


Caring.com User - Rebekah Peoples
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Rebekah Peoples, CFSP, CPC, Is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is passionate about serving others and believes that giving clients honest, accurate...
39% helpful
Rebekah Peoples answered...

Thank you for telling me your area. Like most services, the price can be quite different depending where you live. In your area, the current fee ranges between $200 and See also:
Caring Checklist: How to Plan a Funeral or Memorial Service

See all 201 questions about Funerals and Eulogies

Here are a few things to consider. If the service is going to be the usual pre-written one that is done for anyone who calls, the low end of that range may be acceptable.

Usually, however when you're told that there is "no fee but a donation is acceptable," it's because the person or some family member is a member of the church and the minister has some knowledge of the person. Even if that's not the case, some ministers will still provide a personalized message by talking to family members to get stories and information about the deceased. You may also be able to choose the songs and readings, and even include one or more family members to speak and share memories. To many people, that difference means a lot to them and they will pay toward the upper end of the range.

When they say that any donation is acceptable, do what you and your family feel is best. I've seen services in which the family members were very pleased and also unfortunately ones in which they were sadly disappointed. You may want to just carry a blank check with you and decide how much to write in after the service.

Whatever you decide, be sure that the service reflects what will be comforting and uniquely meaningful to you and your family. This is a one-time event and should be appropriately memorable.


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40% helpful
drjay1941 answered...

The Funeral Director's advice is excellent--and the idea of not filling in an amount until the service is over is(though not Lutheran), my practice is to leave the amount of a gratuity up to the family in consultation with the funeral director or, if no funeral director is involved, to suggest an amount based on previous experience with several funeral homes in the area. The region is a significant variable when looking at gratuities for services, particularly if the service is for a member of the church where the service is being held.


29% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

My Father died in 2005. The funeral home, cemetery told us the rabbi should be given $ 400.00. I thought this was terrible since the rabbi never knew my father nor my brother or I. He performed a 20 minute funeral because he had to go to another funeral (another $ 400.00 I presume. .


An anonymous caregiver answered...

For a professionally done service the minister will put in 8-10 hours on the service preparation and presentation. If it is for a non-member then an honorarium should not be a question. If it is for a member, then most ministers do not expect anything. Most funerals cost 8-12 thousand and the minister plays a huge role in making the service personal and appropriate. Most clergy have Master's Degrees and a gift of $100, while feeling appropriate, is around $10-12 a hour, not considering travel expenses which at times can be significant. It is one of those touchy things, but non-members should pay upwards of $250 if only to cover time and the hiring of a professional. If you hired a plumber you pay $80-100 a hour. Lucky you don't have to hire them to do the service.


An anonymous caregiver answered...

I work in a church office. Our pastors are paid a living wage but no overtime. The number of days that they put in ten hours or more is frequent. They often finish their work day by stopping by the hospital to visit sick parishioners or drop in on a home-bound senior. They never say no to administering to the needs of those they don't know.Tthey spend a significant amount of time with all grieving families. Not only do they work extra hours to honor your loved one; their staffs often put in unpaid extra hours providing technical and clerical support. A pastor, rabbi, etc. has to work especially hard to give a personal touch to a service for someone who has never been a part of their congregation. Be kind and generous to those who try to make the last memories of your loved one dignified. If they don't know you and don't meet your expectations pay them generously anyway. Remember why they don't know you.


Smiley53719 answered...

Personally, I was highly offended when I saw a line item on my parent's funeral invoice for the minister. The funeral was on a weekday (a clergy work day, yes?), the minister knew the deceased WELL...AND, had been a member for over 80 years. Additionally, my religion has the same funeral service for everyone, only the homily changes. Which, by the way, the minister begrudgingly gave a copy to me after I had to ask him for it 3 times. He says his words are his intellectual property. He doesn't distribute his sermons to shut-ins either. I believe there should have been NO charge.


An anonymous caregiver answered...

I'm disappointed to hear the lack of appreciation in some of these comments. My husband is a minister. When he does a funeral, he spends days making preparations. He meets with several family members of the deceased to get as much history and personal information on the deceased as possible so that their memorial is personal and honoring. He has to contact musicians to arrange for appropriate music, the church facility has to be prepared, someone has to be present to accept flower deliveries, a respite meal has to be provided, clean up afterwards to get the church ready for church services, etc. He has to do this while still preparing his sermon and classes that week and taking care of others who are in need. This means hours of overtime. An honorarium is called for along with a hand-written note if your pastor gave a personal, honoring memorial.


OleDad48 answered...

To "former funeral assistant" . . . I take it that you do not think it appropriate to tip a waitress since you "have already paid for the meal." Whatever "thousands" have been put into the church has gone to buildings, maintenance, utilities, staff -- only a small portion goes to the pastor as salary for being on-call 24/7. While ministers should never "expect" an honorarium from a church member, it is good discipline for the member to honor the pastor for his hours of work constructing a meaningful service for the family.