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Money again; Dance ministry at a conference
Topic Started: Aug 17 2008, 06:45 AM (2,054 Views)
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As you know, I can never work out the best way to handle the money side of dance ministry, and this has come to a head once again.

I've just been asked to provide a group of dancers for a forthcoming Israel conference. The event runs Friday evening through Sunday evening. With the help of my team, I'll need to lead congregational dance throughout, do a few presentations, and teach a workshop for about 90 mins.

I don't have a regular group, so I'll have to gather some colleagues together for maybe four rehearsals, and then we'll all need to give up a weekend for the event. Some may have to take Friday afternoon off work.

The organiser wants to pay our travel expenses, provide accommodation, and give us a gift based on the conference income. Although this isn't an unusual way of doing things, I feel unhappy as I'm worried we'll be bottom of the pile when it comes to sharing out the income. The conference is fairly small (about 100 delegates expected) and there's no guarantee of how much money will come in. I also know one of the musicians has negotiated a set fee, which would be my preferred way of working.

Neither myself nor any of the other dancers are well-off (nor have rich partners), and on balance our dance ministries all cost us far more than what we receive from the bookings we get (which aren't frequent, as the messianic scene over here is very small). We're going to have to invest in some new costumes for this event, and I don't think we can afford to do this without knowing we'll get something to cover the cost.

Whilst it is a privilege and a joy to minister, it also involves a lot of hard work and expenditure. I don't know if my attitude is the problem, but I do sometimes feel exploited by people who want dancing at their events. It's difficult to live off someone else's faith.

So what do people think? Should I be more businesslike or should I just trust God and the conference organiser?
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"more is more"

I think that in situations where you are fairly certain there isn't going to be an appropriate honorarium possible that you have to get creative.

What would be the possibility of talking with the conference organizers about finding sponsors for the dance ministry who might pledge a particular amount to cover a set honorarium for one dancer? If they request a sponsor for each dancer coming, that gives people a more compelling reason to help...just like it is more personal to pay to feed one orphan for a month than it is to ask for donations that go into a central fund for an orphanage where you don't know who gets your help or how much it helps.

This could also be done on a lesser scale....say sponsors for the new costuming.....if that would make your team more comfortable about an unknown honorarium.

Another way would be for them (or you) to hold a fund raising event for the purpose of covering your team.

Those of us who have been in the arts ministries for many years have done a lot of events that not only had no remuneration, but cost us personally to participate in. And that offering was given joyfully and was part of the formation and training up of the ministry. However, there comes a time when your "dues have been paid", so to speak, and there just isn't the extra energy, resources and time that can just be given away over and over again. We should not be ashamed to ask for what we need. Conferences have no problem paying big honorariums to a speaker who comes in carrying one notebook and has some words to say. So much more planning, resources, sweat and time is invested in bringing dance or other arts ministries to an event, and yet people seem to want this for free, or for expenses only. The underlying problem is the value assessed to arts ministry. It's often considered expendable. Yes, we want it because it's beautiful and exciting....but if we have to cut something because of money, it's the first thing to go.

I'm praying the Lord will give you wisdom on this. I've found it sometimes helps encourage boldness when you are advocating for a team of fellow ministers rather than just for yourself.

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Resident Rebbi

This is never an easy topic, in the kingdom or out, in ministry or when working for one's self. And it is not made easier within the kingdom by the legacy that many of us have, where having "a ministry" has been viewed more at the hobby level than anything more serious. Say, feeding children, paying rent and other bills??

It's not easy. Every dreamer/creator of every event has visions of great things for and in the kingdom. That's a good thing. Every little kid has visions of being able to consume that fourteen scoop 8 topping bucket of ice cream, too! Just like the child's eyes being too large for his stomach, the event planner's vision is often too large for their budget. We've been invited to more than a few of those, and especially early on, had the energy and the ability to make minor sacrifices to make them happen. Yeah, yeah, yeah, build your reputation, exposure to others who might/could/should engage you for their events or their congregations. Blah, blah, blah. That's not the deal. Ever, actually, but it took us a long time and many really good teachers to realize that. Part of this epiphany was also that we are doing more than repeating a prepared message and selling books/tapes on a popular subject. For an author to give away the occasional book means they give $10-15. Yes, they have an investment in the printing, but if the book is good, they'll get even that $10 give away back. Not exactly the same as dancers, movers, mimes, flaggers, pageanteers, etc. The banners and garments were never intended to be seen as an investment on which there would be a financial return. They were built out of obedience, out of honor, as an offering of love to our God.

We had one conference that was like the one you've described, but they also said, "generally the split for you would be about $XXX" (slightly more than half of what we normally would ask), but that if we'd like, they would arrange for ministry in appropriate congregations with the right physical conditions and that were open to our type of ministry, and that way, we should easily be able to achieve our financial needs. They were correct. Worked out very well. We'd work with them again because of that.

There have been others where the "love offering" was absolutely pitiful. Sixty people at the service and less than $20 in the plate. Pastor was embarrassed and wrote us a check to help at least cover the gas. It can go any which way. We've also been overwhelmed a time or two at the generosity of a small assemblage of folks who dug deep and blessed us amazingly.

I have some control over what I do or don't do as a minister. I talk it over with my wife and with my God. Is this something that we should or should not consider. Helena & I know what it costs us for a weekend of ministry. Weeks of prep, building or gathering of materials, praying through messages or lessons, a couple of dramatic days of prep time and set up, a day of tear down, and often a week to heal. The latter was less 10 or 15 years ago, but more than wisdom comes with age.

We've come to realize that IF WE CHOOSE to give our services as an offering unto the Lord, that is something that He directs and with which we have an abiding sense of His hand in the midst of it. Most of the time, that's not the way He works in our lives, however. We are not well-to-do. There is one job in our household in addition to the occasional ministry opportunities. Ministry for us means that I have to have time available from work (my "holiday" or vacation time) or unpaid time away from work in order to do this ministry. It's NOT a hobby, and it's not the warm fuzzy, "oh, well, that's just your ministry unto the Lord, you don't need any remuneration, right?" So, off I go into educator mode, sharing what I believe God's plan in all of this is. Yes, the Apostle Paul made tents while he was not in jail, but there was an expectation that the folks would be making some financial commitments. Paul talked about it a lot. He did NOT take money from everyone, but the ones who could afford it, from them he received support.

Old Testament. Look at how the prophets works. They travelled and stayed with people of means. Those people fed and housed the prophets. And they received blessings in turn. Education can go a long way toward changing the way people try to do business.

Helena's suggestion about sponsors is interesting. Any chance that a nearby congregation might be willing to have you as part of the Sunday worship and provide a love offering?

Have you approached your team to ask them their own thoughts? Not encouraging them to go for free, but are they willing to take a chance on a small conference on a small budget and splitting some undefined pot?

We have a friend who recently did a conference where there had been a verbal agreement, committed to by the conference host & our friend. After he got there, the host started to talk in ways that suggested our friend might not get everything agreed to. Christian host, Christian conference, Christian friend. The wheedling began. Friend stood firm, host continued to try and avoid. It worked out in the end because a few others saw what was happening and went to the host and essentially said, "Hey, we agreed to this amount for this minister. We need to be true to our word. Period." People of integrity triumphed!

It can happen!!

Let us know how Father works this one out, Dave.

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