No-one likes talking about money. I was brought up to never say how much I was earning, or ask someone else what they earned. It was just considered rude. In this day and age, it seems like money and salaries are much more transparent. Professional sportsmen and businessmen, politicians and actors, all seem to be linked to salaries, bonuses, sponsorships, and so on. But that is a world away from the humble pastor’s salary. In many churches, quite rightly, the people don’t know. But that can work against many pastors. Let me explain.
To be blunt, many pastors are paid poorly. Even, dare I say it, outrageously. Yes, we all know examples of celebrity ministers paid millions, with huge houses and cars, writing books and selling anointed nail clippings. But that’s the exception, not the rule. The majority of pastors do not fit that description. They are at the other end of the spectrum. Here are some reasons why I think many pastors are actually underpaid.
Assumption of Gratitude
Yes, any employment is great. Of course, people should feel honoured to be paid to do ministry. But just because there is a job available, doesn’t mean the job should pay badly. To pay someone poorly because it is a ‘spiritual calling’ is mean-spirited, poverty-minded and gnostic in its thinking. Paying people shouldn’t keep someone in your emotional debt; it should empower and liberate them from material concerns so they can perform their role admirably. Yet many pastors can be barely scraping by – even more so if they have families.
I encountered a church that talked a lot about its excellent packages – perks such as parking, free coffee from the church cafe, a book allowance, health insurance, gym membership, phone package and expense reimbursements. Unfortunately, what the church was doing was deducting the cost of these perks out of the actual salary figure, instead of adding them to the salary figure. In effect, they wanted the pastor to be grateful for perks they may not necessarily have wanted but that they themselves were being forced to pay for.
Don’t do that. It’s not honest, and it’s not honouring or respectful of your pastor. If you give a package, great. But there is a difference between a $50,000 salary plus benefits, and a $50,000 package which, in reality, works out as $35,000 salary.
Lack of Research
I encountered a church that wanted to hire a pastor, and made him an offer. The problem was that the salary they offered barely gave him enough to cover rent, bills and groceries. The area they were based in was fairly wealthy, and property and grocery prices reflected that. But the salary they offered wasn’t. Fortunately, the man declined the offer and was open why, and a quick rethink by the church resulted in a much improved and acceptable offer.
If you have a church board setting the salary, at least ensure they are researching two things – the market rate, and the cost of living in the area.
There are many tools online that will help you see what resources to determine the market rate for a pastor. Pay them what the job is worth, not what you think it’s worth. Chances are, a pastor will work longer hours, have less holiday, and carry more responsibility and pressure than many. Pay them appropriately.
Consider the cost of living in your area – especially if your church, and your congregants, are based in a plush and affluent suburb. Pay your pastor a salary that is in keeping with that area and those people. If people are giving consistently and regularly, you can afford it. If you can’t, don’t make the pastor pay for the people’s lack of generosity.
Not Reviewing The Pastor’s Salary Annually
Not many of us like asking for raises or increases. Those of us who do, probably wouldn’t ever want to work for a church! Most pastors are good servants and don’t want to bring an extra financial strain on to the church. Perhaps it feels humiliating to ‘beg’, or face questions or criticisms, or accusations of money-grabbing.
The problem is, pastors are the very people who should benefit from the church finances! So please, establish a process where the pastor’s salary is reviewed every year and increased. Don’t make it about performance – “no conversions this year, no pay rise for you” – but do reward good leadership. Oh, and please, no matter what is happening performance-wise, make any pay rise a living wage increase. This is the hourly rate that pastors should be getting to meet the actual cost of living in your nation or state. Cities are more expensive to live in, for example. Again, do your research and don’t let the pastor deflect or nobly waive a raise. Pay them more!
Why do we think that pastors are above and beyond stress, worry or anxiety when it comes to finance? Money, and concerns about money – present and future – can consume and distract us. All of us know we are less effective and focused when feeling the pressure, especially when we are providing for others. Churches need to step up here and not give their pastor any cause for concern or fear when it comes to their salary. You’ll get the best pastor when they are free of such burdens.
1 Timothy 5:17-18 is pretty clear, in my mind, about pastors pay. It talks about elders (that’s church leaders and pastors, not board members, who are actually closer to biblical deacons no matter what they are called) and how elders are worthy of double honour. Yay, that’s nice. Let’s applaud and say thank you, and be polite and respectful. But I don’t think it means that kind of honour. Verse 18 is citing the scriptures and in using the language of wages, is bringing money into the equation. In short, the scriptural principle is that honouring your leaders means paying them well.
Start by reviewing the pastors salary today!
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