- Confessions of a Church Planter:An Introduction
- Is Church Planting Just A Phase?
- Pastors, Salaries, Leaders and Budgets
- Planting a Church And...
- The Revolution (Church/Body of Christ) Will Not Be Funded
- Thoughts on Paying Pastors
I wrote this post after which gives some more thoughts on the matter.
Since starting theStory Joe, Darryl and I have wrestled a lot with the idea of salary and if a church should pay its pastor, go bi-vocational or make an income completely separate from the faith community. What does that look like? I found myself wavering a lot on the issue. I personally don’t take a pay check from the church and this point in time I don’t want to. Right now we pay Joe a part time salary ($12000 a year, up to $20000 for next year) and pay a part time kids experience designer a small wage ($5200 a year).
The list of reasons why churches should pay their pastors is endless. It’s great to have someone dedicated to the task full time in cultivating the community. It’s awesome to have someone able to spend the time needed to bring together good messages and do the proper study. It’s great to have someone there to walk and journey with people through hard times; someone at the church who is designated teacher, pastor, and caregiver. If someone’s gifts lie in being a pastor, well they may not have other gifts or trades that they can make a living anywhere else. It’s nice to have someone responsible for the administrative side, visionary side and organizational side of things. I’d much rather see money go into someone’s pocket than into a building project.
I think my reasons for not being paid are more though. With my idealistic thinking, I would hope that a community would together fulfill the role of what we have created the “senior pastor” into. The church would be dedicated to cultivating the community and growing together. When someone is in need, the community responds. The community learns to teach each other and build up their teachers. I hate the idea of the communal responsibility being passed off onto one individual for a pay check, or at least this is what happens in many circumstances.
I also hate the idea that pastoral ministry is a career. It works the exact same way as any business does. There is a hierarchy. You can work your way up and down. The person at the top calls the shots. They get scheduled raises and benefits and they are all expected. In fact we get pissed when churches treat their pastors badly and don’t give them what’s due to them. We give them pension plans and pay into the RRSPs. We pay their mileage and give them book budgets. Pastoral work is a white-collar job just like all the others. It’s like a mix between a counselor, public speaker and administrator. What ever happened to tent-making, or working with our hands or suffering for the kingdom? Do we really think that pastors have the “rite” to a well paid job with benefits because they went to school and got educated or have special gifts that were realized?
We want to argue that we have to support our families, or that no one else is going to do it, or that it is in fact a profession (because we went to school for it) so we must be paid like all the others, and treated like all the others. I just don’t buy it though. I think idealistically (which I think is what we should be reaching for, not ignoring it because we think it’s impossible) there should be no such thing as paid pastors. I do not think the pastoral ministry should be used to “get ahead” in this world and should not in anyway be on the same level as other white collar jobs.
Here is my proposal. Instead of hiring pastors on and paying them a salary based on all the ridiculous things we pay them for, we create a new system that is setup to support pastors. Let me explain. This system says if you want to be a pastor of this community than you will learn to serve this community at the cost of your career advancement and weekly pay checks. (As I type this I’m starting to see this looking a lot more like how the Salvation Army sets things up). Pastors need to be supported; not paid. Communities need to sit down with their pastors or the people in their community that want to dedicate their full-time lives to the community and weigh their needs. Then the community should work together and commit to meeting those needs. Every year everyone should sit down again and re-evaluate what this person and their family needs to survive along with them, holding them accountable to their stewardship practices along the way and then determine together how the community can meet their needs.
This I think would save us a lot of hassle. We would stop instantly playing the raise/salary game thinking we deserve or need a certain amount to survive. Thoughts that come to us all alone as we justify all the things we need in our heads to survive and our lives and purchases would be laid bare before the community as together they decided what was the best way to support this person who has decided to give his/her lives over to them for the sake of the kingdom. This would in turn help each community member re-evaluate their own finances on a regular basis seeing how he is supporting this pastor to live and realizing that they could probably live simpler also. This of course puts the pastor on the spot. All of sudden the house that they live in is up for question, do they really need to live in that expensive of a house? Do they really need that many vehicles? Do they really need to vacation that often? Do they really need to have that kind of medical care? It’s transparent all of sudden because the pastor is giving these decisions over to the community and is at the mercy of their decisions. As I talked this out with a few people before I posted this, one friend says that “this would be a brutal way to live” for that pastor. It could be, but someone has got to put themselves out there and live brutally for anything to really happen.
Some may think its reinventing the wheel of boards and deacons determining the pay scale of a pastor based on whatever they base it on. What I’m proposing though isn’t a pay scale at all. It isn’t based on the size of the church, how long they’ve been a pastor, how long they’ve been at the church, what they deserve, what their responsibilities are; rather it is based on what the needs of the pastor and his family are.
I think this sets up a community to have leaders who are leading by example while still serving at the feet of the community they are serving. While the community works together to help one family survive, maybe other families will start to catch on to what is really happening and start participating with more than just their finances to pay off an extra heating bill. Things like retirement and investments become less of an issue because the community has committed to supporting this person/family and its not like there is such thing as retirement inside committed relationships. Things like medical care and surprising bills in the mailbox become the burden of the community instead of the individual.
While my hope is that entire communities would work this way, not just with the pastor, what if we started with just the leader or the servant of the community. We work together to support that person and make sure they are OK always and taken care of instead of sending him pay checks every few weeks and letting him fend for himself. What do you think? One friend says that I am speaking from a place of ignorance because I don’t get my salary from a church. In my opinion this gives me a better perspective on the issue, because I have given my life to the church but am not paid. The problem is though, I probably won’t ever get to test out this theory myself, at least anytime soon. The last thing I would want to do is push somebody else into this way of living that they weren’t comfortable with. So what do you think?