Show Me The Money

Sorry to be so sporadic in posting recently. I did really well about a month ago, and posted two or three times a week for a couple of weeks, but now things are crazy again. Frankly, I haven't had much to say in the last couple of weeks other than preparing for preaching and Hebrew exams.

Beyond that, whatever energy we have has been thrown into the candidating and interview process at several churches who are seeking pastors. (And we've had some great conversations with some great churches). One of the things that has been interesting to me about filling out applications and questionaires for these churches is that each church asks completely different questions. Some questionaires are completely practical, some are completely theological. Some want to know exclusively about your work history and others want family information... except for one question: the question about money.

Every questionaire I've filled out so far (with the exception of one, I think) has a question about how much money I think I should make as a pastor in their church.

I hate that question because it's the hardest question in the world to answer. It's kind of like the question "Did you stop beating your wife?" There isn't exactly an easy answer to the question. You don't want churches to think you're a gold digger, but you don't want them to think your wife would be happy with Ramen and Rice every night. Here's the deal:

If a pastor comes to your church for the money, he'll go somewhere else for the money. You can't pay him as well as another church will if he is good at what he does. No matter how much money your church has, someone else has more. We want to be taken care of. We want our wives to be able to live in decent homes, and we don't want to dumpster dive for our kids' clothes, but if I wanted to be rich, I wouldn't have sent my resume to your church in the first place!

On the other hand, somewhere along the line it became shameful for pastors to have nice stuff. Several years ago, I bought a brand new truck. When I drove it into the church parking lot the first Sunday after I bought it, one of the deacons of the church said, "Wow. We're paying you too much." What he didn't know is that I had been saving for that truck for seven years, and that my salary at the church had nothing to do with it. But his comment reflected an opinion that a lot of church members share.

I guess we think our pastors should suffer for Jesus, and I'm okay with that... if the church members are willing to jump on board too. Because the pastor has the same calling as the other church members: make disciples of all nations. The fact that I'm paid by the church to fill my role doesn't mean that I have any less a right to live comfortably than the average church member who fulfills his calling in another role.

A general rule of thumb is to pay your pastor the median of the amount the board members make. That's probably a pretty good place to think about starting, assuming the board members' salaries are indicative of the area in which the church lives.

No honest pastor with whom I've ever come in contact wants to be rich. We don't all want to wear white coats and be on television sitting in gold-plated furniture. But we also don't want to survive above the poverty line.

Don't ask him "what's the bare minimum you can live on and still support your family?" (Yes, I have seriously been asked that question) It's honestly best in my opinion if you don't ask him the question at all. Instead, in your first or second conversation with him, let him know a ballpark figure of how much you believe you can afford to give him, and let him decide whether or not that's a good fit for him. In most cases, it will be... as long as you view him as a stewardship rather than a grunt employee. We love our job, and would do it for free if we could get away with it. But somewhere along the way, our wives decided they wanted to eat dinner!

Your pastor works hard. He's there in the middle of the night when you're in the emergency room. He's up in the morning preparing for the wedding of your daughter in addition to his other duties for the week. He's leading staff, preparing sermons, studying the Bible and the culture, counseling, praying, and ensuring that your local church is a light in the community for the Gospel. Pay him as well as you can, and feel good about it. He doesn't need any more.


Deb said...

Ouch. That seems a little harsh.

I feel safe in supposing that most of those folks are simply laymen who love God and love the church and are trying to honor both. Simply put, they are doing their best in an unfamiliar process and feeling a bit overwhelmed and underprepared.

People and processes will almost always disappoint. We do best when we extend much grace to one another.

When it became evident our church would have to begin this task, God put it on my heart to pray through the passages in Eph 3:14 to 5:21. Doing so gives me great hope in the God who calls us and empowers us; and keeps my focus on what he has declared to be the big issues in the body of Christ.

This morning, I pray them for all of us seekers.

Grace to you.

Chris Freeland said...

Hey Deb,

Thanks for the comment. I sure didn't mean it to be harsh. Apologize if it offended anyone.

You're completely right about the majority of people being laypeople who are doing their best. Although it's certainly not the case in your situation, you would be shocked at how many churches enter the search process haphazardly.

One of my pastor buddies is currently living $20 a month above the poverty line - and it's simply due to the fact that he serves a group of people who value the fact that their pastor is poor. If I intended any harshness in my post (and I really didn't), it would have been directed towards that type of thought process, not the one of which you speak.

The job of the lay committee who seeks a pastor is extraordinarily difficult. I certainly don't want to take away from that. Maybe I'll blog about that next ;)

Sorry if I offended you. Again, my intent wasn't to be harsh!


Deb said...

Two things and then I'll leave you alone :)

**I'm am not, and was not offended. No apology necessary. I just love to think and talk; unfortunately, not always in that order. My friends call me "inquisitive". But I know that's their polite way of sayng I just plain talk alot.

**Perhaps your pastor buddie would be interested in serving a small congregation in north-central Kansas; they're a good bunch of folks with a solid history of loving and appreciating their pastor and desiring to be challenged in their walk and talk.
(I'm not kidding)

That's it. My best to you and Kari.

Chris Freeland said...

I'll send him your way.

I thought that was you, and as a result wanted to be sure you knew my comments were divorced from any experiences I've had recently!

Ahh, the wonders of the kinds of trouble a google search can get you in!

nick strobel said...

when did you stop beating your wife?