The Pastor’s Salary


You are seeking to join an annual conference that has experienced more than 3 decades of decline and has scores of struggling churches? How will you address this reality in your ministry as an Elder?

That was one of the questions that I’ve answered plenty of times en route to ordination.
What’s not helping, I feel, is the consistent rise of the required pastor’s minimum salary in the past 3 years.

(Disclaimer: I really know nothing — facts, reasons, you know the important stuff. But, I’m going to make like Fox News and just go off on what and how I feel, regardless of facts and reasons, you know the important stuff).

The required minimum salary for clergy has risen quite a bit in the past 3 years. (I think $6000? at least for me.)
How will struggling churches support a full-time clergy? Struggling congregations are — for the most part — going to be struggling with finances and budgeting. Small churches are going to have to bend backwards — maybe to a breaking point — to meet the required minimum salary.

I’m torn about this. Obviously, it helps me — the clergy– out. But it hurts the church that I serve. And I know we can’t be the only church in our conference that is facing this dilemma.
The other aspect that bothers me is the few colleagues who feel that this (the raise) needs to be done because we are entitled to the national average of United Methodist clergy members.

Perhaps. But, I feel uneasy that we would use the word “entitled.”
I’m trying to remind myself, daily, that I am not entitled to anything but I am entrusted with everything. Because, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.

The next sentences may make me sound better than I really am — so do let me swindle you.
My parents have engrained in our (my brother and I) hearts and heads that all the money we receive is from God and is God’s. From an early point, we have been taught to tithe to remind us how we are truly blessed by God. I am learning as I grow older, tithing is a reminder to be grateful and to remind myself to be dependent on God more and more and less and less on my salary and work that I do. My father firmly believed that the pastor should only live on what is given from the church and he modeled that to a T. And my father never complained about his salary. He received what he received. And everything he received, he always gave back to the church. And then some.

My parents have taught us the importance of tithing and giving to the church.
My wife is teaching me the importance of going beyond the minimum requirement — that tithing (10%) is not the ceiling, but the jumping off point. Because truth be told, outside of the designated 10%, I am a bit stingy with money and the stuff that I own, which I need to remind myself that everything I own is God’s because it is from God. It’s a daily struggle, I tell you.

I don’t like asking for raises (for myself, that is). I don’t like talking about money in church — only when it pertains to my salary. I feel blessed (and I truly mean it) of the salary that I am currently receiving. To ask tell the church that it needs to match the minimum salary, it feels like an unnecessary burden for both of us.

But like I said, on one hand I appreciate the “protection” of livelihood. On the other hand, it feels selfish and wrong to promote my livelihood while handicapping the church to do much else.

Which brings me to another thought that I should save for another post, but will touch on here.
Is a full-time appointment to a church necessary these days?
As a full-time employed clergy, it often gets hard to balance the needs of the church and the importance of making yourself known in the community. It’s easy to get beaten into staying in the office and focusing all of your strength on things going on in the church. Because church folks can complain if you’re not in the office enough — even the staff. Church folks can complain about the things that they feel are not being done and should be done by their pastor. A lot of the times, those complaints are legit and need to be listened to and addressed. Those who are not part of the church won’t complain if you — the pastor — is not present because they never expected you to be there. So, it becomes easier to bend towards the requirements and needs of church, if for anything, to quiet the complains and keep some sanity. (of course, a great pastor can manage both. I am not a great pastor)

And what I’m learning is that the pastor expects the congregation to do all the inviting, outreaching, and witnessing. The congregation expects the pastor to do all the inviting, outreaching, and witnessing. Therefore, nobody really does the inviting, outreaching, and witnessing.

But, like I said, that’s a post in of itself and I don’t want to force 1000 more words on you.

I don’t know what else to say or if I can add anything beneficial to this conversation. It just seems a little backwards to acknowledge that the churches in our conference have been declining and struggling for the past 3 decades and yet we go and raise the minimum salary.

I can’t complain. But yet, I can.

2 thoughts on “The Pastor’s Salary

  1. I appreciate this reflection. My observation is that the financial obligations of the church are being carried by a generation that is getting older. Younger persons, if they are in the church, may not–or choose not to–have the income to support the financial obligations of the church. The cost of maintaining buildings and a staff is limiting the money left to do the work of the church in the world. Maybe there should be another “required minimum” rule. If a church has 100 or fewer paying members, they will have a less than full time minister or perhaps the property should be sold and members will meet in other places.

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