Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Salary Cap for Pastors?

I have been finding it more and more interesting being a pastor and talking to people literally from all over the world on what their take is about church life. This is the time of year when churches, denominations, sects, etc. have their annual business meetings. More times than not, people at these meetings are trying to figure out just how much the pastor makes. I have a few thoughts on this and thought I would share since I am akin to not being afraid to share my opinions. Ah the joy of having a blog.

I know there are many people out there reading this and thinking, “pastors shouldn’t get paid for what they do…it is a church!” Well, I guess I could throw some scripture out to defend that stance but I could also throw out scripture to defend why they should. I am of the mindset that pastors/staff should be compensated for what they do. That is neither here nor there, what worries me are the pastors that are getting OVER paid for what they are doing and knowingly or knowingly beating up the church to make sure that amount stands. In most cases the Pastor is the chairman (or lady) of the board and they can sway at times when it is time for a raise. However, what bothers me are the pastors from larger churches that make large six or seven figure incomes. I have talked with people who were dead set against this kind of thing and vowed to make a difference. These were people of great stature within their denomination but ultimately got voted in for the position they were vowing to lower the salary on and now does nothing about it. I honestly don’t care how big a church/ministry is, it is my opinion that a pastor does not need to make a massive amount of money doing ministry. I think it is great that they are compensated well because we do deal with a lot of stuff in a week but sadly their salary sometimes will dwarf what an average middle class family in their church will make. Salaries should not be based on "well, pastor is the only one that works and does have a wife and 4 kids working their way to be like the Duggars so we should pay them more." NO...raises in the business world/real world are performance based not guilt trip based. People do have the mindset that the bigger the church is the more the senior pastor has to do. This is true and false. If a large church is managed well, the Pastor (executive pastor) will have a large enough staff to do things for him/her that he/she once had to do on their own. In other words they now oversee a group of pastors that do the work they once had to do. Personally, this would drive me nuts and might cause a lot of boredom for me. If I was relegated to just sermon prep and counseling each week I would be a zombie.

Why am I on a rant about this? From building programs that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a simple sidewalk to massive salaries in a church….I see this all as funds that should go towards ministry. When I say ministry I am not talking about the pastor playing golf with somebody and throwing the label “ministry” on it. I am not talking about throwing extravagant banquets we invite our friends to. I am not even talking about the pastor taking a friend on a "missions trip" with them. When I am talking ministry I am referring to benevolence. To put a new roof on someones house from church that is struggling to make it. Perhaps it means helping a couple in your church from foreclosure because their job situation dried up. It might even mean supporting more missionaries or beginning new ministries. Perhaps it means taking over car payments for someone now afflicted with a terminal disease and cannot return to work. But to take all of these funds each and every Sunday and lay a guilt trip on a congregation because the operating budget per week is $10K, $20k, $30k, etc (and that's just the senior pastors salary...some sarcasm there) seems a bit backwards.

So what is my solution to this problem? I don’t have one…how about that? I can only tell you what I do at our small church. I have told the church and board that I will refuse any and all raises until our two staff people are brought up to full time like I am. What does it mean for your church? Perhaps putting a cap on the salaries. Perhaps a church of 1,000 means at the most you will only make this much. What seems so crazy about this? There are non-profits all over that do this…they are called hospitals. Nurses can only make so much in their career field. Sure they will get a living expense raise as times change and inflation happens, but to have a massive salary…it will never happen. I think a whole lot more can be done with money that is sunk in grossly massive salaries that if the pastor would not like that and threaten to leave...it would be okay. I guarantee you there would be another pastor that would “get it” and move into that position happy with a smaller salary while doing more ministry.


  1. I very much feel the same way. I came from a larger church (not there anymore) and I know what the senior pastor makes (for various reasons although i would never disclose). It actually disgusted me, because their expenses are paid for (like housing and etc) and yet my worked in a lower position on the janitorial staff for 10 years for a horrible pay, barely min wage.

    Now I'm in a smaller church in chicago where the pastor most deff doesn't do it for the money, our church is actually behind on paying him because we don't always make if financialy each month. My boyfriend is the worship leader and does NOT recive any payment for it, it is out of his heart and love for God. It is sad that it shocks others that he doesn't get paid, why has it come to this?

    Sigh, this whole area of thought is something that has always frustrated me.

  2. Amen to all that you wrote!!!

  3. Is it possible to give a pastor a salary decrease? It is either that or fire the part time c.e/youth coordinator, but she is the only one doing any work.

  4. Interesting thought, Anonymous. I would say there are things that only a person on staff will see that the pastor does but I do get your point. When I was youth pastor I often times wondered what the senior pastor did since I was doing kids, senior citizens, and youth.