New Hope Baptist Church in Leakesville, Miss., knew they were overpaying their 20-year-old preacher. He knew it too. At $125 a week, neither was real sure of what they were getting into. However, those sweet people were patient, kind, nurturing, and at every turn looked for ways to take care of their preacher boy and his new bride. For instance, there was the Christmas they gave his wife an oak coffee table and matching end tables, and gave him a Remington 1100 vent ribbed shotgun. Why? Just to tell that young couple, “We love you and appreciate you and your ministry to us.”
Jeanne and I have moved on from New Hope in these 34 years of pastoral ministry, but we’ve never forgotten the generosity shown us by people who are still dear to us. And by God’s grace, other churches along the journey have always been conscientious in taking care of my family and that of other staff members. Each church has done its best to tangibly live out the biblical instruction that, “A workman is worthy of his hire.” In every church, a respected and godly layman would lead the way to make sure that serving that church through ministry was a blessing and not a financial burden to the pastor and staff. And true to form, God always blesses generosity.
It is budgeting time in many Tennessee churches. Decisions are being made about missions, ministry, and staffing for the coming year. It’s an important time filled with great responsibility. After all, budget and finance committees are making decisions regarding the stewardship of God’s given resources. As part of that process, I want to encourage all of those making budget decisions to look carefully at the needs of the pastor (and staff if you’re in a church large enough to have additional staff).
I recognize every church is different and there are circumstances financially relative to individual churches, but here are six thoughts to consider when assigning dollars to line items.
(1) What is your pastor’s base salary? How long has it been since he has received an appropriate raise? Let’s face it; a significant majority of the people serving in a local church aren’t in it for the money. They are “in it” because God has called them out to shepherd a local body of believers. However, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t receive a fair wage and increases as appropriate. There is already a significant amount of stress in caring for those God has given to the pastor. A church can minimize the financial stress he feels in caring for his own family.
(2) Do you pay your pastor in a lump sum where he has to pay his insurance, ministry related expenses, and retirement out of that same amount? Don’t do it. There are some IRS implications related to that and there is no benefit to him or the church. Frankly, it gives a false impression of what you’re actually paying your pastor and I’m almost certain that is not how you’d like to be compensated either.
(3) Are you accounting for other church-related expenses such as adequate amounts for conferences, mission trips, auto allowance, insurance, retirement, and resources such as a library allocation? Look at it this way: You want to invest in your pastor so that he can be the best “equipper” he can be of your church body. You wouldn’t expect a carpenter to build your house without adequate tools and these types of expenses supply the tools your pastor needs to help build the church body.
(4) Does your church provide upkeep on property if your pastor lives in a church-owned home? Just take care of it without being overly restrictive. Allow the pastor’s wife to make it her “nest” for her family. Believe me when I say that one of the greatest ministries a pastor’s wife can offer a church is to make sure the family’s home is a calm place for her family. That’s what you want for your family too, right? Please don’t make her jump through a half-dozen hoops or and have the church vote on whether she can change the 40-year-old draperies.
(5) Do you financially plan for a pastor/staff appreciation day? This doesn’t have to be elaborate, but do you have some intentional and planned way for the church to celebrate those who serve the congregation. A little thank you goes a long way to encouraging ministers.
(6) Would Jesus be pleased with what you’ve done? Budgeting a pastor’s salary is obviously done within the financial means of the church’s overall budget, but as you’ve prayed about compensating your pastor (and staff), would you be satisfied if that were the “package” being offered to you? Would you pay you what you pay your pastor? Could you meet your financial obligations and care for your family based on what you’re offering? It is a Golden Rule kind of thing. God takes note of generosity — always.
As you are navigating your budget process, keep in mind that we here at the TBC, thanks to your gifts through the Cooperative Program, offer conferences and information on compensation planning, and additional information can also be obtained through Guidestone.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.