The interview with the prospective minister was over. The elders felt very good about this young man and his family. He was a good preacher and also seemed to have some good social skills. Several of his former professors and an older minister gave high recommendations. The elders were ready to make this young man an offer.
Upon agreeing to begin his ministry with this congregation, this new minister agreed to the financial considerations that were offered for his role there.
Unfortunately, this might be the last time this subject would ever be brought up with this minister in this congregation.
In fact, such financial matters may not be talked about again by the congregation’s leaders until this minister eventually leaves and they discuss how to financially compensate the next minister.
Some ministers receive a very adequate salary (as well as health care and retirement), but many do not.
Far too many ministers and their families are barely getting by financially. They moved their family to serve a congregation and a community. Now, however, they are drowning in debt. Yes, ministry is service but at the same time, these families must pay bills, feed children, and keep up with a mortgage.
The following are a few suggestions for ministers and churches:
*A new minister should be happy with the salary offered or he should not agree to become that church’s minister. Far too many ministers agree to move across the country to serve a congregation where someone has made a promise of an eventual better salary. Don’t do it. The only thing you have when you begin working with a church is what you have actually agreed to. The potential of a church will not buy groceries. Promises of a better day are often forgotten and fade away.
*Periodically, elders should “check in” with their ministers regarding their compensation and whether or not some consideration needs to be made for an adjustment in their salary or benefits. For example, one minister and his family wrestled with additional medical expenses due to a child with a serious illness. One thoughtful elder realized that he needed to inquire about their financial needs. As a result, the church was able to alleviate some of the financial pressure from this family. At the very least, elders should be aware of how their ministers are compensated. When was the last time this preacher received a raise?
*It can be very awkward for a minister in a congregation to approach the congregation’s elders for a discussion regarding salary, etc. It can also be risky. One minister who had served a congregation for several years asked the elders to consider providing health insurance. He explained that his family was strapped financially because of the cost of health care. One elder, frustrated at the minister’s request said, “Well with him it’s all about the money!” All it takes is for a few people to repeat such an opinion and the situation can quickly sour and escalate. This minister eventually left for another congregation when he was denied this request. Of course, the next minister this church brought in was provided health insurance and no issue was made about doing this.
*Ministers should not use congregations as stepping stones to self-elevation or self-enhancement. There is nothing wrong with accepting a new work that might help relieve some financial stress and the burden of debt. However, churches are never to be used as simply a means to enhance oneself financially. Ministry is about service not career enhancement.
Bottom line: when a minister is financially supported by a congregation, this person has the time to devote more time, energy, and attention to the ministry in that location.
When a minister is under severe financial strain, much energy may be required to simply survive financially. This is energy, time, and attention that could have been invested in that ministry. On the other hand, when a minister overly focuses on salary, his role can be reduced to little more than employment by a religious institution. In the end, everyone loses while the mission of Jesus is set aside.
Ministry is about service. Such ministry requires that we trust God. Trusting God means that we depend on him for our very lives. At the same time, we are called to make wise financial decisions and live as good financial stewards.