Determining what a Pastor’s salary should be is another matter that many churches find difficult to decide on.
Whether they are fresh out of the seminary or veterans of numerous church assignments, pastors still feel uncomfortable talking about their pay lest their motives be questioned.
Do they really have a calling and truly care for the welfare of their flock or are they just in it for the money?
A secular employee’s attention to detail and the fine prints of his salary package is viewed as being shrewd and decisive thus a desirable quality. In church, however, setting parameters and discussing details of his pay is often viewed as proof of the pastor’s lack of faith in God’s provision. It fact, “undue attention” to the compensation will most likely mean he won’t get the job.
Another misconception is that workers engaged in vocational ministry are not up to par with their peers in the secular workforce. The perceived spiritual work of a Pastor is no less and no better than the perceived secular work of a Christian in the marketplace. The pastor or a church and the Christian CEO of a company are doing equally important work for the Lord but in different fields. Why then should those in secular work be necessarily and automatically paid better than those who are called to vocational ministry?
Workers should have a salary based on the amount and quality of work they produce regardless of whether it is for a church or for a retail company. Both are spiritual work and should be treated as of equal weight and value in the Lord’s service.
But whether churches accept it or not, the fact remains that in most cultures around the world, salary is a love language.
In his article An Essential Guide To The Minister’s Salary by Craig Ford says that in particular, North American culture has established money as the standard of labor appreciation.
But even in biblical times, there has been an established close relationship between work and pay. In fact, in the parable of the talents, the person who is a good worker, a shrewd and trustworthy manager, is better rewarded than the one who is not.
And, while most, if not all pastors accept the prospect of low pay when they enter the ministry, he would still view the amount of salary the congregation is willing to give him as a reflection of their regard and appreciation for him.
It would be good therefore for the church to first determine what message the salary package they are offering communicates in terms of importance and appreciation of the minister.
Ford goes on to list 4 Common Methods For Determining The Minister’s Salary:
- Compensation paid to the minister based on education, experience, qualification, and background. The more years a minister devotes to equipping himself for the ministry should account for more in determining his pay. Consequently, a pastor who has a basic theology degree should not expect to be offered as much as one who has completed a masters or doctoral degree.
- Compensation paid to the minister based on a ‘standard salary’ – most often a teacher’s salary. Churches usually use as a benchmark the prevailing salary of teachers in the area to determine the minister’s pay.
- Salary is established based on the financial need of the minister. Churches ask the minister to submit a proposed personal budget, depending on the size of his family and whether the spouse is gainfully employed and can contribute to the family income.
- Salary is based on what the church can afford or church budget. The church sets a budget amount and then tries to find a minister who will work within the framework of what the church can afford. Correspondingly, a bigger congregation usually means the church has a bigger financial support base and can therefore offer a more acceptable package. However, in situations where the church is not capable of giving the minister fair compensation, a provision can be included that would allow the pastor to become bi-vocational. In this way, the minister can seek additional income from external sources while continuing to minister to the church.
Factors that impact the minister’s salary package:
- Congregation size and socioeconomic level
- Responsibilities and roles the minister will take on
- Years of experience and highest level of education completed
- Current staff salaries and local cost of living
- Personal and professional strengths
A pastor’s salary should therefore not be a figure plucked out of thin air but a product of careful study, much consideration and a lot of prayer by those tasked to determine it.