In the corporate world, much care and attention is given in determining workers’ compensation packages. Special boards and committees are in fact created to regularly study and evaluate salaries of workers in every rank of the organization.
While churches may not have hundreds of people on their payroll, it would do well to emulate the efficient and professional method by which secular companies determine their workers’ salary. Not only would it elevate the work that ministers do to being “a profession” aside from being a vocation, it would also minimize pastors transferring churches or totally leaving the ministry because the salary offered them cannot support a family.
Manfred Holck, Jr., on the topic of determining equitable salaries for pastors, sums up the situation very clearly. He wrote:
“Surely it is the Lord who issues the call to serve in the church, but no preacher is immune to the attraction of better pay in a different place. The point is that preachers preach because they are called to do just that, but the place in which they preach is often influenced by the salary and benefits they receive.”
He adds that if the pastor’s salary is perceived to be too low, the result can be inefficient pastoral leadership, carelessness, and preoccupation in making ends meet. Productivity declines, dissatisfaction prevails and the work doesn’t get done.
The downside of the concept of “equal work for equal pay” becomes the unfortunate result— churches get only what they pay for— in this case, less than satisfactory clergy services.
In every congregation, there are certain ways on which financial matters are decided on. For some, a single voice prevails while for others, a group decision is required. We tend to lean on the latter.
But since there is no practical way that the whole congregation can be part of the deliberation process, it would be best to appoint a small committee to take on the task of determining the pastor’s pay. These should be members whose influence is respected by the congregation, whose understanding of the church budget is clear, and who have working knowledge of tax laws and government/denomination-mandated benefits program that may apply. They should also have good relationships with the pastors/church workers and with each other, to exclude the possibility of the salary being used as a payback mechanism for personal ills and discontent between the parties.
The tasks of the committee should include:
- Selecting its officers and drafting a plan of action.
- Meeting regularly to review previous and existing pay scales for all church workers.
- Conducting conversations with the church workers for discussion of their personal budget requirements/status.
- Drafting the pay plan and bringing this to the board for review and approval.
- Forwarding the approved package to the administrator for implementation.
The Bible encourages us to “Appreciate those who diligently labor among you and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instructions, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). The love mentioned here can be manifested through compassionate care, concern, objectivity and generosity in preparing the pastor’s remuneration package.
A contented pastor makes for a well-tended flock.