Bob is the pastor of a small church in another state. He told me this story.
As a layman he was put on the search committee to seek the next preacher. Then, they elected him chairman of the team. Soon he began to gather information to present to prospective pastors.
“What is our salary package?” he asked the church treasurer.
The old gentleman had controlled the purse strings for that little congregation for several years. He said to Bob, “We don’t want a preacher who thinks about those things. He should settle with the Lord if He’s calling him here, and come no matter what it pays.”
Bob said, “I don’t think so. The laborer is worthy of his hire, Scripture says.”
Because Bob wanted to do this right, he insisted that the church pay an adequate salary with benefits. And did what was necessary to put it together into an acceptable form.
And then, something interesting happened.
God made Bob the pastor of that church.
“It turned out that I was working out my own financial package,” he laughed. “But I didn’t know it at the time.”
Then, Bob said something that has stayed with me ever since.
“Sometimes I think I ought to go back to our old pastor–he’s retired and moved off now–and apologize for not ever asking what he was being paid, and making sure he was being adequately compensated.”
Apologizing to the pastor.
What a novel concept.
I endorse that, by the way. A lot of churches need to resurrect long deceased pastors and ask their forgiveness for how they were treated or mistreated, provided for or not provided for, discouraged or misdirected. Slandered. Abandoned.
Obviously, we cannot bring back deceased ministers. But what we can do is make sure we are doing right by the pastors and staff members we have.
We can ask the right questions….
–We can start with the big question: What are the ministers of our church being paid?
–Are they being provided with health insurance? Reimbursement for car expenses for their travel? Is money being put into a retirement account for them?
–In small churches, these questions could be asked personally of the elected leaders or even on the floor of the church business meeting. In larger churches, one could address these queries to the appropriate committee. (I am well aware that most churches do not publicize the salaries of ministers. Even so, several responsible leaders should have this information and make sure the church is being faithful.)
–Each year at budget time, the question of staff salaries, benefits, and raises should be addressed.
What we must not do is let one or two people set the policies. “Trust me.” Or better, “What’s the matter–don’t you trust me?” Allow this and I can just about guarantee that the preacher will suffer from someone’s domination or whims or prejudices or fears.
Please. Do not let that happen.
Regardless of the size of your church, you can find out a) how these decisions are made and b) who has the information. Regardless of the size of your church, as a church member you are entitled to contact those leaders with your concerns and questions.
–And while we’re on the subject, when a minister is leaving with no place to go–he’s being terminated or is retiring or something else–church members should find out how they are being compensated. Are they being given severance? A retirement package? And how much is it, for how long?
Ask the questions. Speak up. Wait for answers. And do not accept the answer that “these things are better handled in private.” While it is true that most ministers do not want their income made public, enough leaders should know the numbers that one can discreetly find out this information.
I would be wary of belonging to a church where I could not find out this information. When a close friend told me his church never gave financial reports to the congregation and that no one could find out what the pastor was making, I suggested he leave. He did.
A church with the congregational form of government–that’s what most Baptist churches claim as their own–should live up to the name.