UPDATE: Listen to the podcast episode about this topic

My recent blogpost on pastors’ salaries drew a lot of attention. There are indeed some heated emotions on both sides of the issue. Much of the concern expressed about the pay of ministers seems to focus on those cases of real indulgence and abuse. But it’s those cases that get the most attention and, sadly, hurt the vast majority of ministers who are faithful stewards of God’s money.

The Real Numbers

Look for a moment at these numbers. Let’s assume there are 500 cases of financial abuse and indulgence among ministers taking place today. I’m not convinced the number is that high, but we will use it as a starting point.

There are approximately 1.2 million paid staff members in Protestant churches. That means there are four cases of financial abuse for every 10,000 ministers. To state it positively, there are 9,996 ministers of every 10,000 who are either paid adequately or below their needs.

The Survey Says . . .

My son, Art Rainer, recently completed a book (to be released in June 2013) on ministers’ salaries and other financial issues. An informal survey of over 100 pastors provided some of the data for one chapter of the book. In that survey, over 80 percent of the pastors indicated they were financially struggling. About the same number said they needed a raise.

But 100 percent responded that they had never asked for a raise. All of them said that. There were no exceptions.

Why Won’t Pastors Speak Up?

So why are pastors so reticent to express a real need that they have? And why is the apprehension almost universal among all ministers? Essentially, we found five answers to these questions.

First, the ministers are aware that a few bad examples in ministry have poisoned perceptions for many. The abuses have garnered much attention. Many ministers think that they will be associated with the small minority if they say a word.

Second, many ministers view money as an “earthly” issue. Their role is to focus on spiritual matters. They are to keep quiet when any discussion of their pay takes place. They certainly are not to ask for anything financially.

Third, there are always critics in the church looking for any issue to go after the pastor or other staff ministers. If ministers broach the subject of a pay increase, they give critics ammunition to attack the minister verbally and in writing. Ministers are keenly aware of such a risk.

Fourth, pastors know the hurts and needs of their church members and those in the community. They know that many are suffering worse than they are financially. They are therefore very sensitive to speak about their own needs. When one has ministered to three families in the past year that declared bankruptcy, that pastor feels terrible even hinting that his family is struggling financially. This reality has been especially vivid during and after the Great Recession.

Fifth, we found that a number of church members think that any mention of financial needs by their pastor demonstrates a lack of faith. The members freely quote out-of-context Bible verses to demonstrate the weak faith of the pastor who is courageous enough to mention this need.

Of course, most of the critics of a pastor’s pay would gladly accept a raise in their own jobs. It’s just different for their pastor, they surmise. And that is a very sad perception.

A United Front?

I am keenly aware that my writing on these financial issues engenders debate among many church members and ministers alike. I do not desire to be divisive. To the contrary, I am praying for a united response to help those ministers who have a real financial need.

No one should deny the reality that, in a few cases, ministers do not reflect healthy, biblical stewardship. But I pray that the few bad examples won’t become a reason for church members to remain silent about their pastors’ financial needs.

In all likelihood, your pastor will not speak up about any financial needs. What do you think about this dilemma? What should we as church members do? What do you ministers think about this matter?

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  1. John says

    Wow, I would 100% agree with all five and have thought all of them. One of the things that added to my mindset is being told directly by one of the finance committee members that he wanted his pastor to “stay hungry”, whatever that was supposed to mean. Ministry has been a great struggle financially but I do not say anything publicly and often feel guilt about thinking of it because I know the Lord called me to this work and if He called I believe He will equip and provide.

    • Thom Rainer says

      The biblical mandate for a pastor to “stay hungry” is not in the canon of Scripture. Must be some other authority your finance committee member is under.

      I do appreciate your faithfulness.

      • says

        I agree with my brother John. I have often thought of asking for a raise, but have chickened out for the very same reasons. Yet, after reading this article I have asked my wife to join me in praying for three months to get a clear picture from my Lord for what He wants me to do. In the meantime we will lean on Him as we’ve always done.

  2. Justin says

    Favorite Beattitude of the avg finance com. “Lord, you keep him humble, we’ll keep him poor.”

  3. JonathonG says

    The PK perspective:

    As the son of a Pastor who began full time ministry in a church plant in the early 1970’s, I am keenly aware of this problem. Our entire family served and met the needs of others, so much so that we often went without basic necessities. To say that we were struggling financially would be an understatement. I recall a great many days when the cupboards were bare and if someone hadn’t left groceries on our porch, we would have gone hungry, and we did so many times. Today, I laugh when I think back to Christmas’ and birthdays past. These were special days when we were allowed to pick one toy from the donation box at the front door of the church.

    Looking back, we were needlessly among the poorest people in our middle class town, but I didn’t know it at the time. I can’t imagine the stress this put on my parents, who are now retired and approaching their 70’s on a tight fixed income. Over the years, my Dad has expressed regret many times that he didn’t speak up for greater financial support. I must say though, God was merciful and always provided those things we needed to sustain us.

    I believe that a Pastor’s salary should be commensurate to his experience and should closely match the average income of those he ministers to. I’ve seen both ends of this pay spectrum; too high a salary and the people can’t identify with you and begin to question your motives. Too low salary and you can’t identify with the people you are called to serve and are left feeling like an under paid, under appreciated underling. If you minister to 200 people in Beverly Hills, CA on a salary of $40,000 to feed a family of four, there’s a problem. However, if you minister to 50 people in Pontiac, MI and draw a salary of $120,000 (real example!), you should probably be doing something other than ministry.

    There is a salary “sweet spot” for the vocation in every location. Scriptures that come to mind: Luke 10:7, Acts 20:28, 1Timothy 5:8

    • Tim says

      Thanks for sharing Jonathan! Your stories of growing up bring back a lot of memories for me as a fellow PK. I hope that maybe this helps shed some light on the true financial struggles and great sacrifice many ministers make!

  4. Jack says

    I agree with all five, but wonder if one more might just be a subset of one of the others. I serve in an amazingly generous church. Most years, they offer raises I don’t want to accept and we have a bit of a banter about it until I just give in. This is not a manipulative thing for me, but I have come from a much smaller church that struggled to do ministry to inner city folks and the homeless and I knew that the church needed all of the funds it could get for ministry, so me taking money that could be used to minister or carry out the Great Commission just seemed wrong. It has been hard to change that mindset, even though I am at a larger church with plenty of resources.

    • says

      Jack, why not suggest they take your raise and give it anonymously to a struggling church planter or some other financially strapped pastor in the area? It might bless everyone.

  5. HB says

    So what does one do when they do take the risk of asking someone to look into the possibility of an increase, especially after being told there would be one… and nothing is done, no action is taken?
    And for the sake of argument here – the church is VERY much in the black.

    • JonathonG says


      There’s a certain boldness to preaching, teaching and sharing the wonders and mysteries of the gospel. Be courageous and apply that same boldness to seeking adequate compensation. You don’t need to be the world’s greatest negotiator or even the world’s greatest Pastor. You just need to be right.

      Full disclosure – I own a job website that puts over 150k people to work nationwide each year. God called me from the Boardroom to full time ministry and it is He who pays me to do His good work, so I draw no salary. However, I see salary negotiations all the time. Be bold, be straight forward, but be gentle. If God wants it for you, you will have it.

  6. Dave Vander Laan says

    There was a time when our family availed ourselves of a the help provided by a government program – WIC (Women, Infants & Children).

    We had one son in college, one getting ready to go to college – and our TRiplets who were around 5 years of age.

    One of the Elders brought it to my attention that it might not be such a good thing that our family was on this program. Another Elder said maybe I should go to the Deacons and ask for raise.

    But a third Elder said to the Board of Elders, “Some of you guys are farmers. Do any of you decline the government assistance that is available for you? I fail to understand why this is such a big deal.”

    Well, a light bulb later went on for me: It was a big deal because a minister on government assistance cast an unfavorable light on the church served by said minister.

    And I always go terrible nervous during the annual Congregational Meeting when the budget (my salary package) was approved. I felt like I just had this huge bullseye on my back.

  7. Steve says

    Another reason (in my case, anyway) is that there are ministries I want to see expanded, but our giving is not expanding right now. So to ask for a raise would be to take away from other ministries I’d like to see added or expanded. Also, my church pays for my health insurance, which goes up substantially every year. So they are raising what they spend on us every year without us actually getting any more pay.

    On the other hand, I think pastors should model how to live simply. There are ministers who make a whole lot more than I do who can’t seem to pay the bills. I don’t know enough about their situation to pass judgment, obviously, but pastors often don’t need the latest gadgets, etc., as much as they think they do.

    • says

      Health insurance is a big one. My “package” has gone up $1,000 per year for 5 years, but my income has actually gone down a small bit as I now also contribute to the insurance costs.

  8. says

    I’m a new pastor so this may change, but I’ve tied my salary to the union contract at our local public high school. When teachers get a raise, I get a raise. As I gain experience I get a raise just as a teacher would. If I get a doctorate I’m compensated for it. I don’t know how this will work in the long run, but it seems to work for now.

  9. David says

    I appreciate all of my brothers who are suffering in churches that are not considerate about the needs of the pastor and his family. Fortunately, the two churches I pastored had considerate people leading them. In my last church, I gave up a considerable raise as I entered into a denominational position. I was always careful to preach about stewardship with respect and a mention that I too should be a good steward. However, we as pastors should not shy away from preaching any part of God’s word. I believe that the NT teaches very clearly that pastors should be compensated in a fair manner. The brother above who tied his compensation package to the school’s package, I believe was very wise. If a pastor’s education and experience is comparable to a teacher’s, he should receive similar benefits.

  10. Worship Guy's Wife says

    I think one of the challenges is the seemingly odd way ministers are paid due to tax codes and shelters the government has provided. It’s really hard to help a congregation understand pastoral salaries when many of us don’t completely understand. For example, health insurance is needed and costs a lot of money, but that can’t be just added to base salary and compared to what they make at their government job where health insurance is part of their benefits package, but not reported on their W-2s.

    It’s been a frustrating few years for us, personally, and this is a subject where my husband and I NEED guidance. Thank you Thom for being willing to open the can of worms if necessary. I, too, pray it can be a unifying discussion.

    • ChurchTaxNerd says


      This is how I explain the tax advantages of providing benefits (insurance / employer provided retirement contributions) to their ministerial staff.

      Scenario 1 — Pastor pays for his own health insurance with post-tax dollars.
      If the church pays the pastor $100 in salary, how much health insurance will it purchase for him? Let’s do the math:
      $100.00 — Salary
      -$ 15.30 — SECA (Self-Employment Taxes)
      -$ 15.00 — Federal Income Tax (Assuming a 15% Federal Tax Rate)
      -$ 3.00 — State Income Tax (Assuming a 3% State Tax Rate)
      After all taxes are paid, the $100 the church pays the pastor will provide him with $66.70 in health insurance.

      Scenario 2 — Church provides their pastor with health insurance as a benefit (not salary).
      $100.00 — Benefit (Notice the church is not out of pocket any additional money)
      -$ 0.00 — SECA
      -$ 0.00 — Federal Income Tax
      -$ 0.00 — State Income Tax
      Since employer provided health insurance is considered a non-taxable benefit, the $100 the church pays to the insurance company will provide their pastor with $100 worth of health insurance. In essence, it’s like giving the pastor a 33% raise.

  11. says

    One of the best solutions that I have seen implemented is to have someone specifically on the church’s board that looks out for the pastor and staff. This is not a YES man/woman, but a safe person a pastor can go to to express personal needs which includes finances but not limited to just finances. A healthy line of communication is cultivated and works both ways. The board member can suggest raises, vacations, weekend getaways, bonuses without the pastor being put in an awkward situation and appear self serving.

  12. says

    Paul said to the Corinthians, “I come to spend and be spent for the cause of Christ among you. I come not for what is yours but you.” The heart of a faithful pastor is one that echos this sentiment. We labor in the fields of the King! We tend His flock! We wash His bride with the Word! The fact that we get paid to do this is mind boggling.

    Now that being as it may, we are called by our King to put our families first. The responsibility to take care of the daughter that God has given us is more important to God than our responsibility to take care of His Church. Paul loved to be able to say to the Corinthian Church that he worked as a tent maker as not to be a burden to them. Paul, just like pastors today, knew the financial struggles within the church. For this reason Paul worked outside the church to make ends meet.

    What’s my point? Should every pastor be bi-voacational? NO! I am not a bi-vocational pastor, but I was for 7 years. When I came to the church I presently pastor they wanted to talk about money. They asked me would I come for (X) amount of dollars. I read 2 Corinthians 12:14-15. I told them, “I don’t come to be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. So I will gladly come spend and be spent for free” They looked bewildered. You will come for free? Yes, I will. However, I have to provide for my family, and in order for me to do that I must make (X) amount of dollars. I then told them that I longed to be able to minister the gospel amongst them without having to get a second job, but I didn’t want to be a burden to the church. I believe that helped them understand that I don’t labor amongst them for money. I love being a pastor. I get paid to do what I love.

    What does that have to do with asking for a raise. The cost of living goes up every year. If my church doesn’t want me to have to get a second job then they have to give me what is needed to take care of my family. This is how a pastor should view asking for a raise. It’s not that he thinks he deserves more money, or at least it shouldn’t be his mind set. The church has to understand their pastor has to take care of his family.

    The vast majority of pastors are extremely under paid, as Rainer points out. But be that as it may, we must take care of our families, and strive to fulfill the call of God in our lives, to spend and be spent in lifting up Christ in our communities and cities. Pastors, you may spend your entire life unknown, being under paid and under appreciated, but let me remind you that your reward is in heaven, not to mention you have beautiful feet.

    Hope this helps someone

  13. J.T. says

    I am so very blessed to serve a generous church, but the last church I served was quite the opposite. When we came on-board, my wife and I had been led to believe that I would be reimbursed for vehicle mileage each month, but after 6 months on the job there was still no plan in place to do this. I approached some of the members of the former Pastor Search Committee and asked what was the deal. One of them said they would make the motion at the next monthly business meeting that a reimbursement plan be put in place. Her motion was met with the response from one of the deacons, “The pastor needs to be out visiting the needy instead of sitting in his office thinking up more ways to get more money.” I can honestly say that I had never experienced something so hurtful. Thankfully, his voice was in the minority and the motion passed, but that simple motion caused problems for me for 4 more years at that church.

    I say all that to say this… even the mention of something as benign as mileage reimbursement can hurt your ministry and cause years of heartache. I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing what they need to do for their family, but make absolutely sure that you NEED a raise, and that you have enough trust built up with your church that asking for a raise won’t ruin your ministry among them.

  14. Keith G says

    H.B. I serve as a Bi – Vocational Senior pastor and Biblical Counselor. I also own a business in Real Estate and Financial Consulting in Chicago, IL. When the church is in the black and a raise is something you need and desire to have, there is nothing wrong with presenting the “FACTS” to the elders and deacons.

    1.) Facts of what the Salary of a senior pastor makes in the market is bearing for churches of your size (membership).
    2.) Facts of what the Salary of a senior pastor makes in the market is bearing for churches that bring in the INCOME that yours does.
    3.) Another good source of FACT reference is the Ministers Missionary Benefits Board (MMBB) and the Evangelical Counsel for Financial Accountability (ECFA) They actually can help pastors with a scale of what one should make.
    4.) Document the work that you do each year as a senior pastor for the church in which you serve.
    5.) Finally, show the FACTS of what your family looks like and would like to do presently and in the future by seeking a personal financial consultant.
    Those FACTS might include or excludes things such as…..
    a.) Eat out once a week (family night and /or date night with your wife). Which keeps your home happy.
    b.) Have your suits or robes cleaned. This could be expensive if you have multiple services.
    c.) Car / gas allowance for visitation of the sick and shut in. Depends on mileage and # of visits.
    d.) Cell phone or communication allowance. If you use this often for ministry purposes.
    e.) Retirement account commensurate with your present lifestyle (or close as possible). You should research base this one whether there would NOT be a social security available in the future.
    f.) Additional disability (long term and short term) insurance, health insurance and life insurance for the future of your family in case YOU as the bread winner should be affected.
    g.) Ability to put your kids through college. You should give them an amount of what you believe would be the college that you would LIKE them to attend.

    6.) Do the research on the church to find out the FACTS of whether they desire to build a larger church facility and whether that is one of the reasons for NOT adding more benefits to your financial package.

    After you have completed all of these fact findings…….”Present it to your deacons, elders, trustees and / or finance committee EACH year to give them a perspective.

    H.B. If you are already in an established church with traditional people who would possibly have issue with it, then after you have did your research…just pray and leave it in the Lord’s hands.

    This is NOT the norm for all pastors. This is just my opinion. I have seen this work for other pastors and even for me. Now each year before any meetings…..the finance committee are already doing the research for me without me having to present my FACTS to them. The blessing is…..It is the norm that now my family lacks nothing of need.

    Again….I am just presenting another perspective that “We have NOT because we ask NOT.” James 4:3. I hope this helps.

    • Joe Rhoads says

      Keith, you might want to check on this, but I’m fairly sure the IRS does not allow a minister to be reimbursed for cell phone usage. And as confident that IRS doesn’t allow a church to give a cell phone to its minister for use. I remember being told that some years back. Things could have changed, or might be wrong, I just remember being told that.

      • Jed says

        Joe, in IRS Publication 15-B (available at, it states that cell phones reimbursement or provision is excluded from taxable income if “there are substantial business reasons for providing the cell phone.” One of those reasons is the “Need to contact the employee at all times for work-related emergencies,” That seems to cover most pastors I know (including myself) who are called at a moment’s notice for pastoral emergencies on a regular basis and usually have their cell phone number published for their congregations to use in just such an event.

  15. Steve says

    I would echo the article and much of what has already been said. Additionally there is one point that I’d like to make. It is hard to ask for a raise from a church already in financial struggles. I came to a church with a serious overhead loan on the expansion of the building. They struggle to make ends meet. Also the tithing is unstable and the members tithe what they feel lead to do. Now I don’t defend this last statement as biblical. But as one poster said, being a NEW pastor and preaching on tithing might be a good way to invite the u-haul truck. Should members be this vain? Of course not, ministry is a calling and a labor of love. But time is needed to actually be called the pastor with those willing to follow.

    I know I for one am paid less than the reports published by the state convention for a church of our size. But I do enjoy being here and serving. I admit rather easily that though I don’t want to be a people pleaser, every pastor coming out of seminary looking for work is concerned about experience and a church to be called (and they dont want to forfeit what they have). I thankfully didn’t have to ask for a raise this past year but the financial committee voted for one. Even still after the vote, there are still struggles financially with a house, a new-used van to haul all our children, cost for an unplanned child (a blessing still!), even travel expenses. Put on top of that what the members of the church think you are getting paid but what you really are using for take home pay is far different. Having to pay for your own social security, retirement, health/life/dental etc insurance, takes away from a lot of your pay. I might cost, let’s say $50k, to the church but in reality after having to take out for mileage, cost of books/conferences, the things I mentioned above, and more, I might get paid closer to $30k that I have to use for mortgage, food, etc. But the church sees me as costing $50k so asking for a raise can seem greedy to them (Member: I worked for $50k in the 90’s and I did fine).

    • Tim says

      You need to look at Crown Financial Ministries or Compass Financial Ministries small group materials to help lead your flock on what the Bible says about money. This will help transform their thinking.

  16. Lee says

    IF your church has a personnel committee their responsibility should include an annual review of the published compensation report by Lifeway or Guidestone. This should be church policy and is an excellent guide for churches.

    IF no Personnel committee then the deacons should assume this responsibility. The finance committee should not be responsible – their function should be to simply say yes or not as to the affordability of raises.

    In a church with multiple staff members (pastors and non pastoral staff) the personnel or deacon group should submit a single budget figure for salary increases and not detail by employee.

    As a pastor you need to find that one person in your church who will champion this cause.

  17. Brian Gass says

    Some really great testimonies there; thanks for sharing! I’m reminded to be more thankful for a church that doesn’t make me have to ask. That has not always been the case at other places. One of the things I have encouraged our finance committee to do every year is to raise our support for missions. I also remind them that if it comes to a choice between raising missions giving or a raise for me to please raise missions first. So far, both have gone up every year and receipts have increased proportionally. I know we can’t take this for granted, especially during trying economic times in our country, but my hope is that this has helped our church with establishing priorities. A giving church will often give in many ways, while a stingy church will…well…do likewise with their stinginess it seems.

  18. DH says

    I was told by deacons when I arrived I could live in parsonage or get a housing allowance. We were not ready to buy, so I said parsonage. They said, when you get ready to buy let us know. 2-3 years later I let them know and left it in their hands. Whatever they decided I was ok with. They made a total mess of it and I was accused by some of pursuing money. Became a very divisive issue and only now, 2-3 years later would I say we are past it. Looking back, I would do the same, but be more involved to help the deacons make a unified decision and communicate it better to the church. Providentially, we were about to head into a difficult year financially, so I am also glad it didn’t go through either. The accusation that I was in it for the money was one of the most hurtful comments I have ever had directed at me simply because I take certain steps to make sure I’m not.

  19. says

    My husband did ask for a raise a few years ago, after not getting one for almost 7 years. In that time frame, the church sold the church building and the parsonage (we are in the middle of a building project), and did not compensate us accordingly for the loss of a home. Basically, we could only afford a 2 bedroom apartment. We had 2 children and 1 on the way.

    For our particular church, I really believe some of our leaders didn’t have the correct information to make an informed, fair decision about my husband’s salary. Some of them did see this issue as a way to keep my husband “humble”. Now we have 2 assistants on staff, and my husband is very, very good at making sure they are paid fairly. In fact, he just recently gave up a raise for himself so one of our staff members could have a much needed pay increase (since we were increasing her hours).

    Finances are a heart issue, and many people, including myself, don’t always like to talk about it. But we have to. “Where our treasure is our heart will be.” My family and I do our best to manage our finances the way God would want (we love Dave Ramsey!!), and I believe the church leaders need to do the best they can for their pastor and his staff.

    Thank you so much for bringing awareness to this issue.

  20. Michael Schutz says

    This is one area where it can be good to be in a denomination that has guidelines in areas like this. In my church’s regional district, there is a base salary guideline plus experience, and housing costs which reflect the local situation. Congregations aren’t obligated to this scale, but it at least gives them an idea of what a reasonable salary should be. It’s also a way of ensuring that pastors/workers aren’t in a specific place simply for the money, and there isn’t a large disparity between local congregations re: base salaries. Having a starting point for individual congregations allows both the pastors and congregational leaders to have the conversation more easily without fear of many of the issues raised here in the article and comments.

    My heart goes out to those for whom this is such a contentious issue. Scripture is certainly clear that a worker deserves his wages. I pray that there would be real openness to talk about this in churches, from a place of mutual encouragement and not fear.

    Grace and peace to you all.

  21. says

    Hi everyone,

    There is new revelation going around concerning outreach to eunuchs (mentioned in Isaiah 56), wherein God promises to accept our offerings on His altar. Perhaps the answer to Pastor compensation is to bring the idea of reaching a greater market share of the community that needs a Savior as much as anyone else, but who have been traditionally made to feel unwelcome in most churches. Remember Jesus sent Peter to get tax money out of the fishes’ mouths. If you want more money, catch more fish. If you need help building a net that can be cast into the deep, hit me up on Twitter sometime @TheBedKeeper and I can share what I know, for what it’s worth. MUCH LOVE to all our pastors! We couldn’t do it without you!

  22. says

    I find it maddening that this article even had to be wrote…..much less that our pastors have to deal with crap like this in the midst of all the hours, impossible people/situations, & struggles that they face to serve our churches.

    I say pay the man what it would cost to replace him. Its absurd to ask all that we do of a pastor and then scquable over whether or not he should get a raise this year. We’re the church…..we should be leading the way in everything with excellence….especially how that we take care of our staff. If we don’t have the money to provide, and provide well, for him and his family, then we have our budget allocations laid out incorrectly.

    Take care of that man and his family, remove the worry of “how am i going to pay my bills this month” or “how will my family see a doctor when they get sick” from his mind. Show him that he’s loved and appreciated by his people, and its amazing how much energy and focus that he can put into leading the church forward with excellence.

  23. MIke Willmouth says

    I retired from the Air Force years ago, and entered into the ministry (no I wasn’t a chaplain, I was in communications). I am presently pastoring my 5th church, I would honestly have to say the first 4 churches under paid me, and that the for a long time I averaged one raise every 4 years. If it wasn’t for my Air Force retirement and medical I could not have served at these churches – so I am blessed in that area. One of the things that has helped a lot for us Southern Baptist is the pay surveys that Lifeway does every two years. Using them a church or a pastor can find out what the average pay is for their age, education and experience level and what the church’s size and finances are. But with that, I have experienced and have met numerous pastors who told me about their financial difficulties due to how their church was providing for them and their family – so I would say from my experience I think the number of underpaid pastors is probably greater than what this article survey indicated.

    I believe that there are at least two reasons why churches don’t pay their pastors as they should; the first is simply because the majority of the church members do not tithe, so the result is they can’t pay their pastors like they should. The second reason is that most churches are willfully ignorant about what the Scriptures teach about how they are to treat their pastors, because most pastors won’t preach on this subject due to being accused of anything or everything. In my last church I decided to preach a sermon series on “Pastor/Church relationships.” When I told an evangelist what I was planning on preaching he told me that if I were to do this then I wouldn’t be there very long. I did preach on this subject and I even preached on what the bible teaches about financially supporting your pastor. I didn’t get fired, and some learned from it and I am sure some used it to fill other ears about how greedy or power hungry I was. But the bottom line is, if we don’t preach the whole word, then how can we expect them to do what they should be doing? So from that point on at that church I decided that every year when I talked to the personnel committee that I would provide them with a copy of Lifeway’s survey, a summary of my pay package, a copy of what Scripture teaches about this and then I would tell them that whatever decision they made was fine with me, but that I wanted them to be able to educated decision about what they were deciding. For most of them it wasn’t a problem, but there are always a few who want to think the worse of you no matter what. I decided that I would run this risk, because it wasn’t really about myself as much as it was about how they would treat future pastors.

    So here is what I have found what the bible teaches about pastoral support;

    1. A Minister is to be treated fairly (1 Corinthians 9:1-4); The Church should recognize their pastor’s calling and position by God and their right to live as they do. A pastor should earn enough to support their family without additional work.

    2. A Minister should be fairly compensated just as the rest of the world does, and as the Scripture and our Lord directs (1 Corinthians 9:7-14; Also see Luke 10:7).

    3. A Minister has the right to refuse or limit their the compensation they receive from a church if they have the means to do so (1 Corinthians 9:15-23; Also see Acts 20:17, 33-35)

    4. We are also told in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 that those pastors who work hard in the service of the Lord deserve to be financially rewarded.

    5. And finally we are told that believers are to financially support their pastors in Galatians 6:6-9. J. Vernon McGee puts it this way, “This is probably the bluntest verse in the Bible. . .Paul is bluntly saying this: ’Pay your preacher. If someone ministers to you spiritual benefits, minister to him with material benefits.’ If God has blessed you materially and you are being blessed by someone spiritually, then you ought to minister to that person with material benefits.”
    The word “share” (KJV, communicate), in the Greek is KOINONEO which denotes a common participation, sharing, contributing, or giving a part. This word is often used of sharing of material blessings with other believers (such as in Acts 2:42; 2 Cor. 8:4; Hebrews 13:16 [Greek text]). From the very beginning of the church, sharing was one of the marks of the Christian experience and love for the brethren (Acts 2:41-47). This is what Paul had in mind in these verses. Paul also used the Imperative Mood with the Present Tense giving a command to the Galatians to give financial support to those who teach them and to keep on doing so (so there was to be a consistency to their giving). Paul is doing more than just stressing giving a paycheck to your pastor, he is stressing that when you give to support your pastor you are in essence being a partner with him in the ministry. This is true of all financial support that you give to a church, a pastor, a missionary, or some other ministry. We should never have the attitude that we just paying someone’s paycheck, but instead we are mutually participating in ministry with those we support.
    Paul also gives us an immutable law of God here in verses 6 and 7, about sowing and reaping. The principle of sowing and reaping simply boils down to this; If a man spends his money on what gratifies his fleshly nature, he will reap a fleshly harvest. And since the flesh is mortal and will one day pass away, the harvest will pass away also. On the other hand, if a man uses his money to promote spiritual causes and to feed his spiritual nature, the resulting harvest will remain. Thus, as in the case of ministers, if congregations refuse to support them and so forfeit good teaching, preferring to spend their money on themselves, the results will be corruption. But if, on the other hand, they support good teachers a spiritual harvest will result. God does not command believers to give simply that pastors/teachers and missionaries (Phil. 4:10-19) might have their material needs met, but that the givers might get a greater blessing. Paul is clearly teaching that as believers we have a direct impact on the ministry of our church, our pastor and our witness to non-believers by what we sow. We can either invest our time and resources in ourselves, and in the end have nothing of eternal value to show for it, or we can invest our time and resources in those things which will have eternal value and will never fade away (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

  24. Phillip D. Wilson says

    I have been bi-vocational for over 20 years. I am currently serving a small church as their associate pastor for NO salary, until the pastor retires, at which time, I am supposed to take over as pastor. (That was supposed to happen about six months ago, but has been ‘delayed’.) I turned down a paid position a year ago because the church asked me to, but currently, I am in limbo. Some have mentioned that I should be paid, but none have taken it to the church board that I am aware of. My HVAC unit at home is currently broken down, and I need to get it fixed, but I’m having to save up to do so.

    Not the first time I’ve been through this sort of thing. Once my family was going through a rough patch while I was recovering from a serious accident and lost my car. Then, some of the congregation made remarks about me driving the Cadillac I bought to replace it- even though it was a $1500 car with a salvage title and 140k miles. They were clueless as to what I was going through financially.

    That said, this is one of the reasons I like being bi-vocational. My living is not tied to the whims of a fickle group of folks that have no idea what demands they make of a minister. I like the fact that I can preach challenging messages, and not be concerned that Bro. Soandso might be offended. It gives me a liberty that keeps me fresh, if not well paid. But I’m ok- God is getting me by.

  25. says

    I’d like to see how this issue correlates to the congregational model of cburch government vs the elder model.

    I would postulate elder led churches, on average, pay a fairer wage.

    • Brian Gass says

      LOL. That’s one way to encourage traditional SBC pastors to embrace an elder-led model of leadership. Surprised that isn’t brought up more often by my reformed friends. ;-)


      • Mike Willmouth says

        Actually I read an article a couple of years ago that said prior to the civil war many of the Baptist churches were Elder led.

    • Mike Willmouth says

      I have actually pastored an Elder Lead Church and Several Congregational Led churches. The Elder lead church didn’t pay me any better, nor gave me raises. I actually was paid better (and at least given cost of living raises each year) in the next two Congregational Led Churches (I’m still at one of these churches and they have really done a good job at supporting me).

  26. Tim says

    One of the issues that I have seen is that some churches bring on too many staff members and then they can’t give any of them raises. This is what happened at my last church. I was working as the youth pastor and not getting raises which forced me to make tough decisions about whether to cut my health insurance or to leave the church for a better paying job. I stayed on and have ended up in debt because of medical bills that will take me many years to be able to pay off. My struggle is that I did it to remain faithful, but to the detriment of my family. I deal with depression because I have been unable to provide properly for my family. But the church people never have a clue that you are making those kind of sacrifices. I neglect my own health in order to be able to take my kids and wife to the doctor and dentist. I really don’t want to be rich … that is not my goal. I just want to be able to pay my bills.

    The one conclusion I have come up with is that God wants me to go through a time of struggle so that I can empathize with the needs of others. We do serve an awesome God and I have learned much from being broken!

  27. Kevin says

    I broached the subject of a raise with my leadership this year after 6 years without one; so your stats are not “100%” true :), but it was extremely difficult, I see no reason why pastors shouldn’t if they are in real need, a few verses speak to pastors being paid in the NT.

  28. says

    Here’s a sixth reason: some of us simply don’t want to take a salary. My husband and I are church planters and he works full time, making enough to support our family. At eight months old, our church has already been able to give several thousand dollars to orphanages and other worthy missions, solely from the generous giving by people putting money in the offering box without any pressure to do so (we don’t pass the offering plate and we never mention money). I say this to God’s glory and to testify that He does reward a cheerful giver. Our reward is being able to give!

    I’m not saying every church should operate this way; our church is new and small, so this is working for now. When you don’t view people as your means of livelihood, you’re free from the tyranny of numbers, and you can be more authentic with your congregation. It’s really a wonderful way to live.

    • Mike Willmouth says

      You and your husband are blessed to be where you are and at this time. That is one of the benefits of being bi-vocational, they can’t starve you out. I have pastored one bi-vocational church (that I gave them more money than I received from them) and have been a member of a church that had a bi-vocational pastor. The church that I was a member off, we had a couple of members who worked hard that stirring up trouble with the pastor. So pay is only one avenue that Satan will use.
      So learn to enjoy these moments when God places you in churches like you are in, because He may be allowing you to rest up for the battle to come. May God continue to bless you all.

    • says

      Some of us we are not even allowed to do part time jobs in our churches to supplement on what we get. My church wouldnt let me. You are blessed that you can provide for others. I have always wanted to do some part time jobs to support my family.

  29. TLM says

    I didn’t read all the replies, so this may have already been covered. It has been my observation that VERY few preachers are overpaid. That being said, an older, more experienced preacher once told me, “When a church offers to pay you, go ahead and accept it, even if you think they can’t afford it. If you refuse the money you may rob them of a blessing. If you think they can’t afford it and you don’t need the money just turn it back into the collection. That way they are blessed for supporting you and you are blessed for supporting them.” So, any time my pay is increased, I also increase my contribution.

  30. Steven says

    Its very very interesting to follow up the comments men and women of God are making. I also thought I could add my voice. Am a Pastor in very Small Church in Africa and I love my pastoral work so much. I have vowed never to ask for a salary increament from my church board bcoz of what happened in my first year of ministry. I asked the church if they can help me with the school fees for son. I was told that it wasnt the responsibility of the church but my own responsibility as a father of the child. For now I just depend on God and look up to him. By His grace life keeps on going and we have continued to serve the Lord in the same church and this is my seventh year. Our three children have continued going to school by God’s grace. But at times I do get worried when i look to the future especially for my family. Since i cant even manage to build a house for them what will happen to them if i died even today? Being a pastor its a big sacrifice!

  31. Wayne Burns says

    It is sad about so many ministers pay. I have been blessed. In 30 years as pastor (parttime in college/seminary-4 year-no raise–but that was fine), after seminary, I received a raise each year….And, I never had to asked for one—but I would have! And, I made sure staff was equally treated. I don’t understand why pastors are so shy and afraid in this matter. When I finished seminary, I would hear pastors mentioned no increase in salary. I would say “why?”–I realized we had no group (union) to represent us..I suggested creating one to a few ministers, they laughed! So, I chose to represent myself and staff when needed…And, I did. I believe it is the role of husband to make sure his family is cared for. That helped me to express needs when I needed to…I have been blessed with many good deacons, etc…when it came to budgets, etc…I am DOM now and enjoy seeking to help pastors, churches, be faithful to in all things and this includes pastor and staff salaries….thanks for all you are doing to inform and help…..wayne Burns

  32. Daniel Moore says

    I guess I am the rare exception. I kept my mouth shut for my first five years. I wanted to tend to the flock and teach them from scriptures. Finally at a personnel and budget meeting I heard the old refrain one time too many about “well pastor, we’d like to give you a pay raise but…” I listened then said, “Let me ask two questions. One – how many of here have had a pay raise to include cost of living in the past five years please raise your hand.” Every hand but mine went up. I then asked the second question, “How many in this room have not had a pay raise in the past five years?” My hand was the only one that went up. I then said to the shocked faces, “I will leave while you discuss what is the right thing to do.” At the next business meeting I received both an apology and a 5 percent pay raise.

  33. Jerry Martin says

    The two stroke engine of the christian and the church is powered by the strokes of giving and forgiving. This is seen in John 3:16 and “God loved us and sent His son.” As associational missionary for almost 23 years the churches were encouraged, if they were to err, to err in the direction of generosity and forgiveness. This usually proved most effective when helping them between pastors.

    The pastors who were vocal on this subject were, to a man, more concerned about the care of the man who would one day follow them than they were for their on pocketbook….And, concern for the church’s health in regard to financial and material stewardship was driving even that. Many times we were asked to help train the church in these important kingdom first issues. The trusted voice from one not a member of the church helps bring clarity and reduce emotional extremes in most cases.

    My view of speaking up on pastor salaries changed when called to my first multi-staff Pastorate. I learned that it was necessary to be involved in the discussion so that the rest of the staff were cared for more completely. I learned there was a strong aversion to increasing salaries for the staff if I didn’t also accept an increase. One year we asked for the amount proposed for an increase for me to be shared among the other staff who were struggling in order to give them a larger increase. Instead, no increases were given to anyone. My suggestion to pastors is to accept those raises and if there are ministries you want to receive those funds, increase your giving by that amount. The man who follows may have a different set of needs which may require the income God is using your tenure to provide (more kids, chronic illness in a family member, parents who need care, etc.).

    One last thought…many times church members would voice how the church had to reduce the budget but they didn’t reduce mission giving. The reduction did include pastor/staff care. As missionary it was necessary to applaud the mission priority and to help them understand that the pastor/staff was giving to missions for the church with that decision. Hilarious giving is the biblical attitude for the christian and the church.

  34. says

    I Teach on Galations 6Galatians 6:6 (King James Version)
    Galatians 6:6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
    I love the Weymouth translation here :Galatians 6:6 (Weymouth New Testament)
    Galatians 6:6 But let those who receive instruction in Christian truth share with their instructors all temporal blessings.
    Education is our responsibility, and I have found that in 31 years of founding and pastoring 5 congregations in 5 different states that when the people are educated in what God teaches, a majority of the are obedient, and the only time we’ve really struggled is in the initial start up and growth costs, or in this past few years when we are in a state where unemployment is still over 10% and thousands have left the state for greener pastures
    but God has still been faithful to us. We are non-denominational charismatics so many of the costs that a denomination would provide, we have no accessibility to, but it’s still been a blessing. My thoughts are that I’m the most blessed man on the planet to be able and called of God to do what I do, with my precious wife by my side. Be blessed!

  35. Rev. Nancy Cahalan says

    I did have the audacity to speak up for a raise for all church staff at the last church I served. That is why it is a church I used to serve. I had held off for quite a while before I approached the council about raising all salaries. No one had had an increase in pay in over 5 years, yet inflation made the pay that we were paid worth less and less each year. I must admit that I will probably not be asking for a raise any time soon. Once burnt, twice shy.

  36. Michael Simons says

    I have been Bivocational all my carrer and I would never let my ablity to provide for my family to be undercut by the Church. So I work full time for a local HS and I serve the church with the time left. Any salary I have been paid has been deicated to Housing allowance and benifits. The reason so many churchs are stuggling and some even closing is because they Ignore the Word of God and seek to Muzzle the OX while it threshing the wheat.

  37. Ed Mitchell says

    Excellent article. Because of the places I’ve served, #4 is the largest reason for my not having spoken up. My current place of service has had years where there’s been no raise, and years where there has been a good raise. But I view the future with some apprehension: anyone know yet how much our health insurance is going to go up next year?


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