Pastors and Money
Career or Calling
It boils down to this: Is being a pastor a career or a calling?
Everyone’s got an opinion about pastors and money. Some feel no pastor should have to depend on God’s church for their livelihood. That, live everyone else, they need to work for what they eat. For others, scriptures like 1 Timothy 5:17-18, which says that pastors are worthy of their “reward” (in KJV) or “wage” (in the New American Standard).
So which is it?
I’ll admit, I’ve argued on both sides of this fence.
Last December, I heard God’s call to a ministry. One of the challenges answering that call is negotiating the tension between ministry and finances. Where’s the line?
On one hesitant and uncomfortable hand, ministry looked like any other job. Go to school. Get the degree. Do the interview. I don’t like viewing it that way, but that seems to be the way of things. I don’t like the idea of the church “employing” me as it pertains to ministry — an employment that could end at any moment (like any career). What would happened when funding fell through, or worse, I was fired? Would that force me to find a “job” somewhere else? And if so, where’s would God be in that? Would I be following God’s lead or simply trying to survive? Besides, how do you negotiate finances in a ministry job interview? That’s got to be tricky!
Yet on the other hand, God’s call should be all I need to step out with Abraham-like faith. He gave the call, so He’d take care of the rest, right? And if he used the church to do that, then so be it.
Back and forth I go.
I do know this. Being a pastor is a full time commitment. To continue to use myself as an example, the call to serve twenty-somethings and college-aged students in my community cannot be done effectively in the margins. I’m trying, but I need time to connect to individuals, time to lay out lesson plans, and to follow up on service projects. I need to be available for those who are in spiritual need, to network with other churches, universities, and organizations, and to engage in face-to-face meetings and introductions to new people and opportunities. I could go on and on. (seriously)
I can’t do those things and work full time, and effectively nurture a family.
So what happens? I continue to work (because we need money), and I push God’s work to the margins… often to the detriment of family. Or vice versa. And I feel horrible about it in the process.
So which is it? Should I feel bad about being paid to serve, or should I continue to shortchange God’s work with marginal effort, which will lead to frustration and a half-executed vision (assuming burnout doesn’t happen before any portion of the vision is even realized.)
I’m not the only one with this question I’m sure.
|Proper preparation for God’s word, learning how to best identify the needs of the church and the unchurched, and researching, praying and hearing from God on how to address those needs are all time consuming tasks.|
Money is one of ministry’s greatest obstacles. There’s either too much, or not enough.
The often polarizing issue of pastors and pay is usually a product of off-base perceptions of the church. People who have problems with full-time, staffed pastors, most likely see the church as a profit organization that competes for your dollar over the church down the road.
Unfortunately, they aren’t too far off. Many churches operate like corporations, with budget goals of gaining membership, in order to get money, to build bigger stuff, and gain more membership and get more stuff… etc. I’ve written about how keeping/collecting money is often priority over finding ways to give money away for the good of God’s people and the community. It’s only reasonable to expect cynicism about profit when your budget model is designed to profit. If churches change the way it deals with money, it would go a long way toward changing the perception of “career” pastors.
Often times, the amount of work God has for his leaders goes unseen, and often unaccounted for. People only see Sunday and assume Pastor has laid in bed most of the week, with maybe a few hours of study here and there. And heaven forbid he drive a nice car, or go on vacation to the islands. But we talk more about that in next week’s Pastors and Expectations post.
Pastors have their part to play here as well. While being an effective pastor is a full time commitment, they must also guard against the temptations that come with the territory — namely greed, pride, and slothfulness. There is always work to be done, always ways God is speaking and moving in the lives of a congregation. No sooner a pastor slows down to start indulging himself in the Me-Monster-Machine that has become “church”, the Enemy attacks. Besides, true caring for people starts with being available in their darkest hours (which could be any time of the day or night). Even full time ministers have issues with being there for all members, but that only serves my point. People need pastors.
So work on Sunday Morning is probably the smallest percentage of their weekly efforts. Proper preparation for God’s word, learning how to best identify the needs of the church and the unchurched, and researching, praying and hearing from God on how to address those needs are all time consuming tasks — to big for any margin. Part-time pastoring leaves much to be desired. It can be (and often is) done, but the ministry often suffers (or even the minister).
There is biblical precedence both for a man of God being cared for by a body of believers (the high priests, Timothy for example), and for a man of God making it on his own without such provision (like many of the prophets, Paul, John the Baptist, even Jesus). The result really is that there is no cookie cutter solution.
Follow God’s lead and He’ll figure out (probably has figured out) the rest. Even with the money. We have to be careful with telling God how he will take care of his own. He has shown that he can ordain either scenario.
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