Paying the Preacher

Bill Murff
Crosby, Texas

"Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a master in heaven" (Col. 4:1).

One of the bigger problems in the brotherhood is the fact that we are losing a lot of good preachers. They have finally been "beat down" by the brethren they work for over insufficient wages.

Preachers, as a rule, don't go into preaching for the money. They feel they must preach to personally do the thing that will please God and give them personal satisfaction.

Let's compare the men of God to the average worker in the petrochemical industry. Our comparison could be Midwest auto workers, government professionals, etc. A fellow with 15 years experience - say 38 years of age, will be making around $20.00 per hour. He will also have hospitalization insurance and about four weeks of vacation. In addition, by the time he is in his mid-50s he could be eligible to retire at a comfortable salary.

Our preacher of comparison will have moved three, four, five times or more trying to find a church that will take care of him and his family. He will have 15 years of experience but not much retirement started, possibly no equity in a house. He is living on hope. Good luck brother - many Christians haven't learned what Paul was talking about in our verse above - our preachers need to be treated just and equal.

Gospel Meetings

About six years ago, a congregation decided to pay a "meeting preacher" eight hundred dollars for the week's work. He said that was the biggest check he had ever received. This was a popular meeting preacher, too. I think we are really to be criticized for the way we bring a man in from a good distance and underpay him. He works his heart out at the sacrifice of being gone from home for a week, not to mention his traveling expenses. Then we give him five hundred dollars and say, "We had a great week."

A few weeks ago we hired a consultant to energize our turf grass association meeting. He entertained a little and helped to motivate us to work together better on some of our related problems. That afternoon we gave him a check for $1500.00. He had traveled about 125 miles from his home.

Most congregations that are of any size have adequate money in the treasury to pay a gospel preacher two or three times what he is usually paid for doing a meeting. Brethren, let's look at ourselves that hold the purse strings and loosen up when it comes time to paying the preacher.

Show Compassion

Many congregations don't have the compassion for a preacher and his family that they should. "We are paying you all that we can afford; if that's not good enough, you will have to find another place." They've got money for a lot of other things, but not for the suffering preacher's family.

One case I know about goes like this. The preacher finally had to ask the brethren for a little extra pay. He was getting $400.00 per week and that was just a tad short. The elders said that they couldn't give him a raise but that his wife could take a job. They had thought about paying somebody to clean the building - she could have that. He couldn't help her though. A few weeks later they got a request to help another preacher - a one time deal. They agreed to that. What a slap at the young preacher.

Congregations need to have leaders with foresight and understanding on caring for the preacher. They need to put themselves in his shoes and see if they could make it on what they are paying him.

Congregations need to have pride in the fact that they take care of their preacher in a generous way. Paul told the Philippian brethren (Phil. 4:10) that their care of him had flourished again. Let's see congregations flourish continually in caring for the man hired to help them.

For What You Get

If you want anything good - you've got to pay for it. We understand that, but don't apply it many times when it comes to paying our preacher. Our philosophy seems to be that a brother has such a high motivation to preach that he will preach for low wages and be happy. After a few years of this mind-thought a lot of good preachers give up and get out.

The brotherhood needs to hear a message from someone who does not preach for a living. In business, key quality employees don't come cheap. A manager, foreman, etc. has a variety of skills - he is good with subordinates, knows how to solve problems and can get the job done. A good man will move in a hurry if he finds a better job. That's the way it ought to be. I heard of a congregation a few weeks ago who were interested in a preacher of considerable talent until they heard his salary request - $60,000.00 per year. They could well afford it, but he was out of their range. At his age and experience with a lot of good works behind him - he was a winner - he is too high on salary request. His equivalent in industry would be making more than $60,000.00.

A young lady we know just graduated from college with a degree in nursing. She has taken a job starting at $39,000.00. Many preachers will go to their grave never having made $39,000.00 in a year, doing the Lord's work for unappreciative brethren.

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 18, pp. 552-553
September 17, 1992