Preacher’s Wages

By Tom Wheeler

It is a good time for me to say some things on this subject as I just recently moved and no one could think I am asking for a raise yet.

Brethren have mistreated many preachers by their stinginess. They and their families have done without necessities in order for them to preach the gospel of Christ. Many have not received the help of their wives (which they needed so much) because the wife had to work to make ends meet. (She often had to work even with young children at home.) By the way, the wife often after just a few weeks or months was making more than her husband, causing the same inferior feeling in him that it would cause in any other husband. Some few preachers have been unable to pay their bills and left owing businesses and individuals. I am not upholding the person and his unpaid bills but neither should the brethren complain too much about paying them for if they had given the preacher a decent wage, he would have taken care of them before leaving town.

Some brethren still think whatever the preacher gets is charity or that he should not be paid any more than necessary to live on. Paul called what he received “wages:” “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” (2 Cor. 11:8) A friend, when asked what he would have to have to move to a certain place, stated a figure. After they regained their composure, they asked him again what he would have to have. He proposed that they go ahead and pay him the figure stated and at the end of each month each family would work up a cost sheet and give everything left over to the church. This is in reality what they were asking him to do. Paul called it “wages,” not charity, or a love offering.

There are some things most brethren do not consider when deciding how much the preacher will be paid. He buys his own health insurance and if he has a fair policy, it will cost him as much as a reasonable car payment. I have never heard of but one congregation that had a life policy on the preacher and that one is payable to the church, not to the preacher’s family. The preacher will have more car and clothing expenses than the average person, and if it were otherwise the brethren would not have him. 89% of all companies have a retirement or pension plan, but if a preacher needs help in his old age you just listen to the brethren talk about what a sorry manager he was. The following figures are from U. S. News And World Report, August 28, 1972. In 1971 the average (that includes low income states) employee in private industry received $2,544.00 in fringe benefits per year. These are things that never showed up on the paycheck. There has been a big jump since then.

I do not believe preaching is on the same level with secular work; if I thought such I would have stayed in private industry. I do not believe preachers should form unions; in fact I would not listen to one who advocated such a thing. I do believe they (preachers) ought to sacrifice to exercise any talent they have. When you read in the New Testament of gospel preaching being supported, the preacher was not the only one who sacrificed. This would indeed by an enlightening study for many brethren.

Some brethren think that if they furnish a house, they are doing the preacher a great favor. Really they are only helping him never to accumulate a place to live when he is too feeble to preach.

A preacher ought not to have to beg or move for a raise. Sometimes brethren can not understand why a preacher moved after only two or three years when things were going so well. They did not stop to think that the cost of living went up 20% or more during that time and they gave him only a $10.00 or $20.00 raise, which in fact was not a raise at all, as it did not even keep up with the cost of living. Preachers are accused of preaching for money, when the charge is false. Why could not the additional wages paid by a different congregation indicate a greater appreciation for his services? I believe the “wages” must be within reason, as the last paragraph will indicate.

There is a saying among preachers that ought not to be. “Get it when you are making the agreement to move, for you won’t get it after you are there.” This statement covers a lot of things: “wages,” office (preferably study) furniture, printing equipment, number of weeks away for meetings and length of vacation. Vacation time is a sore spot with some preachers. When one works for private industry a certain number of years, he usually gets more vacation time. When preachers change congregations, the brethren think they change companies. By the way, many preachers preach and study while on their vacation.

Several years ago, a preacher went to a place to consider moving there. They asked him what he wanted them to pay him. He noted that ten men were present and proposed that they average their incomes and pay him that amount. Their incomes averaged $90.00 per week (I suppose that was take home); they payed him $70.00. Brethren in some places have come a long way in the last few years and some progress is being made in other places. Preacher pay is still a touchy subject and many do not know how to deal with it. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 7:12) Why would not this teaching hold true in the matters under discussion? I am persuaded that one reason many parents do not encourage their boys to preach is they do not want their son treated (payed) like they treat (pay) the preacher.

Preachers have moved just to teach the elders and/or the men who run the affairs a lesson in preacher support. Whether right or wrong, this does take place. This can create an unnecessary, bad situation. He moves before he wants to. He moves before his family wants to. He moves before the church really wants him to, and some people are hurt and discouraged. Brethren, this ought not to be. Review the salary every few months. Discuss it with the preacher. Pray about the matter and treat one another like fellow children of God and much unnecessary expense will be saved in the long run.

Before we close the article, let us mention a few things on the other side of the economic scale. I believe that some preachers are asking for and getting too much “wages.” They are taking advantage of a preacher shortage and are becoming hirelings, preaching for filthy lucre. If you ask me for a figure that is precisely the correct amount, I cannot give it. That depends on the area, the people and the preacher and his family. Some will leave the church when some salaries that I have heard quoted are paid. Can some sleep with that? When one receives more than a reasonable amount, he will lose his effectiveness as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Read again Matt. 7:12.

Truth Magazine, XVIII:45, p. 12-13
September 19, 1974