By Donald P. Ames
Before beginning this article, let me say that I write this with no ulterior motives whatsoever. I am not seeking a pay raise, have no quarrels over the pay I am receiving, and feel no need to try to justify a high salary before someone else. I am writing this article simply because I have seen reactions in other areas, and would like to pose some material for thought. Nor am I seeking to get all churches to pay their preacher a big, fancy salary. A preacher should be paid according to that which he delivers, just like anybody else. No doubt we have many preachers who are overpaid, just like there are many not receiving what their talents, and work deserve.
Certainly the idea of supporting the preacher is advanced in the word of God (1 Cor. 9: 14, 2 Cor. 11:8, Phil. 4:15). However, it is interesting to note in many churches throughout the land that many regard the work of preaching the gospel as a labor of love, and thus feel the preacher should be willing to get by on a minimum income or supplement it front other areas without hindering his work. Let its begin by noting that an effective preacher is one who has the time to study and prepare himself, to be able to visit and teach others at their convenience, and not plagued with financial problems of his own every time he turns around. Actually, if many of our preaching brethren would cease and desist part-time work (where not actually necessary) and devote their full time to the preaching of the gospel, they would be far more effective. Some of this is due to their own desires and interests, but some of it is also due to congregations who constantly begrudge the preacher a raise and create such a fuss that perhaps the preacher is even afraid to ask for one when he does need it. I have no criticism against those who must work to make ends meet-my hat is off to them, and I have done the same thing for the last 12 years. Also, I am not against the preacher who is so devoted to his work he will go ahead even without proper support. What I mainly want to provoke your thinking about is situations where this is not the case!
When was the last time you thought about giving your preacher a raise? And what were some of the reactions no doubt heard throughout the congregation? “Why he already makes more than many of us do.” “He has a better home and income than I do now, and Im not complaining,” etc. I wonder how many members really sit down and look at the preachers income objectively. In many instances he is not only busy paying his own Social Security (much of which is paid for by your employers) but his own hospitalization as well. He does not enjoy the luxury of low discount group rates from the local company, as well as many of the side benefits gained by some union. He does not have the company paying part-or in some cases, nearly all-his premiums, as many do. These are expenses that must come out of that “higher income” he seems to be enjoying. Have you priced hospitalization policies lately?
And what about his eventual retirement? No, he does not have that nice big retirement program many industries are busy giving to their employees. This too is another expense he must dig down into his pocket for-if he can even afford one. He must also carry more life insurance on himself, lacking these extra company benefits many have, to provide for his family if something happened to him.
And then there is the matter of that nice home the preacher lives in, many times provided for by the local congregation. : “Boy, I wish I could afford to live in a home like that! ” Sound familiar? Not always. The preacher many times does not have much selection in his home-it may be nice one place, and not really too nice at all in another. He may have adequate room here, and find himself very cramped in the next place. And, while many of the members are making their regular mortgage payments and talking about how good the preacher has it, he has to face the fact he is not having the chance to build tip equity, in a home of his own. When he leaves, he does not get the chance to sell his house, make a nice little profit and then go seeking something better. (Even if he owns a home, he may find himself taking a loss in order to see it sold and enable himself to continue on with the Lords work elsewhere). And, then there is that matter of interest and taxes. Yes, we all hate taxes and complain about them, but never fail to make sure we include all the Real Estate taxes, etc. as well as interest on those hated yearly income tax forms. But, again, he is deprived of the benefit of those deductions because he does not own his own home. Nor is he free to remodel or change a home at will, realizing he is merely “renting” and not the owner of the home. Yes, a fine home-maybe but even that has its drawbacks. And what has he left when your mortgage is paid off?
And then there is the matter of education. He cannot settle down and let his kids go to a good school. He must accept what comes his way as he preaches-good or bad, and hope moving does not upset the younger ones in readjusting to new friends and schools and homes, leaving all the former ones behind.
Also there are the usual expenses that are just naturally inherent in preaching, such as being host for all visiting preachers, taking care of most of the “passing through” people seeking assistance, providing transportation to various meetings, and a library that is adequate to meet and answer any question that may arise within the congregation or as a result of his preaching-and we do like those “in depth” studies!
So, the next time someone suggests a raise for the preacher and you start to react with “Hes already getting more than I am,” pause and reflect why you hired him. Do you know as much and is as much expected from you as is of him? Do you have to maintain such study habits, and provide those extra benefits that he does? Is his security and final settlement as set as yours? Now, who is really the well-paid person within the congregation?
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 14, pp. 11-12
February 8, 1973