By Norman E. Fultz
Several years ago, an article entitled “The Preacher Asks For A Raise” made the rounds in church bulletins. It began immediately to explain that a raise in finances was not meant, but rather a raise in attendance, interest, etc. But this present article is talking about a raise in finances, for very likely indeed your preacher will need a raise in income this year.
Through the years we preachers have had a real reluctance to talk about our finances, and in many instances the ignorance of the brethren relative to preacher support is because of our reticence to inform them. Most preachers had rather switch locations than ask for a raise, and in too many instances the brethren have not been far sighted or business like enough to provide the raise without his asking. There has generally been reflected on the part of brethren what appears to be a fear the preacher may be too well supported, that he might not be able to handle a really livable wage. Brethren, I want to share a few thoughts whose time have come.
We surely already know the scripturalness of financially supporting the preaching of the gospel. But in case some may be unable to recall such, let’s allow Paul’s arguments to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9:4-14), his statement of receipt of wages (2 Cor. 11:8), and his commendation of the Philippians (Phil. 1:5; 4:15-18) for their support, to suffice.
There are a number of factors which good judgment demands must be considered in the support of a preacher. To some extent, the size and ability of the congregation are factors; yet groceries, housing, clothing, utilities, gasoline, car payments and other expenses of the preacher are not priced to him and his family according to the size of the church with which he works. Those items cost him just the same as they do the preacher who works with a church on the other side of town which is twice the size and whose support may be twice as much. Nor does it follow that the preacher working with the small group is necessarily doing less work than he with a large church, and therefore should receive less. If the congregation cannot afford adequately to support him, perhaps he could receive additional support from another church until local ability increases, though I have known of instances where the church considered it a blow to their pride to even think such. In some cases, the preacher may take secular work to augment his income; and I do not think a preacher ought to consider himself too good to do just that when necessary. And some preachers who do have very good support need to learn a little more charity and to be less critical toward those who find it necessary to “make tents” on the side.
But our primary thought here is the need for brethren to keep the support adequate with an occasional raise to offset increasing costs. Many labor for the same wage for years. To illustrate: I personally worked with one congregation four and a half years and was receiving the same when I left as when I began, and it was not <t tub of butter. In fact, when my wife took a job for a while, the elders stopped our house rent and we had to pay it. We moved to another work for $15 less weekly because I thought living costs would be much less in that area (They were not.) and because of the inability of the church and the prospects for a good work. During the two and a half years of fruitful work there, the financial ends never did meet, but in order to at least get them a little closer together, I often went out and sold a few Dickson Bibles. I then got an increase in support by moving to another work where the support was almost exactly the same as I had received in the prior location. I am sure many preachers could recite similar experiences. Brethren, just those moving costs turned to preacher support might save a lot of unnecessary moving and ease some preachers’ financial strain.
The preacher carries a financial load most people in public work do not appreciate. An article in The Commercial Appeal (August 28, 1973), reported that fringe benefits paid to employees average 25 per cent of their wage and in one group it was 41 per cent. These fringes are in the form of life and health insurance, retirement programs, profit sharing, etc. The preacher pays his own hospitalization which costs about one-third more than group insurance and gives him far less benefits. He pays his own life insurance, and he usually has no employer paying half his social security, nor contributing dollar for dollar into a profit sharing fund, nor giving him a nice year-end bonus. And remember that the preacher’s check is his gross and that is the amount most compare with their own net income.
Social security is a big expenditure for the preacher as a self-employed person and is getting bigger each year. For 1973 the rate was 8 per cent on a maximum of $10,800. The rate for 1974 is 8 per cent on $13,200. And remember that the preacher has to pay social security on the fair rental value of that house provided him in those cases where churches own the house in which he lives. In recent years, I have heard of a few churches that help the preacher with his social security at year’s end.
The preacher has the same increased costs of living as do those whose contract provides for an automatic cost of living raise or whose employer is knowledgeable and appreciative enough to give his employees a raise, but the preacher generally does not get a systematic increase. A very recent news article reported an 8.8 per cent increase in cost of living last year. And it said that it cost a person with a $12,000 income last year about 51,168 more to live than the year before. Well, there may not be a lot of $12,000 a year preachers, but their costs would be proportionate.
Most preachers have a good deal of driving to do. Increases in gasoline costs will hit hard whether for local work or in driving to gospel meetings across country. So, brethren, that standard amount you have been supporting a man in a meeting for the past several years has diminished in size. Especially would I encourage consideration for those preaching brethren who devote most all their time to gospel meeting work and whose travel expenses are therefore monumental.
Yes, brethren, your preacher will need a raise this year in all probability. May I encourage an objective, businesslike consideration of the matter of preacher support with a view to making it possible for him to do the work without having constantly to worry about finances?
Truth Magazine XVIII: 1, pp. 13-14
November 7, 1974