Monday, September 04, 2006

Formulating Pastoral Salaries

It's hard to figure out how much pastors should be paid. We've all seen ads from churches asking for an M.Div'ed pastor to serve a congregation of 500 for $12,000 a year. And in some Pentecostal churches, pastors can make millions. Here in the Florida Conference of the UMC, I think that the minimum is around $33,000.

Pastors don't want to be greedy, but they also want to feed their families. Churches want to keep their pastors fed and shod, but they don't want to break the bank in the process. So I'd like to offer a few alternative methods of calculating pastoral pay:

1. By The Word: Lots of people address their pastor as "Preacher" because that is the most familiar context. Let's work with that role and pay pastors by the number of words in the weekly sermon. Say, perhaps $0.50 a word.

2. By The Hour: Keep a timeclock and a punchcard. When the pastor has work to do, he clicks it. For those late-night sudden hospital visits, bring a portable timeclock and click it when you enter the hospital room. Maybe we should start with an hourly wage of $22.

3. On Commission: The pastor keeps 10% (or whatever figure) of the total revenues of the church. He is therefore highly encouraged to preach on tithing and shove extra fifth Sundays into the calendar. The church benefits and the pastor benefits.

What do you think? What should be the basis of pastoral compensation?

UPDATE: Jeff the Baptist examined what the Apostle Paul wrote about pastoral compensation.

18 comments:

Allan R. Bevere said...

Great post.

I have no suggestions on pastoral compensation, but I remember a public speaker saying to me several years ago, that churches don't realize what a bargain they are getting in paying their pastors: Weekly public speaking, counseling, crisis management, consultation and public relations; something that in every other domain people are paid big money for each separate activity.

Rev. C. S. Roberts said...

How about a flat rate across the conference for every pastor with the formula taking into account dependants and other circumstantial situations (like illness in family, etc.)?

Mark Winter said...

Allan,

The public speaker's observations would be true if all of our pastors exhibited equal skill levels in each category. But they don't. Someone who is great in pastoral counseling may be terrible in the pulpit, and a powerful preacher may be lousy at hospital visits.

How about line-item merit pay for categories such as preaching, evangelism, administration, etc? It might "up" a pastor's game in his/her weak area.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Mark:

Great point, but when you have a pastor who is at least competent in every area of ministry, and who excels in two to three, that is indeed a bargain.

Richard said...

I don't know how many people would be thrilled about paying the pastor per word in his sermon, especially if he tries to draw them out to get some extra cash.

Michael said...

Don't forget yard work and toilet scrubbing.

Seriously, pastoral compensation seems to be a major contributing factor to appointments considerations rather than gifts and graces. Mediocre yet senior elders are being continuously moved up the compensation ladder for no consideration other than longevity. While I know this is not realistic, those coming out of seminary saddled with enormous college and seminary debt need to be given far more consideration though this point still goes back to "how much money can I make?"

Maybe all pastors should be appointed "part time" and go get jobs in the secular world and deal with the threats of lay-off and downsizing and globalization and competition instead of virtually "guaranteed" salaries, benefits, housing, and raises. Maybe then we could seriously consider just compensation.

Peter said...

As a methodist elder it became apparent to me while in seminary that there were some of us that had become to comfortable in our guaranteed appointments. This longevity move concept that Michael mentions is what I refer to as meal ticket ministry. We have pastors who do not tie their work/productivity/effectiveness to their pay. They expect to get paid (and make more each year) as long as they are wearing the robe. I heard one older elder say to me when I had just come out of seminary that as long as a preacher doesn't stel from the plate, and keep his fly closed he is assured to make an increasing salary until retirement.

It appears that our conference (Texas) is changing that dynamic. Moves based on increases in discipleship stats (evangelism, attendance, giving). And since most conferences organizes appointments by salary..

Andy B. said...

I say do it by height.

John B said...

I think Richard has a point, thus the preacher should get paid on a sliding scale. Say $1.00 per word for the first 500 words of the sermon, then $.50/word for the next 500 and $.10 a word for anything over 1,000. That would motivate preachers to get to the point, say what needs to be said and then shut up.

Holy Pirate said...

The Northern Illinois Conference of the UMC is working a plan to increase minimum pastor salaries so that a first-year pastor will earn the same as a public school teacher with a Master's degree and no experience.

Should I gather from this that teaching in government schools is the best analogy to pastoring a UM congregation?

John said...

Andy has a good point.

However, I think that many pastors in our Conference would prefer to be paid by weight.

But seriously, Holy Pirate is on the right track: pay by the level of an entry-level degreed professional in the liberal arts.

Ya'll realize that my suggestions in the post are not serious, right?

Conrad said...

How about bonus pay for keeping sermons short and to the point.

We could fine them $0.50 per word over 15 minutes.

Mark Winter said...

John,

I guess it takes a satirical soul to recognize another one but, yes, I recognized that your tongue was firmly planted in cheek.

However, I do like your suggestion that pastors be paid by the word, since my wife tells me I preach too long.

Sally said...

How about a flat rate across the conference for every pastor ... welcome to the UK- no consideration given to dependants, or other circumstantial situations...

Sally said...

height and weight work for me tho...

Richard said...

What about looks?

TN Rambler said...

Richard said: What about looks?

I'm afraid that too many of us would end up having to pay our churches under that scenario!

Anonymous said...

Why pay a pastor anything if he is not actively going out and getting people saved? What good is he and what good are you if you believe that is not important and your theology teaches otherwise as well? You all are wasting God's time and money and I would hate to be at the judgment seat of Christ when he looks at you and recounts to you all the $$$$$, health, talent, etc. he invested in you and your denomination and you have no souls won to Christ (through Grace alone just like you all used to preach years ago, hmmmm?). Shame on all of you, you don't need a pastor, you need to pick up your Bible and actually read it and walk with God and do what Christ came to do, "To seek and to save that which was lost" I hope you all get a real man of God some day who will preach some real Christianity into your hearts. God pity our current state of Christianity. Let me give you the results of a recent poll conducted amongst pastors, congregations, etc. The average pastor reads his Bible through maybe 1.5 times a year, the average deacon (or elder, etc.) barely reads his Bible through 3/4 of the way through, and the average church members barely reads his Bible through 1/2 times a year! Shame on all of you, no wonder we are so spiritually ignorant and spend our time gossiping about the church, church people, the pastor's salary, etc. We have forgotten what Christianity is all about. You don't like it, give me a call at 773-447-0246 and show me where in the Bible it says you can get away with statistics like that and still be considered Godly.