Posted by: larry | May 27, 2007

Paying the Preacher

5Probably get on a few preachers nerves, and make their list of reprobates for this post. Having said that, I wonder how a church can go so overboard in providing a large salary (in proportion to its total contributions) to a preacher, while allotting meager financial help, or often nothing, to those truly destitute and needing immediate attention.

The local church of about sixty members has weekly contributions of about $5200/month. They provide themselves with a full-time preacher paying him $2875/month. The salary received by the preacher is more than 50% of the total church budget.

I’m aware the scriptures are not silent concerning payment to those doing the Lord’s work, and even in the Old Testament the ox was not to be muzzled while grinding the grain, but I really believe if the ox ate over 50% of the grain it would quickly be first in line to become the next sacrificial offering.

Perhaps I’m just standing in the rain out in left field, and need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Twenty-first Century, but I honestly think we need to answer a couple questions (actually a lot of questions…) regarding our practice of paying the preacher: What should be the monetary guideline when hiring a preacher? Is it right to pay a preacher 50% of the church’s total contributions?



  1. What should someone in your area expect to earn if they are working full time in a difficult job that required years of training? Answer that question and you have answered your previous question about what a preacher should be paid. Just because they are serving God is no excuse for expecting them to starve. The answer is not in paying the preacher lss but in church members giving more.

  2. Larry if this is a factual church and you have knowledge of it’s workings. This question is best answered by you, you probaly will get answers from what Ray said “give more” to you really don’t need a fultime preacher. outsiders do not know that members are not giving all they can. Outsiders do not know if you have a member who can take over the teaching at this church. Maybe these folks should look to a retired preacher to get the congregation built up so they can do more. A retired qualified man, say like Larry.

  3. BTW Larry I don’t believe the percentage of the budget as salary matters, I go to a large church with plenty. Big donation means big budget we just hire more people a youth minister and two secretarys a new bus and go on more trips. Yesterday one of the members was in need, we took a special donation, they couldn’t afford to pull it from the budget. how do you like them apples?

  4. Ray…

    Thanks for dropping by and for commenting.

    The church in question is in a poor rural area of mostly retired people making considerably less money than the preacher. I agree that the preacher shouldn’t be expected to live on a starvation salary, but neither should the church be expected to forget its other monetary obligations to those in need because all their money goes to the preacher.

    Asking the church to give more so the preacher can have more would be an answer if the preacher was actually under paid, but when over 50% of the budget is already assigned to the preacher, it just doesn’t seem right in a poor area where the needs of the people are also important.

  5. Laymond…
    The church in question is real, relatively poor, in a rural area with tons of retirees. The preacher in question does an excellent job, and is approaching retirement, so perhaps he will lower the amount of his salary when his SS kicks in.

    I used the percentage of the budget just to show what the church deemed most important in this area, and can’t help but wonder if our priorities are right!

    We seem to hire these days rather than do the work ourselves, and like you said, bigger donations just lead to hiring more people, and on and on ….

    The right formula for paying the preacher will depend on each church’s situation, and even the situations will change over time and need modifying. But I do believe if the most important thing in a church’s agenda is the preacher, perhaps we’re going down the wrong road.

  6. Larry we may need to do like my older sister, who’s funeral I attended last month in Malvern Arkansas. She and her husband became disenchanted with the way the church was turning so they built a church building in their backyard, downtown Malvern. they had to fight for the permits but did it anyway, her brother-in-law is a preacher and he came to volenteer. he spoke at the funeral. the church she built would only hold approx 30 people, the funeral was crowded in a large building and there were people from all walks there. the church consisted of mostly people from off the street. after church each and every Sunday she fed those attending lunch. her lunch room was the biggest part of the church, not the salary because there was none for her or the preacher. That little church has lasted for more than twenty years without financial difficulty. I don’t know if it will continue now.

  7. Laymond…
    Sorry for the loss of your sister recently. She certainly put her faith on the line and followed her heart…sounds like a great woman to me.

  8. Laymond,
    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. She did what others talk of . I pray that her ministry will continue to grow. She must have planted so many seeds for the Lord.

  9. Guys,

    Without a doubt the minister deserves payment but at what price?
    Should he be expected to bring in more to cover his pay?

  10. Milly…
    Everything seems to be geared to the dollar in this age, and even small churches without a preacher act like it’s a major problem unless they hire someone to preach for them; even if it shuts down all their other programs.

  11. There was a time that I thought that all ministers should live a life of poverty, or near it. I have since swung to the other extreme. As to where the middle and right ground is, I’m not sure.

  12. Danny…
    Preachers living a life of poverty is far from my intention in this post.

    My concern is when the preacher seems to be receiving most of the contribution while nothing is happening to help those in need in the local church, and community at large.

    Small churches just can’t hire high dollar preachers just to entertain themselves while everything else goes to pot. I had rather see the widow cared for, and the orphans supplied with their needs, than to spend most of the money on one man; often to do the work we are suppose to do ourselves.

    Just my opinions. :)

  13. I agree with you totally. I had actually been reevaluating my last position of pay them well and your post spoke to that. I think you’ve actually hit on the real heart of the matter with your post and your response to my comment.

  14. I see your point, too much for one cause can be hurtful to a congregation. The congregation to scale back or give more. But the answer is not expecting a full-time minister to sacrifice in pay. Let’s reverse the situation, how should the preacher be paid in the 1000 affluent congregation. Some congregation cannot afford a full time preacher, but if they desire one, rightly or wrongly, they have to pay him well.

  15. Matthew…

    Thanks for your comments.

    Preachers are certainly high on my list of people to respect, and I don’t think we should starve the preacher in any way, or force his family to live in slums while the rest of the church prospers, that was not the intent of this post. And I don’t blame the preacher for accepting what the church is willing to pay him.

    The church with 1000 members certainly has more options in paying a preacher, and still being able to provide help to others in the church and their community.

    A large church I’m familiar with hired a person to be in charge of their Sunday School programs and other educational programs for the church; he was paid considerably more than the incomes of the average members of this group. Within a few months the church was asked to dig deeper into their pockets to make ends meet, and the church responded without a complaint, as far as I know. The elders then decided to hire a youth minister, an additional person in the office, and a third associate minister…this time around the members responded with no additional contributions, and soon the elders were removing those recently hired.

    I believe Christians will respond generously to the needs of the church, but when preachers and other professionals in church work absorb most of the money members contribute, and the benevolence to others is almost nil, things just might be out of kilter.

    Again, I’m not for starving preachers, I just think some churches hire people they can’t afford, and not only the church, but the community suffers as a result. We all have opinions on what to pay the preacher, and possibly my experiences with churches hiring too much professional help has tainted my thinking. I’m sure there are churches out there where I would think the preacher is overpaid, but they are reaping a bountiful harvest of souls, and well worth the extra money.

  16. A couple of points:

    1) Given that our preacher and his family are the most dependent people on our Church for their finances, our responsibility is to see that they are taken care of and not made wards of the state. Subsidizing the preacher’s pay with Medicaid, food stamps, and other government assistance takes the Church’s burden and places it on society. The job of the Church is to lift burdens off of people. Preachers and their families are totally exposed financially but many churches don’t seem to care if the preacher’s wife has to go through the humility of pulling out food stamps at Wal Mart.

    2) If your preacher has a family are they covered? What I mean by that is this: Will the kids end up having their parents as dependents because the Church didn’t pay the preacher enough to have a sustaining retirement? Again, we must be careful about burdening others with the Church’s responsibility.

    If a Church simply cannot afford a preacher then maybe it ought to be honest enough to allow the elders to handle the spiritual matters of ministering through prayer and the Word.

    There’s an old saying about Churches and how they pray during a minister search: Lord give us a man who is humble and poor. You keep him humble, we’ll keep him poor.

  17. Greg…
    Appreciate your comments, and basically agree with your points.

    Throughout my post and subsequent comments I have stressed that I don’t push any position that would starve or humiliate the local preacher. Expecting the government to subsidize our preachers, or pay them so low they need food stamps is not the answer; so I think we basically agree.

    In a poor area where most of the church members are in need of government help, and other programs like food stamps, I don’t think the preacher should have any more reason to be embarrassed than his brothers and sisters at Wal Mart. In a situation like this I agree that perhaps the church simply can’t afford a preacher, or the preacher will have to supplement his income.

    I never heard that old saying about the humble and poor, but I certainly agree with the humble part, but not keeping him poor. I know there are churches that starve their preachers, and some that set preachers on a pedestal and pay them accordingly.

    The whole point of my original post was not starving the preacher and his family (which I have restated throughout my comments,) but allocating so much resources to the preacher that other things in the church are ignored, because once the preacher is paid there is nothing left for benevolence, or anything else.

    It just boils down to where one considers the weekly contributions should be distributed. If a church is large and wealthy then preachers, widows, orphans, and everything related to the work of the church can be provided without a problem, but in a small poor church where only the preacher is considered, and other work is ignored for a lack of funds, I doubt this is the right thing to do.

  18. This is an issue i have been tossing around for sometime. Is it even correct to charge a salary to preach a free gospel? I have seen quite a few scriptures people interpret as justifying this but also Paul was a tent maker, he had a trade that he did. He even said that when he came to a church (not enough time to look it up this morning) that he did not take anything from them but worked diligently so as to not be a burden. So where is the justification in scripture, could anyone point it out to me?

  19. logan…
    Thanks for your visit and especially the comments.

    My family history is full of preachers that never received salaries to preach, but made their living by farming, building houses, etc. and still found time to prepare sermons on Sunday mornings.

    “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel, should get their living by the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:14) In the next verse Paul says that he makes no use of these rights.

    Justification for paying a located preacher is often based on what Paul said in his first letter to the church in Corinth. Chapter 9 of this letter leads me to believe there is nothing wrong with paying a preacher, but surely common sense dictates that when a preacher gets most of the weekly offering, and little else is accomplished, something must be wrong!

    Many churches have created a nucleus of paid ministers that often supplants the service of the unpaid Christians. Overly organized churches paying professionals for every conceivable service has the tendency to turn the church into just another business. If we’re not careful we may get into the habit of just standing back and watching the professionals work.

  20. Our church has currently run into an issue and that is why this is fresh on my heart. Our church is small and cannot afford to pay anything extra, so the youth pastor position is volunteer. We have a man, a friend of mine who has been doing it for about a year but just said recently that he was going to step down to pursue a paying position as a youth pastor. What baffles me is the fact that he told me on repeated occasions that he is called to our church (we are charismatic mostly) So now i guess my question is this, in this situation i see it as a refusal to minister the word of the Lord unless there is money involved. So for all the preachers out there, if you quit getting paid would you quit sharing the life giving word with your church and move on. Or would you get a job and continue the work.

    To me it all just seems wrong, but im still sorting it out.

  21. logan…

    Thanks for dropping by again.

    When you get it all sorted out let me know. :)

    I’m sure there are a few preachers out there that serve primarily for the money, but I hope not many. I was raised around small churches where the preacher always had to work on the side to help support his family, but in todays world most preachers depend on the church for their total support…your friend will probably be moving on!

  22. I think i have got it figured out.

    Its in 1 Corinthians 9, and a bit in 2 thessalonians 3 (These probably are not the only scriptures but just the ones i have seen today). In essence Paul is saying that workers of the Gospel are entitled to the provision of the members of the churches. Also he compares this privilege to that of taking a Christian woman as a wife. But he says that Barnabas and himself denied themselves this right that the Gospel may go out un hindered. And he considered it would be better to die than to Charge for the Gospel of peace (9:15, 18) In thessalonians he considered the act of taking provision from the Church “disorderly” and did not take hold of the right of leaving the secular workplace, not because they did not have the authority, but because they wanted to be an example, imitate us, paul said. (3:9)

    ANd again I come to this bottom line, that by authority ministers do have a right to take provision (does that mean a salary? That in my opinion is questionable, it is not a vocation you are a part of ut a calling…know the difference) but paul claimed it to be a burden to the church and a hindrance to the Word of God, that saving grace of Christ Jesus.

    We must not forget that Paul said to imitate me as I imitate Christ. Did Jesus get a salary for sharing the beatitudes…i think not. When he need food to feed his sheep it was supernaturally supplied. and money to pay taxes a fish was the method. I would say that if a minister wishes to imitate Christ he would not take any money from the church, at least not in connection to share a free Gospel, but if he wishes to have a vocation, a career…then that is between him and the Lord. But I myself will not take a dime to do what my Spirit and the blood of Jesus demands of me, and that is to save this dying generation.

    ANd dont me mistaken…all this doesnt come from an anti-tither, i am not about to steal from God and find it a blessing to give my money to His purposes. It is after all….His, all of it.

  23. many spelling errors in that last post.

  24. Logan..

    Thanks for stopping by again. Often I post about a subject admitting I’m pretty much at a loss on what it means exactly. Your comments, and others, help me get a little better grasp of the situation…and at times change my mind completely.

    Don’t worry about the spelling errors…I certainly provide my share. Since I managed to flunk English, and just about every other subject in school…I have legit excuses :)

    Paul in 1 Cor. 9:7, and for a space thereafter, seems to allow the preacher to accept money from the church. It seems to me that it’s an option; a preacher has the right to accept money, but if possible (as in Paul’s case) deny the salary, and don’t put a burden on the church.

    Many preachers long ago refused money to preach, and I think that was a great example, but not followed much anymore.

    I think many churches are going hog-wild on preacher support at the expense of other Christian obligations, but that is my opinion, and if I remember correctly I was wrong once, or at least I think I was! :)

  25. I’m wrestling with this issue right now. I have a seminary degree. I did two years in China with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. I saw firsthand the corruption money and power bring to an organization and had no desire to continue in the ministry, professionally, after returning. However, after spending several months searching the job market in Atlanta, I found that companies are exactly looking for seminary graduates. I talked to many pastors and church staff, several from big churches like FBC Woodstock, only to find that Christian businessmen are just as cold toward seminary grads, or maybe even more so…at least I got one call-back from the secular market.

    So, here I am, unemployed, with an expecant wife. Why won’t the church help? One possible reason is that I can not offer any church what they most want…a potential conversion…therefore, they simply aren’t interested. Or maybe they can’t help. Maybe funds that are supposed to be used to help people in situations like mine are tied up in paying the salaries of pastoral staff, paying off debt for some building project, or buying curriculum from lifeway.

    I sent out resumes for youth ministry positions when I found out that it was the only job that I am currently qualified to do. I even got an offer, but couldn’t bring myself to accept it. The reason is that I don’t believe that paid church staff is a biblical concept. I believe that it has corrupted the church to the point that it is almost unrecognizable as what Christ left behind to share the Good News with the world.

    I have resolved to do one of two things: either start my education over to get a secular degree which will allow me to get a decent job or keep looking for work for as long as it takes.

    I am not against ministry, but I am against paid ministry. I will never take food out of the mouth of one who is in need for my own gain. It is simply unnessisary. Following Christ should be a pursuit of giving all, losing everything, gaining nothing except to die.

  26. ksw…

    Thank you very much for dropping by and leaving some great comments.

    Churches that go overboard in retaining ministers for every conceivable situation, and spend most of the Lord’s money on salaries I believe is wrong, but I don’t believe it’s necessarily wrong to pay a preacher as long as widows and orphans, and other people in need, are cared for as well. Chapter nine in First Corinthians gives the church the right, if they so desire, to pay a preacher…in my opinion!

    My fathers side of the family is filled with Southern Baptist preachers who seldom, if ever, received pay for their services, but times have changed considerably over the years, and I doubt they could have balanced their roles as preachers, and trying to work outside the church to support their familys at the same time.

    If you honestly believe it would be wrong to receive pay as a minister, then I would agree it would be wrong for you, because it would violate your conscience. Having said that, I think the scriptures provide the right for churches to pay a minister. Too often though, some churches seem to think if they can pay enough ministers to do their work they can sit back and relax, and watch someone else do what they should be doing themselves.

    I have seen too many churches that have a problem seeing the immediate financial needs of its members, as well as those in their community, because nearly all the weekly contributions are wrapped-up in supporting a paid ministry.

    Becoming a father down the road, plus looking for employment is certainly a tough situation, but trusting the Lord during these times is our answer, and I hope you reconsider your thoughts on being paid to minister as the preacher, I honestly believe you have every right to accept the appreciation of a church for your work by accepting a monetary gift,

    God bless you brother, you are in my prayers.

  27. Oh, my….my church has one senior pastor and 2 junior pastors and we have a congregation of less than 70 people. Do we need to be paying all three pastors? I think not. yesterday, senior pastor sent out an email bemoaning that the church is overdue on paying some outstanding bills that add up to about $6000. one of those bills was for “avian water=$140.00”. Fancy water? What? I am not really very happy about this. Our congregation is filled with unemployed small poor families that are just barely making their ends meet. What do we do? A scripture comes to mind ….when the disciples needed to pay some taxes, Jesus told Peter to go catch a fish and the money was in the fishes mouth…..maybe our pastors need to get some part-time jobs to pay for their avian water?

    What do you guys think?

  28. dettemc…

    WOW!…one senior pastor and 2 junior pastors and we have a congregation of less than 70 people.” And I was complaining; how in the world can you support three preachers?

    The Avian thing is unbelievable, don’t blame you for being upset. At least two of the preachers need to start a fishing/mouth searching program ASAP!

    Thanks for dropping by…

  29. When addressing the expression ‘the worker is worthy of his wage’ we must first answer 2 questions
    “Which worker was Jesus referring to?” (in HIS teaching)
    “What wages was Jesus saying they were entitled to receive?” (in HIS teaching)

    When we look at the COMMAND that Jesus gave it was first given (the law of ‘first mention’ requires us to understand future references from this passage) in Mat 10
    Mat 10:5-11 where it is clearly addressed to the APOSTLES…those who were SENT OUT
    (ie itinerant workers only)
    where it clearly refers to the wage as being his KEEP…ie hospitality
    (and not money …or mamon)
    Let us all agree that NONE of the apostles was paid a salary to travel….they were to rely on ‘freewill offerings of hospitality’
    In the same way Jesus was not ‘paid a salary’ to minister through his ministry…..he received hospitality FREELY wherever he went. He received ‘support’ from those he ministered with.

    When we look at other references to the same command
    Luke 9:1-4 also clearly addressed to APOSTLES …..
    and the wages they were to receive is defined as staying with people ie hospitality
    Luke 10:1-8 also clearly addressed to sent out people….itinerant workers vs2
    And the wages again are defined as receipt of ‘staying and eating and drinking’…
    “FOR the is worthy of his wages’
    There is no question that the wages were NOT money….and certainly not a regular salary either!

    1 Cor 9:1-14 also clearly addressed to APOSTLES…when they were travelling
    And the wages are the same…ie vs 4 ‘the right to eat and drink’…ie hospitality
    And vs 12…the right of ‘support’…..clearly not referring to money paid as a salary
    And vs 13 …eat of the things of the temple’
    1 Cor 9:14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. NKJV
    Even so…ie in the same way …shows that ‘living from the gospel’ was about FOOD….because that is all the Jesus EVER commanded

    So why now when we come to 1 Tim 5:17…(in the context of the church not being un-necessarily burdened)…where Paul says workers are worthy of ‘double honor’ …should we now assume that the wage are changed to money?
    Honor is a very different Greek word to the word ‘PAY’…We honor our parents …Slaves honor their masters….this certainly does not include a monetary payment or a salary.
    The honor leaders should be given is defined by Paul in 1 Thes 5:12 and 13 as referring to ‘recognition and esteem’

    So why should Galatians 6:6 be viewed outside of its context set in vs 5…each one should carry his own load’?
    Why should the ‘good things we must share with our instructor’…be anything other than the wages Jesus specified…ie hospitality
    Why should the person who receives the right to share be other than an ITINERANT preacher…..contrary to Paul’s life time example…and command in many places…but no more clearly than below

    2 Thess 3:6-11
    But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
    10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. NKJV

    Almost the whole of the western church is in blind disobedience to this command!
    ….as they support and continue to give money to church organizations!

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