Wealth With Purpose

Should a Pastor’s Salary be made known?


Another question that has elicited a lively discussion between those for and against, is one that concerns making the pastor’s salary known.

There are two differing schools of thought here:

Proponents of transparency and accountability maintain that the church pays the pastor’s salary thus every member has the right to know how much he is being paid.

On the opposite side are the proponents of privacy and respect for the pastor’s sensitivities who argue that most companies keep salary information confidential and that it is embarrassing to let one’s compensation known to the world.

While it is true that members have the right to know how the church’s funds are being used it also undeniable that in most societies a man’s worth is measured by his salary. In the corporate world, people often equate a man’s professionalism, credibility and capability with how much he is being paid. And while church ministers are just as educated and experienced, his salary would not always be reflective of this fact.

Thom S. Rainer wrote an article entitled Seven Reasons the Pastor’s Salary Can Be a Source of Tension explaining why the minister’s compensation is often a controversial issue.
1. The pastor’s salary is often public information. The constant availability of the information can engender discussion. Anything that is plain knowledge is a topic of discussion.
2. Some church members view a low salary as a necessary tool for the pastor’s humility. Strange but true, but those who believe this would most likely not like the same humility for themselves.
3. There continues to be a misunderstanding of the pastor’s “package.” In the secular world, there is a clear distinction between salaries and benefits and expenses. But in many churches, benefits, such as retirement and health insurance, and expenses, such as automobile reimbursement, are lumped together making the pastor’s salary seem higher than it really is.
4. Critics of the pastor often use the salary as a leverage to make life miserable for the pastor. Critics understand that the topic is sensitive to the pastor so they use that information as leverage against him.
5. There is a misperception among some church members that the pastor is overpaid. The opposite is more likely to be the true and prevailing trend in most churches.
6. Family members can be embarrassed by this issue. A discussion on pastor’s compensation affects not only him but his whole family as well. Often, they are the ones blamed for additional expenses that the church has to pay such as spikes in the use of say electricity or water in the parsonage.
7. There is a misperception that pastors work very little. We have established that most pastors work extremely long workweeks although this is not an advertised fact. Rarely would you find a pastor complaining about the long hours he spends preparing his sermons or attending to the needs of his flock.

Is there a way then to amiably bridge the opposing sides? Allow the minister a modicum of privacy while maintaining a culture of openness in the church?

Dave Miller, in his article Pastor: How Confidential is Your Salary? says that “it is common practice in smaller churches for the pastor’s salary to be public information. In larger churches, that information is kept private. Often, the budget is presented with a line item that groups all staff and support staff salaries/expenses/benefits into one line item.”

A middle ground might be set by not making the pastor’s salary available for public consumption, that is, not plastering it on the bulletin board or the weekly program. But the information should be readily available for any member who wishes to know the details at the church office.

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