Pastors and Pay: A How-To Guide for Negotiating Your Salary

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Why it's not "unspiritual" to negotiate your pay.

It seems awfully unspiritual to talk about pastoral remuneration, especially during the candidating process.

After all, if the Lord wants you to minister somewhere, hasn’t he promised to provide for you? And didn’t George Mueller pray meals to the front door of his orphanage? Why waste time on the temporal?

That’s a good question with a surprisingly simple answer: If you do not provide for your family, you cannot be a pastor.

That’s not my opinion, but the word of God through Paul.

“If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1Tim 3.5)

“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1Tim 5.8)

Of course we must bear other texts in mind, such as Titus 1.7 (he must not be .. .greedy for gain”) and 1Timothy 3.3 (not a lover of money”). These verses may explain our awkwardness in discussing salary packages and benefits. We recognize that we are servants of the Lord and are often amazed that we have the privilege of being pastors.

But our rejection of greediness does not constitute a vow of poverty.

It is true that, if the Lord wants you to minister somewhere, he will provide for you. It is also true that one way the Lord confirms whether he wants you to minister somewhere is whether the provision is adequate for you and your family.

It may be the Lord’s will for you to serve as a pastor for XYZ Church, but it is the Lord’s will for you to provide for your family. If you cannot do the first without accomplishing the second, XYZ Church is not the Lord’s will for you.

This topic has been on my mind of late. In 2010, my family relocated to the most expensive city in our country. Moving to NYC has been challenging in many ways, none more so than adjusting to the cost of living. Since then, God has grown my thinking about pastoral remuneration, employing both lay leaders in our congregation, and pastors, mentors and friends from other churches to instruct me.

Here are a few thoughts, especially if you’re considering a pastoral transition.

1. Have the talk.

Get over the awkwardness. Don’t fear what they might think of you.

The Scriptures compel you: Open your mouth and have the conversation.

The salary package shouldn’t be the first thing you talk about. But don’t wait too long. If your first interview and/or visit went well, then you should look for an opportunity in an upcoming conversation to ask about the church’s remuneration.

Matthew Hoskinson Matthew Hoskinson was born and reared in the Detroit area and was first drawn to trust Christ as an eight-year-old. In his teenage years the Lord began kindling a desire for pastoral ministry in his heart, a desire that ultimately led to seminary studies in South Carolina and a Ph.D. in Theology. There he met his wife, Kimberly, a native of Ottawa, Illinois. The two were married in 2000 and have since been blessed with four daughters and a son.

More from Matthew Hoskinson or visit Matthew at http://matthewhoskinson.wordpress.com/blog/

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  • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

    Pastors have salaries? I thought they receive the tithe, and offerings are used to run the church.

    • $22716193

      Sorry, but most of us here are not Levites.

      • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

        True, we are priests after the order of Melchisedek. And as Hebrews puts it: Here men receive the tithe…

  • Paul Searle

    Listen my friend, I know African pastors whose shoes we are unworthy to untie, who have continued to minister in spite of extreme hardship. I know a pastor who told his wife to return with the children to her mother because they were on the verge of starvation, she refused to leave his side. I know another man whose wife left him due to extreme hardship and yet he remained faithful because he knew that God had called him to the ministry.

    According to your doctrine Paul himself should have left the ministry for he would not have been able to sustain a family, for he described himself as hungry, thirsty, brutally treated and dressed in rags. In fact Jesus himself would have been disqualified according to your criteria for he had to rely upon the women who travelled with him for ongoing sustenance, such was his humility.

    • Steven Leapley

      Ah, but didnt Paul himself have a bivocational job as a tentmaker?

      • Twinsfan1

        Steven, Paul was not a pastor, but a missionary/church planter. And if you read Acts carefully, you will find that even in those situations, he only worked a second job until support from other churches allowed him to focus full-time on his vocational ministry.

        • rtp000

          The truth is that the first century churches did not have paid pastors or elders, and the Acts instructs us individually to give to the teachers and elders, especially those of proven worth to spiritual leadership. Paul never received a salary for his work, but he did receive gifts for provision.

    • guest

      Im from Africa. my dad had similarly unbearable hardships as church leaders and it left a print on us his kids even scares. I dont understand why it should be okay for people to suffer because they dedicate themselves to the work of God. Does the bible teach that? its envy on the side of the congregation i think. if we are poor then our pastor will also be poor mentality. I refuse for my local church to abuse me as a pastor because I know how it affects the family. Like my mom declaring a day of fasting because we had no food. I wont allow that. You always hear folks using Paul’s tent making. but Paul did it for a while until he had funds from the church. And apart from him who in the bible was called and had to suffer to feed his/her family or had a parttime job. Come on people!!! By vocationality is not biblical. Give church leaders room to raise their families well and build great churches. It’s a nightmare to be in your dream job or purpose and struggle to live. Its torture.

  • Pastor CSL

    I find this article disturbing because it is treating ministry like a job in the business world. 80% of Protestant churches are small churches. These small churches either have a shared pastor with other small churches, or they have a bivocational pastor who is paid a stipend and must work another job. When our denomination made some changes in our state, some of us bivocationals offered to serve without pay if that would help. If your calling and election is sure, God truly will provide for your needs. Salary should never be a primary focus for service.

    • Steven Leapley

      Salary was not the primary focus for service in this article…Salary was the primary focus of this article…. There is a difference. He states that if you cannot support your family, then really consider the job or not….. Maybe consider two. I have myriad of positions in an attempt to take care of my family, and yes salary is a primary focus….If a church is going to pay me $2000.00 a month and my NEEDS (not wants) are $3000, and they do not want me to work outside the church and there is no ability for my wife to..then how can salary NOT be a focus?

      • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

        Well, if you depend on the church to pay you, then obviously there is no choice. But then you are not called to this church anyway. Otherwise you would know that you know that God would make a way. Jobs and salaries are not the only way God provides.

    • Ryan

      Church is a business. People pay you for spiritual services. Jesus even spoke about pastors… called them hirelings in John 10:11-13: [11] I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
      [12] But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
      [13] The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
      Hirelings are paid to take care of flocks of sheep. That would be the pastors of churches. As far as wolves and leaving one church to go to the next like most hireling pastors do when wolves come along because that is human hireling nature. Who ever or what ever the wolf represents, could be anything. That’s another subject. In that respect Jesus statemtent is true that hirelings careth not for the sheep. They are their for the money like everyone else in any other job. We all have to take care of ourselves and our families.

      • Pastor CSL

        Ryan- Most theologians would never interpret the hireling as a Pastor! In the parable, the reason why the shepherd of the flock would never abandon the sheep is because the Shepherd truly cares about the sheeps’ welfare. However, the hireling is strictly in it for the money and takes off if his life is in danger in any way. Is that truly the way you see the pastoral role- as a business contract where your well-being is of first importance? I believe what Scripture says: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 We as Pastors should be #1 in believing this and in modelling this belief to the congregation.

  • Pastor B

    I quit reading the article part way through. As a Pastor, I am called, I serve where He sends me and for as long as He says to serve there. I would be embarrassed to have anyone associate this article to me and my service to the Lord. I have to say if I was on a search committee and met a potential pastoral candidate who espoused these ideas I would immediately show him the door!

    • http://www.EncourageAndEquip.com/ Kevin Cunningham

      Pastor B

      With all due respect, please be careful about responding before fully listening.

      • Jake

        Pastor B? Did you ever ask how much you would make or did you just wait until you got your first check?

    • $22716193

      You are wrong Pastor B. Negotiating salary is a big deal and I’m surprised you have this attitude, seeing you are a pastor. So do you survive on love offerings alone or what? This is a very uninformed and unrealistic comment and I would never want to encounter someone like you on any search committee should God lead me to another position down the road.

    • rtp000

      Exactly! As Pastors we are all amateurs and are called to where we are to serve. If God calls you to it, He will affirm it and see you through it! The problem is we have made the position of “Pastor” a profession to which no one is truly qualified no matter how many doctorate degrees you have!

      I know many times that God has provided for me financially through incredible ways only because He directed me to let him provide and not the church!

  • pastorcb

    I found this article very helpful. What does it profit a man to have a great ministry and lose hos family

  • Pastor Arnold

    I stopped reading the first page!

    • $22716193

      That’s too bad Pastor Arnold because the article gave very well-reasoned and excellent advice on how to handle this sensitive subject between ministers and their prospective churches.

  • rob

    I would agree with most of the comments made concerning this subject. Yes it is difficult to talk about pay when you serve the Lord. Sure churches could pay their pastors with a side of beef and a basket of potatoes and a pat on the back for a good sermon. We pastors have to feed our families, provide for a retirement, and send children to college. It sounds as if some of the comments were made by Bi-vocational ministers and folks they are the lifeblood of most denominations. I spent 4years in college and 4 years in seminary to prepare for the ministry. I probably when all is said and done each week put in anywhere from 45-60 hours per week. Some are not as hectic and some are very hectic in serving the Lord. I would suggest for guys launching out into their first church full time is don’t take a lump sum salary package. Yes, I know ministers are not to be greedy in serving the Lord. In the article there are some good ideas for young ministers to be aware of.

  • JGC

    There is a lot of wisdom here. A few points – an inadequate compensation can lead to a bankrupt pastor when a medical issue arises, US pastors in many denominations are expected to have advanced degrees and these are VERY expensive, many denominations / churches do NOTHING for retirement savings. I don’t think it boils down to approaching the pastoral duty as a “secular, corporate job” but there is such a thing as being a good steward, taking responsibility for your family, and making wise choices. Saint Paul spoke of the need for all three.

    • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

      Do pastors retire? I do not think so. Thus retirement savings only ease the ongoing salary payment for the church until death. Why miss a pastor’s wisdom because of worldly customs?

      • http://www.EncourageAndEquip.com/ Kevin Cunningham

        Ralph, a congregation can benefit from a pastor’s wisdom without making the poor guy do 60-hour work weeks into his 80s, 90s and beyond. Perhaps, he may choose to work part-time. But I’d hate to see the pastor have to work just to survive–especially since we are tending to live longer these days.

        BTW, people have this concept that retirement isn’t scriptural and that it is a worldly concept. I’ve heard that myth so much that I was actually surprised when I read Numbers 8:23-26.

        23 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “This is what pertains to the Levites: From twenty-five years old and above one may enter to perform service in the work of the tabernacle of meeting; 25 and at the age of fifty years they must cease performing this work, and shall work no more. 26 They may minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of meeting, to attend to needs, but they themselves shall do no work. Thus you shall do to the Levites regarding their duties.”

        • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

          I agree that a pastor does not have to work 60h. I do not agree that he is no longer getting payed. All Levites, even the ones above 50, participated in the tithe.

          And we are not in a Levite priesthood any longer, but one after Melchisedek. Did John or Paul retire?

          I just find the whole concept of a pastor being hired for a time very strange. I believe that pastors are called by God and the people flock to them, supporting them with their tithe and offerings and more – and no, that is not a Levite principle.

  • Hank

    It can be challenging. I am trying to find a second job and had to move my family from a house to a small two bedroom apartment. We moved to CA and the cost of living here is bleeding us dry. I am an associate/youth pastor. We are not big spenders. Most of our clothes are hand me downs or are quite old. Some people look at my wife funny because she doesn’t wear the nice clothes the other women wear, she says she doesn’t care, but she does peak into the thrift store from time to time to try to find something nice. We don’t mind living a modest life, but when the bill collectors are coming after you it can be quite stressful and not a good testimony. The church isn’t going to pay us more. Even a 2nd job will only keep our heads above water, but will do nothing for our debt or living situation. Any advice?

    • Twinsfan1

      Hank, is your wife able to work outside the home, or able to work from home (computer-based work for a company that allows telecommuting or something like that?). BTW, my wife pretty much lives in thrift stores – you can find some really nice things there!

      • Hank

        Our kids are 5 and 3. She is not good with computers. She does best working in a retail environment, but we would have to put the kids in day care. So if she got a job in retail most of the money would go to day care lol. I want her to be a full time mom anyways. I did just get hired at a part time job and with the move the the apartment we will have some breathing room.

        Thanks for responding. : )

        • Twinsfan1

          Hi Hank, as I put in another post, I know the “joys” of being bi-vocational (I actually work 3 jobs right now, 1 of which is ministry-related) and my wife being at home with the kiddos. Having some breathing room is huge, isn’t it? :)

    • Pastor CSL

      Hank- I can sympathise! As a bivocational pastor I have been in a similar situation. I, too, struggle with the answers. While I can’t give direct answers to the problem, I can tell you that I’ve been taught that my faith needed to be greater. The situation has grown my faith in ways I would never have seen had it not occurred. If you had asked me years ago if I trusted in God, I would have said a hearty yes! But I’ve come to see that my faith was way too small. While I don’t have the answers, I know that God does, for you, me, and many other Pastors who serve under difficult economic situations. We are living in the last days of this earth’s history, and Scripture tells us that it won’t be easy. But we are also promised God’s protective Hand. Psalm 91 is a special promise for us. Praise God! I will lift you and your family in prayer.

      • Hank

        Thanks! Trusting in God is critical and easier said than done. God has taught me a ton through all this and even though its been hard I am thankful. Its kind of more complicated for us because we have been feeling that its been time to move on for ministry reasons. Perhaps, God is using our current financial crunch to help push us to move on. The people here are great, but after much prayer we believe its time. Thank you for your prayers!

  • http://www.EncourageAndEquip.com/ Kevin Cunningham

    Thanks for courageously writing and posting the article. At the very least, it helps us to think through the issues involved. This is hard for us to be spiritual and practical at the same time–but it is critical.

    I am concerned however that the major recommended negotiating stance is based on our needs or budget as opposed to an objective norm or standard. Even if they respond, I’m afraid it will look like they are doing us a favor instead of doing the right thing.

    I am currently in a transition stage and seeking a new ministry opportunity. So, I have been reading up on the entire process of a job search–including “salary dialog”. Salary dialog sounds so much more acceptable than negotiation. Most of what I am seeing on discussing salary, very strongly urges to not even discuss salary until the organization is ready to make an offer. Essentially, before you prove yourself to be indispensable to the organization, if you require more than they are ready to pay, they will just dismiss your application and move on to the next. In church world, once they are convinced that they have found God’s candidate, they will be more motivated to reexamine what they planned to offer.

    As a pastor, I tended to cringe at advice like that until I remember that it actually worked for me once. My first full-time pastorate was a thousand miles away from home. I honestly was open to whatever they would pay me, but I also did not want to put my wife in a position to “have” to work. We have three kids–still in school at that time. I wanted working outside of the home to be her choice not a necessity. After a few phone calls and plane trips, the search team was ready to invite me to serve as their pastor. As I remember it, we sat at a table in a Sunday School room where they slid a piece of paper across a table saying this is the salary. In all honesty, I really didn’t know how much it would cost to live in the area. In all innocence, I looked at the number and asked, “Can a family of five live on this salary in this area?” There was dead silence! If even one of them had said “yes” I probably would have accepted the offer. But, you could have heard a pin drop–for a few minutes! By God’s grace, I just sat quietly till one of the team broke the silence. They said it looks like we need to discuss this a little more and get back to you. I thanked them and did accept the next offer which was much more fair and appropriate.

    It is very possible that a church may need to reevaluate their calculations. Sometimes while planning, we can just look at numbers without really considering the realities involved.

  • scott

    Interesting discussion. I’m a part time pastor…I have a business to support my ministry. It’s stressful. I have to make sure my business is profitable so that the ministry I’ve been called to is able to continue. I wish people tithed enough to pay a salary, but they don’t. I can’t force it. It’s the reality of it. So, I continue to work to the detriment of those that may need my help during my business hours. I’m called to pastor. I know a plumber that is called to be a plumber. If we took the same attitude with the plumber that we do with pastors, we’d be in a sorry state. When they show up, we’d expect that they’d work for a donation because they are called to it. We are all called to a purpose. We are all called to a mission field. So why do we decide that a pastor that works 60 hours a week should have less money to feed and clothe their family than a banker that works 45 hours a week?

    • steve

      I was in the same place at one time. I sold the business and put the money from the sale into savings and my kids education. I then worked odd jobs and made sure not to have debt if avoidable. Some of the things that came out of my family learning to live on less was that I had no problem preaching on tithing and offering of money, gifts, and time from others. Paul often used himself as an example for others to model after. Of course I don’t think we should cut ourselves down financially to the point we become stressed about providing or taking precious time away from our family. There is no way I could give the attention needed to the ministry of others if I couldn’t give attention of ministering to my family. I know your struggles and yes you know you are called but sometimes the doubts slip in. For me the answer came by where and how I serve.

  • jake

    Great article. I saw the article less about how much can I get out of church, and more about making sure I am wise in my decision. If I can’t afford to fix my car, send my kids to the doctor or pay back my school loans, I have to address my budget or my income. Personally if I am stressed to provide it will be much harder to focus on others and their needs when my family and I are struggling so much. If I was to be real honest, I don’t think it says much about a church when they know their pastor is struggling to support his family and do nothing about (whether it’s an increase in salary or flexibility to work another job). I know their are pastors in other places who do so much on so little (Haiti, Africa, India etc)….but we don’t live there and shouldn’t be expected to live like that when those in our church and leadership don’t and have also the ability to help.

  • Twinsfan1

    Thanks, Matthew. I was a bivocational pastor for pretty much all 12 years I served. When I asked them to consider a raise, some thought I was just trying to line my pockets. I was simply trying to keep a roof over our heads and our very used (and paid-for) cars going. I’ve worked at least 2 part-time jobs while trying to put in 40+ hours for the church. Not good with 5 kiddos at home, and we were homeschooling so my wife could not work outside the home. I didn’t want to be on food stamps (been there, done that…) or any sort of welfare program. We don’t eat out much at all, and don’t have cable TV. My kids have jobs to buy their own ipods and video games, etc.

    Your use of 1 Timothy 5:8 was how I made every decision regarding how I approached my church for a raise or why I looked for other jobs. I know my church would have paid me enough to be only at the church if they could have afforded it. They simply could not.

    But I also knew I was called to this church for that season. So I was willing to be bivocational so I could serve there. Just because someone is called to a church doesn’t mean he is called to live on what is offered. Sometimes one of the ways God provides is by letting you have a second job!

    • Twinsfan1

      Clarification: I worked 2 part-time jobs at the same time as working full-time at the church. In other words, I was working 3 jobs in order to feed my family.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jun093118 Jennie Mesidor

      Amen . Why not look for a second job?

  • Deana Callins

    You are in my Heart. I am learning what it is to be “A New Creation” in Jesus Christ. All of us have some type of struggle within ourselves. Those who “Believe” by faith rest in knowing this: God knows whats best for us; Better than ourselves. Continuing in earnest prayer for our Faith. To press on, run on, and pursue the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Whether everything goes the way we Hope or not. We keep “Seeking” the Lords way of doing things. If we fall; we get up and start again, It’s his “Love” that revives our soul to diligently continue on this path to goodness and eternal life. Expecting this, he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him and knowing he cares for us. Even if we don’t understand all Jesus ways. By FAITH, we trust he only desires the very best for us. For that reason, we obey his word/instructions. I hope this finds you well.

  • Art Good

    “If your calling and election is sure, God truly will provide for your needs.” True, but God also expects you to have common sense. I am pushing 40 with no savings and no retirement. I have to make some serious decisions about my future. 1) I don’t believe you have to work at a church to be in ministry. 2) I don’t think full-time vocational ministry is going to stick around much longer for any but the largest churches. So, I am looking into other things I can do AND still minister.

  • rtp000

    I love how you used Paul’s words as an example but removed Paul’s life from the equation. As a tentmaker, Paul earned his own money to support himself so he didn’t have to take from the church. As a Pastor, I’ve prayed over this many times and in the end I refuse to accept a paycheck when God has given me gifts, talents and abilities to earn my own way instead of taking from the church. God is the source of my provision and strength, and His Holy Spirit directs and enables me to work and pastor in full time capacities and still make my family a priority!

    If you go to many African and other third world countries, the concept of a Pastor being paid by the church is absurd, and I suspect that in the near future such a practice will stop in North America as well. If you are called, God will provide for your needs. If it is through a salary, then so be it but don’t leave out the possibility that He may want you to support your family and your church through other means.

  • SHELIA D BLAIR

    Question from a novice in the ministry; how do you determine fees/compensations for weddings and premarital counseling: members and nonmembers?

  • Rev. Rooster

    I do believe mnisters should be compensated but my biggest problem is, how much money is paying mortgages, utilities, and salaries, and subsidaries and how much is going toward outreach. How many also wear fancy suits and drive expensive cars just to look the part. I am a biker and am a member of a small biker and community church. I have been in church for 23 yrs and have been upset for most of those yrs. because all i hear is give, give, give. Dig deep. Paul said he was made an apostle by Jesus Christ. We are also told in the gospels, seek first the kingdom of God. I believe the pastorate is a calling, not a job

  • http://www.facebook.com/leo.pleased Leo Pleased

    Of course those who work deserves the wage. Pastors deserve the wage, but if they become burdens to the church, then it is wrong.