By: Rev Ed Schneider
This may not be comfortable to read, but I find it is true in a lot of Christian settings that far too many congregations either take their pastors for granted, or they simply do not respect their function and position within the local church setting.
I wonder why it is some churches and their memberships have fallen into this sad and shameful state of affairs. I wonder what seems like a majority of pastors have to labor in the vineyard of Christ for what could be labeled as exaggerated minimum wage. It is shameful how some church laity insult their pastor and their families on a regular basis by allowing them to live in less than reasonable conditions.
The majority of pastors are committed to lead, guide, and care for a group of people who “claim” to have been redeemed by the grace of God while living in the proclamation of Christ’s call to service and sacrifice. Why is it that most pastors are underpaid, overworked, and undervalued – or all three – and the congregation they are serving finds it absolutely acceptable?
Beloved, it is not right. It is not reasonable. On any number of levels it is not OK and I need to share with you some ideas on how to address this much-needed topic of concern.
A lot of congregations expect their pastors to dress like a millionaire on a fast-food employee budget. They will want their ministers to be highly educated, which involves tens and tens of thousands of dollars of investment, and then swear that they cannot afford to pay them any more than what most part-time retail shift supervisors will earn. Congregations expect their pastors to drive a nice car and live in a good home and literally do nothing to help make that happen in any real way.
Not all churches have this attitude or demeanor. Some treat their pastors with the respect and spiritual dignity they deserve. However, the unfortunate truth is far too many don’t – and it’s shameful.
There are several reasons that may lead congregations to undervalue and underpay their pastors. Some of the reasons are based on ignorance. Most congregational members simply have no idea what a pastor does on a regular basis each and every week of their life in service to the Church.
Here are a few biblical references that will help to enhance a little understanding in this regard. What do pastoral shepherds do? They:
• Care for the flock (Psalm 78: 52-53)
• Defend the flock (1 Samuel 17:34-35)
• Make sure the flock has time to rest (Jeremiah 33:12)
• Know each member by name (John 10:3-5)
• Direct good sheep away from bad goats (Matthew 25:32)
• Know where each member of the flock is (Leviticus 27:32)
• Place a protective and watchful eye over the flock (Micah 4:8)
If this biblical list wasn’t enough from a symbolic standpoint, there is an additional list that will also clarify the practical applications of daily pastoral service. The following list has little to do with the size of the church, denominational affiliation, or the age, sex, or experience of the individual minister.
A pastor in current day church settings is also called to regularly accomplish:
• Conflict resolution;
• Diversity training;
• Board development;
• Community/ public relations;
• Debt management;
• Strategic planning & project- management;
• Crisis counseling;
• Liturgical/ ceremonial preparation and presentation;
• Traditional and non-traditional group training; and of course
• Basic human resources and contract-compliance
I want every one of you, whether you are seated in a pew or help to lead a particular congregation of Christian souls, to honestly reflect on the above listing of pastoral functions and ask yourself, “Are we, as a local church, supporting our pastor in a way that not only reflects the above understanding but also demonstrates God’s call to uplift and honor those who lead and care for God’s people?”
According to a recent Christianity Today Magazine study, some interesting information was affirmed. Almost half of all pastors described their financial status as “concerning.” Thirty percent feel “Okay, but a little shaky” about their financial status. In fact, 16 percent say they are living on the edge financially. Only 9 percent of all pastors feel financially secure.
Because of this and other contributing factors almost half (49 percent) of the respondents said that at least once a year they consider leaving the ministry to find a better-paying “job.” About half of those (26 percent of the total) consider leaving two or more times a year.
There are several underlying causes for this unfortunate reality in churches all across the American religious landscape. As I have stated earlier, one major contributing factor is that congregants truly have little knowledge of what an enthusiastic, passionate, committed, well-educated, and competent pastor does on a regular basis. At best most people have only a glancing concept of the actual “function” of what a pastor is – much less what he/she does. How a congregation treats their pastor can directly speak t their personal understanding of how God uses, calls, and empowers those who are truly set aside to care for and lead a group of “professed” Christians.
Pastors of any size church should never be viewed as “hirelings.” When pastors are merely employees, whether symbolically or literally, then they naturally become less than what they are intended to be. It is a church’s privilege to “care for” a pastor. It is a church’s honor to support and uplift any pastor who is passionately dedicated to witnessing to God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s empowerment, or even God’s accountability on each believer. It is insulting to many in and out of the clergy to even use the phrase “hire a pastor.” They gain purpose and direction when the “call” a pastor to lead them while partnering in the faithful display of the church’s greater mission.
It requires a mature group of Christians to allow a “called” pastor to lead them. It takes a mature and experienced pastor to partner with a congregation of Christian souls as they – together – walk the road of faith.
Beloved, verily, verily, I say unto you, please take seriously the privilege you have in caring for a pastor so that your pastor can have joy in caring for you.
What I am boldly suggesting to EVERY church is, if you aren’t already doing it, have an annual Pastor’s Appreciation Day. Take the time to put together a team of people who will commit to honoring your pastor for an entire day. Have two worship services dedicated to the life and service of the pastoral office and calling. Raise a bunch of money to offer as a token (token doesn’t mean small) of appreciation. Try having a banquet-like gathering the night before or in between services honoring not only your pastor but the family that helps to support their living service. Pay for an advertisement in a local newspaper announcing your congregation’s public acknowledgement of faithful service.
These are just a few of the ideas that can easily come to life. They will bring great rewards both for the pastor and the congregation. Don’t budget – just do it. Don’t worry about the paper-work – just do it. Don’t be concerned about those who won’t participate – just do it. Rediscover the joy of giving to those who are charged with the care and direction of a local church and I guarantee you will be blessed.