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Income vs. Outcome

How much do you think clergy, ministers, campus workers, pastors, and priests should make? Yes, I mean financially. Do you think it should be relative to how many people they minister to? How much schooling they have under their belt? How charismatic and well-spoken they are? What criteria would you measure their effectiveness by? Number of healings, sponsors, or conversions?

It’s income tax season and as I prepared my tax statements this year, it was an interesting practice to sit there and key in my earnings and add up my deductions and it made me wonder what I should expect in the future when perhaps that day when I become a “professional” Christian should arise.

My father, also a pastor, thinks that the pastor should make the average salary of the congregation. But I have no idea if he sticks to this himself. I should hope so, or I may have inadvertently ‘outed’ him. I’ve heard recently that some senior pastors of Korean American churches make six figures on par with some CEOs. Many of my colleagues who become ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) may command a salary of $50,000, which is a good amount to ensure that the sacraments are rightly administered and the Word of God proclaimed.

So I ask, what should be some of the metrics to determine the pay for this type of person? Should they all just raise their own funds, like missionaries or many parachurch organization staff? Or does wearing the cloth bear a particular value? And if so, how much?

What’s a shepherd worth these days? And what qualifications / characteristics would justify a higher rate?

I’d love to hear some other people’s thoughts on this.

About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

7 responses to “Income vs. Outcome

  1. danny ⋅

    here’s the compensation list for north georgia UMC pastors, a mainline predominantly white denomination:

    i have noticed a difference in AAs going into full time ministry vs mainline whites. it seems AAs are very aware that they are sacrificing a lifetime of greater earning potential and willing to accept that fact. some mainline whites will approach ministry as a career path (networking & maneuvering for better appointments with higher pay, etc).

    • john ⋅

      are you serious? “most AA’s are very aware that they are sacrificing a lifetime of greater earning potential”… that’s an asinine statement that betrays your racist stereotype. are you assuming that most AA’s have great “earning potential”? oh, i forgot, most AA’s are all doctor or lawyers. If they weren’t in ministry, they would be all pulling six figures. from personal observation, most AA pastors live a very comfortable, suburban lives (not extravagant, but comfortable). i rarely see any AA pastor’s sacrificing standard of living or quality of life to enter the ministry. in my opinion, more AA pastor approach ministry like a typical “professional” than previous generations. they behave like professionals, want to be treated like professionals, and rarely do i see an AA pastor enter ministry with the explicit understanding that this is a calling which may lead to a less-than middle class lifestyle. and, as one psychology professor pointed out to me a few years ago, most people who pursue ministry have strong narcissistic tendencies (if not narcissistic, then ambitious, at least). if you think AA’s don’t “maneuver” (intentionally or subconsciously) to advance (compared to “mainline whites”), then you’re dealing with some really noble people. i would have thought, with your racist assumptions, that you would know that AA’s are ambitious and overachievers? (tongue in cheek)

      apologize for the tone, but your post got me pissed.

  2. thanks danny, those numbers are fascinating to see.
    and interesting point made about AAs approach to ministry.

  3. elderj

    Personally I think we should institute a sliding scale based on conversions, healings, and difficult counseling scenarios with a bonus for the occasional exorcism.

    Seriously though, I find it very challenging to even consider this question. Certainly there are those who make market of ministry and who sell the gospel for profit, though it is much more disguised in the nice staid circles of presbyterianism than in the prosperity churches. I think perhaps that this motive is not what initially drives people to ministry, but perhaps settles in due to cynicism.

    Coming from the background I do, I do not think the salaries offered in PC-USA could be considered especially sacrificial. There are a great many who do much more on much less.

  4. daniel

    I generally treat this from a congregation’s perspective. Pastor’s should police their own conscience and their salary should have nothing to do with their desire to sacrifice. If a pastor feels like he makes too much money, he is free to offer it back to the congregation.

    From a congregation’s perspective, the pastor needs to be payed commensurate with skill, value and performance. How do you evaluate a pastor’s performance? Difficult yes, and pretty much a whole nother discussion. But merely because it’s difficult to quantify performance doesn’t mean that certain pastors aren’t more valuable than others.

    I feel that the church is losing a LOT of talented people to the secular business world because we are not compensating talented clergymen. A talented individual with great speaking skills and organizational management ability will make six figures in the business world and has the freedom to give to charitable organizations etc… On a pastor’s salary, the individual barely scrapes by and the congregation that he benefits develops an attitude that the pastor’s office is lower due to the fact that the pastor makes much less money than some of the individuals in the congregation. Burnout… drop out of ministry… etc.

    Great pastors with excellent preaching and teaching ability, ability to direct large churches or organizations need to be compensated in the six figures.

  5. Daniel Ra

    I quite like the idea of bi-vocational pastorship so that all the funds collected by the community go solely TO the community. It would be nice if that was the norm so that the pastor doesn’t have the sole responsibility of counseling and caring for the community. Are we not all priests? The two separate words of ‘professional’ and ‘ministry’ joined as one label make me wince. But I understand that’s not the reality, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I somehow find myself in a position of accepting salary in a distant future.

    Isn’t pragmatism, or even concession, really sad?

  6. Hans ⋅

    Yes! We are all ministers, we are all priests and kings. Even in the marketplace we should see ourselves as ministers (servants). The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave is INSIDE all of us giving life to our mortal bodies! People who don’t go to seminary shouldn’t feel like they have dropped out of the race. What ever happened to God raising apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, preachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry? In the book of acts only one miracles takes place in a synagogue, everything else happened where the lost were. It just seens we have pastors who do it all now. We’ve been stuck in old paradigms as if there’s no other way, but as for me I’m standing on the word of God. If you look at the western church, the church is bleeding. We’ve traded in a gospel that is only full when it is accompanied by power for a man, method, and ministry. The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. They get low and act as a foundation for us to step on their shoulders and get catapulted. This is where we are heading!

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