The Lord be with you…and also with you. This is a familiar phrase to many church goers around the world. This well-known phrase used to unify the congregation during service is often initiated by a minister. A minister who is well-to do, lives an extremely comfortable lifestyle, drives a luxury car—all at the expense of the church. This modern view of a humble minister is a far cry from the historical ideology of a missionary who travels the world as a backpacker, living from pillar to post, begging for shelter and an opportunity to spread the Gospel. Our society’s modern vision of a minister is now hard to differentiate from that of a well-to-do businessman. So after shaking the preacher’s hand on a Sunday morning, do you ever stop to ask yourself why ministers’ salaries are so high?
Maybe it’s the competition. Maybe it’s the shortage of ministers. Who knows. What we do know is minister’s salaries are skyrocketing in a society that claims to be growing away from organized religion. According to Church Law and Tax, a senior minister’s salary including benefits reached a jaw dropping average of $82,938 in 2012. That’s a major salary difference from other full-time jobs such as teachers and managers who work long hours and overtime while still on strict salary. With such a high salary and flexible hours, why isn’t everyone becoming an ordained minister and partaking in “the good life”?
Although many ministers may appear wealthier on paper in comparison to other professions, several other variable must be taken into consideration. The base salary is often much lower in sole monetary benefits because other living expenses such as housing allowance and transportation are often included in the total tagged as “salary”. This also means the minister is more involved with the congregation because they learn to lean on the parish family to provide their every need. This spiritual family connection often lasts for years after the minister moves onto another congregation because the previous business and religious bonds still remain strong.
Another factor that forces many congregations to increase their salary offer is the competition to get the best minster possible and ability to grow their congregation. Although they increase their offer value, the church often is burdened from the move. Because many congregations have a varied member ratio for tithes, it can be hard for even large churches to support a well-seasoned pastor because the majority of their congregation does not tithe. This is eventually becomes a catch twenty-two problem. The congregation want a leader to grow their member pool. At the same time, the church has a large percentage of members that wants the benefits of a good pastor without tithing to the cause in the first place. In other words, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Many non-church goers would still reject the ideology of a poor minister who lives in a house bigger than their own and drives a much nicer car. However, what they fail to realize is that ministers are supported by their parish. None of their items would be possible had the congregation not given it to them. In a sense, being a minster is an extremely humbling profession because you rely totally on the faith of your congregation to support your every need. As a tithing churchgoer, I find pleasure in supporting my minister in any way I can because their actual itemized salary is honestly bordering on the poverty line. So when I shake the preacher’s hand on a Sunday morning, I don’t have any problem with that inflated total sticker price that’s attached to his or her white collar.
Sources: Lund, Compiled By Emily, Emily Lund, and Caitlin Edwards. “A Breakdown of Salaries and Benefits for Senior Pastors.” Church Law & Tax. 03 Apr. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.
Photo Consent: Reverend Charles Davis, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Columbia SC.