Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pastoral Salaries as a Signal of Congregational Spiritual Quality

First, I should probably mention that I am not a pastor, I have never been a pastor, and I have never aspired to be a pastor. (And no one in my family . . . ) I neither celebrate nor lament that, but when you talk about money, people sometimes wonder about ulterior motives. I have no personal stake in increasing pastoral salaries.

Back to the main topic: It's completely true that pastors should be "free from the love of money" (1 Tm 3.3). But salaries don't just speak to potential pastors, it seems to me that salary offers can signal the spiritual quality of a congregation.

Let me first slightly amend something I posted below when I posted what I thought nominal salaries ought to be in medium-sized congregations in large-enough towns for pastors of ordinary quality.

It is, of course, impossible for many congregations to meet those nominal figures for many different reasons. That's not a problem. I have a relative rule of thumb (one that I applied in the post below, but did not explicate there).

I think that maybe providing a pastor "double honor," as Paul suggests, might mean that pastoral support should be pegged to twice the median income ("honor") of the individuals in the congregation. That way even relatively poor congregations can provide their pastors with "double honor," and the pastor will understand it, even if the nominal pay is low.

The thing is, however, that congregations "honor" their pastors. I'd suggest that the size of the pastor's salary, relative to the incomes of the church members, provides a signal of the value the church places upon the pastoral office, and on the health of their church itself.

If members of a congregation don't love God and their church enough to pay their pastor(s) an honorable salary (relative to what the congregants make), then I would suggest that any pastoral candidate could run in the opposite direction without apology whatsoever.

This is also why I think that the expected range of salary offers should unapologetically be announced when looking for a pastor. "See, this is how much we honor our pastor."

A concluding thought: In Titus, Paul seems to designate pastors as being among the group of "elders." I don't think that it takes great linguistic depth to recognize that the root word of "elders" is "elder," as in "mature" or "old." Contrary to the push in the LCMS to enroll young men directly out of college into seminary so that they will have a long professional career as a pastor, I think that pastors generally should be, well, elderly, in the sense of being men who are grown up, and have been around the block a few times.

It might be preferable that a man have a career before going into the ministry, certainly in terms of understanding the lives of his congregants a bit more. Beyond that, if you're going to ask a man in his forties or fifties to become a pastor -- a man who has earned a living, and knows what it is -- then the church will have to cough up enough to meet with what the man knows a living is. (Young men are cheap. Then they get sucked into the pastorate, pay high upfront costs by specializing at an early age, don't know any other profession, and are trapped into continuing as a pastor even if they then discover they aren't very good at it.)

As long as I'm providing a rambling wish list, one other concluding thought: You can't discover whether a man has the qualities that Paul lists in 1 Timothy and Titus in the interview process. You basically need to live with a person to know that type of thing. To the extent possible (and I recognize that it's not always possible), I think that pastors should be raised out of their local congregations because only then will you have enough experience with a man to know that he has the necessary qualities to be a pastor.


Blogger Jmucciolo said...

I think you may be onto something with this thought:In Titus, Paul seems to designate pastors as being among the group of "elders." This is not just Titus, but throughout the NT. It is hard to see the third office distinction as being biblical rather than a continuation of the priesthood. Once I came to a two-office understanding, it helped me to see some other areas in a different light, such as shepherding and leadership, and consequently, salaries.

May 02, 2007 9:26 AM  

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