The Pastor and His Money

Money, the need and desire for it, does lots of strange things to people

You are worthy of your hire and the congregation should strive to adequately take care of you and your family, but you must measure the pressure you put on them with the understanding that believers should not give to God out of necessity or compulsion, but with cheerfulness. Part of their cheerfulness will come from seeing how gracious and loving you are, especially when you are stressed about money.

 

So who do you get mad at when you don’t have enough?  Do you get mad at God, the Elders, the congregation, your wife, or do you blame yourself?  Being a pastor, or a person in ministry, puts one in a peculiar position when it comes to needing more money or an increase in salary or pay.

Money, the need and desire for it, does lots of strange things to people. When we are lacking in resources we can become afraid, fall into worry, and that anxiety can easily spill into self-pity or anger.  It is one thing to be a layperson who is frustrated with his or her boss due to lack of adequate income, but what do you do when the people of God are those who are supposed to pay your salary?

Pastors and ministry leaders often take confusing (sometimes just bad) approaches to this problem, and if you are blessed and have a comfortable income then maybe you will have no appreciation for this issue.  Take heed that someday your real character traits might be revealed if and when you fall into financial stress.  Here are some tips:

1.  The way you think about money, spend, give or withhold generosity, go into debt, or complain are not symptoms of your wealth but of your spirituality (or lack thereof).

2.  Resources come from God, not people, and as soon as you forget that you are in trouble.

3.  Anger, self-pity, or blame shifting due to financial problems are not signs of faith.

4.  “Poor mouthing” to the congregation about your financial problems from the pulpit is manipulation and not a sign of integrity. A preacher has the power to use the pulpit to get members to give him private gifts, over and above his agreed compensation, and this is shameful.

5.  It is necessary and right to clearly communicate to those who decide on your income about your financial situation, and your need for more compensation, if that should be the case.  How you communicate your needs will tell them much about the condition of your heart and will either increase their loyalty or drive them away.

6.  You have to decide if you are a “hireling” or an “owner” of the ministry to which God has called you.  If you are simply an employee you will think like one, grieve when not rewarded adequately, complain, blame the church, and eventually forfeit your right to lead them.

7.  You are expected to call the people to discipleship in their giving, but you must practice what you preach and lead by example.  If you call for faithfulness, sacrifice, or tithing you had better be doing it too.

8.  It is good and necessary to develop relationships with the wealthy members of your church, as with everyone.  Relating to the wealthy means you can “command” them to be rich in good deeds, as you should.  If they seek to help you personally that is a blessing, as long as it is legal before government and without compromise of the ministry of the Word.  If you direct their primary giving to yourself and not the ministry you are being unethical.  Don’t be guilty of hiding income from the government.

9.  If you are married and have a family your family has to share in your faith, and not drive you to fear or anger because you can’t meet their demands.  Your qualification for leadership is revealed in the way you lead your family.  If you do not have the faith or the ability to live under the terms of the “call” you received don’t accept it.

10.  Don’t translate your frustration with finances due to your consumer needs (including paying for Christian Education), falling into debt, unforeseen vehicle, medical, or other needs as a lack of God’s love or a lack of care by the congregation.  Stop comparing yourself with the wealthiest members of the church and start comparing yourself with the poorest.  If God takes care of sparrows he will take care of you, trust him!

11.  No two congregations are the same so be very careful about salary comparison. Envy is not a good motive to jack up your salary.  If you think the primary financial mission of the congregation is to keep you in a comfortable lifestyle you have obviously missed what the church is supposed to be about.  Your quality of life goals: the size and beauty of your house, year, make, model and number of your cars, private education for your kids, graduate studies for yourself, etc., are not the responsibility of your church.  They are perks, blessings, things to save and strive for, but not leverage for you to demand more income.

12.  You are worthy of your hire and the congregation should strive to adequately take care of you and your family, but you must measure the pressure you put on them with the understanding that believers should not give to God out of necessity or compulsion, but with cheerfulness. Part of their cheerfulness will come from seeing how gracious and loving you are, especially when you are stressed about money.

Randy Nabors is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in American He is the founder and pastor-emeritus of New City Fellowship, a movement-church located in Chattanooga, TN.  He currently serves as Coordinator for Urban & Mercy Ministries at the PCA’s Mission to North America.  He blogs at Randy’s Rag where this article first appeared and it is used with permission