The Problematic Predicament of Paying the Pastor
- Thursday, September 17, 2009
But, they cannot make a living from revivals. Does that surprise you?
Just so you'll know, the typical evangelist has to find friends wtih deep pockets who believe in his/her ministry to help underwrite the work. An evangelist friend said on Facebook the other day (to someone else; I was eavesdropping the way we do on FB) that without the support of his board he would be living at the poverty level.
Figure it out. He can preach no more than 30 to 35 weeks of the year at most, due to his physical limitations, the scheduling difficulties and because churches do not schedule revivals year round, but only at certain seasons. If he makes, say, a thousand dollars per week on average, he's in big trouble. A great deal of expenses have to come out of that before he can pay his rent and put groceries on the table or buy braces for the children's teeth.
I don't read where anyone is saying this any more.
What I see--and this is where I was going with all this in the first place--is how churches want something for nothing. Well, okay, that's a little strong. They want a lot for a little.
Ask any denominational worker who gets invited to fill the pulpit in the pastor's absence.
Ask any bi-vocational pastor.
Ask any retired minister who still wants to preach, both out of his sense of call and love for the Lord and His church and because he needs to supplement his income.
I can't get out of my mind an experience from the early 1970s when a deacon from a former pastorate invited me to drive to South Mississippi--we were living in Jackson at the time--to help him get a youth rally organized. He knew we'd been active in such rallies in Birmingham, New Orleans, and Greenville, MS, where I'd most recently pastored.
My family made the 100 mile drive, spent the afternoon with him and his team of adults who were trying to put the rally together, and then I spoke at the youth meeting at one of their churches. So, now, late that night, dead-tired, my wife and I and our sleepy-headed sons are ready to make the drive back to Jackson. The deacon said, "I don't owe you anything for this, do I?"
There's only one answer to that. "Nope. Glad to help."
And I was. But I felt taken advantage of. I was being poorly paid in the present church staff position and would have been delighted had he offered to pay for my gasoline at least.
That afternoon, in my counsel to his team, I had emphasized that they should take up an offering in each rally to have a worthy gift for the speaker.
"We don't owe you anything, do we?"
You could carve that in stone and erect it in front of far too many churches as summing up their philosophy of caring for those who labor among them, particularly the visiting guests.
I'm going to do something here which I might think better of later. If that happens, I'll come back and delete this section and later readers will never know it was here.
As a cartoonist, I love to help churches do block parties and VBS parents nights and such. I get requests to "draw our pastor at his desk doing such-and-such" for his birthday or anniversary and if I can do it, I do.
You'd be surprised how few thank-yous I receive.
And the churches that actually give you something to help pay for your expenses (gasoline, paper, pens, whatever) would be one out of a hundred.
I don't really know any other people who do this. There aren't a lot of Southern Baptist cartoonists, in case you haven't noticed. So it's not like we get together for gripe sessions. We don't. We don't even know one another.
But I'm betting it's the same with them too.
When a staff member of a large church asked me to do an involved drawing for the cover of a book his church was printing, then asked me to re-draw it and change a couple of things, he eventually e-mailed his thanks and said he'd like to buy my lunch sometime to show appreciation.
I was torn.
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