How Much Should We Pay the Pastor?
Most Christians would agree that the role of pastor is one of great importance. They are responsible for shepherding a flock and providing guidance and support through life's ups and downs. God holds them accountable to be doctrinally pure and live their lives as an example to the flock. Their job is a difficult one, and many pastors struggle with issues that no one outside the pastorate would understand. But how much should a pastor be paid? Is there a biblical basis for setting a pastor's salary? Let's take a look.
What the Bible Says About Paying the Pastor
The Bible has a lot to say about pastors and their role in the church. In 1 Timothy 5:17-18 it specifically addresses the subject of money:
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer is worthy of his wages." – 1 Timothy 5:17-18 (NKJV)
These verses make it clear that pastors are to be given honor and respect, and that they are deserving of fair compensation for their work. After all, they are laboring just as any other worker would, and they should be able to live off their income just like anyone else.
Some use Matthew 10:9-10 to determine that a pastor shouldn’t be paid at all:
Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. – Matthew 10:9-10 (NKJV)
Some interpret this as a prohibition against being paid for preaching. However, this is a faulty interpretation of this passage. For one, it is not directed to those in pastoral ministry, but Jesus’ immediate Disciples being sent out on a very particular mission. Secondly, it is not directed to a local church or in any way applied to a pastor of a local church.
So, what does all of this mean for setting a pastor's salary? While there is no definitive answer in the Bible, these verses show us that pastors should be given honor and respect, and that they deserve to be fairly compensated for their work.
How Much Should a Pastor Be Paid?
Let's take a look at some practical considerations. According to ReachRight Studios' "Pastor Salary Guide," the average salary for a pastor in the United States of America is $51,000 per year. Of course, this number will vary depending on factors such as the size of the church and its location.
In addition to base salary, many churches also offer their pastors housing allowances or benefits such as health insurance. These benefits can add up quickly and significantly increase the total amount that a pastor is paid each year.
For example, according to Church Law & Tax's "2017-2018 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff," if a senior pastor were to receive a salary of $50,000 per year plus housing allowance and benefits worth $20,000 per year, their total compensation would come to $70,000 per year.
Of course, there is no definitive answer when it comes to how much a pastor should be paid, as every situation is different. However, it is important to prayerfully consider what is fair and reasonable compensation based on both the Bible and practical considerations. Most would agree that paying a local church pastor $1,000,000,000 per year would be too much, but how about $50,000 or $100,000? Is that enough, or too little?
Some suggest that the pastor should be paid a salary equal to a public school teacher. Others say they should be paid a similar amount to a local school principal, while still others suggest they should be paid something close to what the average church member makes, or even the median salary of the community in which they serve.
Let me suggest one other way to determine compensation – take an average of the board member’s salaries and benefits, and pay the pastor somewhere between the middle to top of the range you come up with. This will accomplish two things – 1) board members are forced to face the fact that they could probably not personally live on what they were thinking of paying the pastor; 2) the pastor is paid a fair wage that is neither seen as too low or too high by the congregation.
While no solution is perfect, there is no doubt that the pastor should be paid adequately and not have a lack of salary interfere with their ministry. As always, it is best for a church to be as generous as they possibly can.
By Barry L. Davis
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