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Rethinking Salaries for Church, Nonprofit, and Ministry Leaders


Let me get a bit controversial and talk about why we should consider paying church, ministry, and nonprofit leaders more money. In my opinion, we need to evolve from the idea that the mission is all that matters, and people who are called are there because of bigger purposes than mere salaries.

Yes – some of that is true. Obviously a pastor, ministry or nonprofit leader is primarily there because of the mission, but when is that an excuse not to pay them what they’re worth?

Somehow we’ve become enamored with the idea of keeping these salaries as low as possible – almost as if it were a loyalty test to see just how committed they really are to the cause. And we’ve spread that word to the congregation and donors – some of whom I’ve seen donate to whatever nonprofit or ministry organization they could find with the lowest overhead or salary scale.

And don’t get me wrong, during a start up phase, or with a small church, ministry, or nonprofit I understand that budgets are tight. But if the plan is to grow that organization, then we need a team at the helm who aren’t just called, but also have the right gifts and talent to lead that growth.

Over the years I’ve advised some ministry and nonprofit organizations with enormous potential, but were crippled because of poor leaders. And most often, the reason is they simply won’t pay enough to recruit someone better. And in church situations, one of the dominant reasons pastors leave the ministry is the same cause – they just can’t afford to continue.

Let’s change the paradigm. Let’s start looking for the best leaders instead of the least expensive leaders. Let’s focus on the organization’s purpose more than focus on the percentage of overhead. Let’s focus on outcomes. And if donors (or anyone else) question the salary, let’s have the confidence to defend that decision.

Because in the end, will we be more pleased about a church, ministry, or nonprofit’s impact – or with how low we kept everyone’s salary?

This article originally appeared here and is used by permission.