When it comes to a pastor’s relationship with his church, the issue of pay can tend to be a touchy subject.
Most pastors don’t want to come off as greedy in what they ask for by way of compensation, and most compensation teams take their fiduciary responsibility to the church very seriously.
At the same time, personal relationships can make matters complicated and keep churches and pastors from thinking clearly about everything that should go into determining a pastor’s salary.
Here are four common mistakes churches make when setting a pastor’s salary that can result in unnecessary relational tension.
1. Not Paying Pastors Enough
This seems obvious, but churches need to be paying their pastors a livable wage. Unfortunately, many compensation committees and elder boards simply do not set the salaries of their pastors high enough. As a result, they cause their senior leaders to struggle unnecessarily.
If your pastor has a humble, servant’s heart, as most good pastors do, he is not likely to express often or even overtly that he is not being paid enough. Nevertheless, he is likely to become discouraged and experience stress and even conflict at home because of financial pressures.
Overall, he will be less healthy both personally and professionally if he isn’t being paid enough.
If you are part of the team that sets your pastor’s compensation, I urge you to err on the side of generosity. Pastors don’t go into ministry for the money—a few notable exceptions being prosperity preachers with thousand dollar suits and private jets. But that’s just the thing. Those cases are notable because they are the exceptions.
Paying your pastor slightly too much isn’t the fiduciary catastrophe you may imagine it to be. Worry more about not paying him enough.
That being said, don’t simply pull a number out of thin air. Consider the size of your church, the education and experience of your pastor, the cost of living in the area where your church is located, the rate of inflation year-over-year, and how your pastor’s salary will match up with other pastors in your area or one like it who lead a church of a similar size and ministry profile.
But when in doubt, don’t go straight for the lower end of the range.
2. Paying the Pastor Well While Other Staff Members Financially Struggle
Maybe your church doesn’t struggle with paying your lead pastor well. But he likely isn’t the only paid staff member leading your church and its various areas of ministry. In the same way that you don’t want to underpay your lead pastor, don’t neglect the staff that works under his leadership either.