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Pastors and Pay: A How-To Guide for Negotiating Your Salary

pastor salary

It seems awfully unspiritual to talk about pastoral remuneration, especially during the candidating process. After all, if the Lord wants you to minister somewhere, hasn’t he promised to provide for you? And didn’t George Mueller pray meals to the front door of his orphanage? Why waste time on the temporal such as your pastor salary?

That’s a good question with a surprisingly simple answer: If you do not provide for your family, you cannot be a pastor.

Scripture and the Pastor Salary

That’s not my opinion, but the word of God through Paul.

“If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim 3.5)

“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim 5.8)

Of course we must bear other texts in mind, such as Titus 1.7 (he must not be…greedy for gain”) and 1 Timothy 3.3 (not a lover of money”). These verses may explain our awkwardness in discussing pastor salary packages and benefits. We recognize that we are servants of the Lord and are often amazed that we have the privilege of being pastors.

But our rejection of greediness does not constitute a vow of poverty.

It is true that, if the Lord wants you to minister somewhere, he will provide for you. It is also true that one way the Lord confirms whether he wants you to minister somewhere is whether the provision is adequate for you and your family.

It may be the Lord’s will for you to serve as a pastor for XYZ Church, but it is the Lord’s will for you to provide for your family. If you cannot do the first without accomplishing the second, XYZ Church is not the Lord’s will for you.

This topic has been on my mind of late. In 2010, my family relocated to the most expensive city in our country. Moving to NYC has been challenging in many ways, none more so than adjusting to the cost of living. Since then, God has grown my thinking about pastoral remuneration, employing both lay leaders in our congregation, and pastors, mentors and friends from other churches to instruct me.

Here are a few thoughts, especially if you’re considering a pastoral transition.

1. Have the talk.

Get over the awkwardness. Don’t fear what they might think of you.