In the process of hiring anyone, the subject of money will come up. A person, especially one with a family dependent on their income, will certainly want to discuss salary, insurance and other financial matters. I’m not suggesting someone considering a ministry ought never to suggest a higher salary or that a church never offer one. It is when salary and material benefits serve as the primary attraction. “I’ve prayed about this and I think it is God’s will,” is fatally tainted when it serves to mask greed, even from ourselves.
Here are three things a church should do to ban ministerial prostitution.
Never go after a minister serving at another church who has given no indication he or she is open to the possibility of moving. Never directly contact someone who has not given permission, even through a third party, to be contacted. I do not give out names without some kind of permission from them. I think it would be wrong if I did. This is not an unreasonable standard. Christian colleges have long agreed to maintain this standard in regard to each other’s faculty. It is no less important in local church leadership.
Never bring up a dramatic salary increase as a means to persuade someone to come to your church. There are times and ways to discuss salary that don’t use it as bait. Commit yourselves to pray first, pay later.
Establish a reasonable salary range for full time employees. This range can certainly recognize responsibility and reward effective service (I Tim. 5:17-18). But there must be limits in the gap between highest paid and lowest paid. A 300 percent gap might seems outrageously large to some readers. But, in a number of churches, achieving a 300 percent maximum difference in salary would require significant pay increases for many employees. Whatever the limit, it should reflect the principles of Christ and be a conscious decision of the leadership.
And, finally, do not call me and promise to double my salary. I’m not afraid of having an awkward moment. I’m afraid I might say, “When do I need to be there?”
Will Rogers once quipped that he didn’t understand people’s complaints about Washington. “After all,” he explained, “we have the best congress money can buy.”
To use money to buy what, after accepting the exchange, will later masquerade as love happens every night in America’s cities. In some places it is even legal. One of those places ought not to be in the church.