Back in the 1990s, I was at a church that was ready to move on from renting space at the local high school to having its own faculty. However, property zoned for churches was limited and expensive. We also did not have a lot of money. What we did have was carpenters, sheet rockers, an HVAC specialist, an architect, and an electrician (some of whom were out of work), all attending our church. So between these trades, our little bit of capital, a lot of volunteer labor, and the Lord’s favor, we turning two warehouse units into a nice church facility. We could not simply pay our way, so we got creative, used our talents, and got our hands dirty.
In The Wesleyan Church, starting in the spring and through the summer is when we see a big spike in churches looking for pastors, and pastors looking for positions. This is the time when our college students are graduating and ordinations are occurring at our district conferences. Pastors with positions have recently completed their annual reports, and maybe are looking to, or being prompted (by God or humans) to, move on. Large churches want to add staff. District Superintendents want church planters. Declining churches want to grow or be revitalized. All churches want to go to the next level.
However, what I see in many cases are pastors that want to fully devote their time to the ministry and churches that cannot afford to pay a living wage. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18). How do we work that out in real life? One answer is bi-vocational ministry, which does work, but also diminishes the pastor’s available time, and can lead to burn out. Also, unless the pastor has trade skills, available secular jobs, preferably part-time but with health benefits, where one does not have to work on Sunday, for someone with a B.A. in Bible or an M.Div. are limited.
Maybe we just need to be more creative with compensation. I think back to The Little House on the Prairie where Reverend Alden and Doc Baker were given living and working space (parsonage, room, or other space), and paid with food, because it was deemed important by all to have a preacher and doctor in the community. Pastor compensation is not about money; it’s about being able to live as part of the community. Not every church can afford a parsonage or housing allowance, but even those are not thinking out of the box. How about . . .
- Does someone in the church or community have a rental property that the pastor and family could live in for free or below market rates? The pastor could take care of utilities and maintenance, the owner takes it as a business loss on their taxes.
- Could families in the church rotate through purchasing weekly groceries for the pastor’s family? Nothing fancy, just the same things they would eat.
- Could someone provide child care so the pastor’s spouse can work?
- Is there a business owner in the church that could hire the pastor part-time?
Those are just a few things I thought of off the top of my head. What other creative solutions can we thing of?
©2012 Paul Tillman