It should be common knowledge for most of you, at least those of you who regularly read my blog – because you are the more intelligent of all readers – that not all pastors are “fully funded.” In other words, over half of church pastors are what we call bi-vocational (i.e., they work at least a second job).
Well, it might come as a surprise to learn that many pastors, such as myself, receive no compensation from a denomination, either. At best, most bi-vocational pastors receive a small or modest salary and possibly an expense account, even more rare a parsonage (house). In other words, we are not getting wealthy from what we are called to do.
You see, the fact is that mega-churches make up only a small percentage of all churches. The vast majority of congregations in America have regular attendances of less than 400, and a good 30+% have less than 100 regular members. Why, then, would one choose to enter the ministry (accept the call), spend tens of thousands of dollars on years of education (4-10), only to expect a career that pays, on average, less than a 1st-year school teacher? Believe me, it’s not about the money.
We do it because we are called. We go because we are sent. And, in whatever way we can, if we have to, we will make tents (Acts 18:3). That’s why we work more than one job, if we have to, so that we can do what pastors do – shepherd the flock of God.
But here is where I feel I was thinking out of the box yesterday afternoon: What if bi-vocational pastors could be supported like missionaries?
Stop and think about it. There are some areas where churches are few, and the ones that are there cannot afford to pay a pastor any kind of living wage (and, by the way, it’s biblical to pay a pastor). These little churches would love to have a seminary-educated minister teach and preach the Word of God, but most of the time end up searching for years until they wind up accepting whomever they can get. Not a good situation.
What if pastors of smaller congregations could raise support, much like what many missionaries do before going into the field? You do realize that the small, bible-teaching church down the road – the one which still serves a purpose and meets a specific demographic need – is still as important to the Body as the large church on the hill, don’t you? Whenever a small church closes its doors because of a lack of available leadership, the whole Kingdom suffers. Would it not be reasonable, therefore, to suggest supporting at least in some small ways, the pastors of these churches? Granted, there must be some considerations, but is it not a reasonable thought?
Pastoring a church takes time, and there are only so many hours in the day. When one has a family (if only a wife), puts 20-30 hours a week into church-related work and activity, and then has to maintain a “secular” career on top of that, something will suffer. When you add to the mix a pastor who is primarily trained and educated in ministry, not a technical skill-related field, the types of employment available – including the hours and days one must work – become more and more limited.
Am I thinking out of the box, or am I out of my mind? Are there ways this could be developed? Would it be something you would consider? Are there other options worth exploring?
What are your thoughts?