Sunday, April 09, 2006

Candidates, don't wimp out!

My recent post about where churches get their salary data was a bit cynical. Following up on that, let me say a word or two in their defense.

I think a large part of the reason for churches underpaying their ministry professionals is the ministry professionals themselves! After all, we're the ones accepting what they offer, right?

I have to admit that I've felt it, and you've probably felt it, too: we're called to be servants of the Church, to suffer on behalf of Christ. Maybe a constant struggle to make ends meet is our cross to bear, right?


Time for a few disclaimers. Here's what I'm NOT saying: that you should take as much as you can niggle out of them, refuse to accept less than your "standard", or play a negotiation game until your wealth is growing through the roof. (Don't worry about the last one ever happening, by the way.)

But neither should you accept a salary that puts your family in financial jeopardy simply because the church you're negotiating with makes an offer. There is a big difference between giving of yourself and being used-- between being a servant and being a doormat. In most cases, ANY employer will pay as little as they can get away with; it should not come as a surprise, therefore, that very few churches will OVERpay.

Candidates, you must negotiate a salary that is fair, and that pays your bills. Too many of us will accept whatever is offered because we're afraid of losing an opportunity. "If I ask for more," we think, "they might not hire me."

Are you that uncertain that the Lord has led the hearts of those extending you this call? Then maybe you shouldn't be taking it-- even if they double the amount they offer.

If they say, "we believe God has led us to call you-- let's don't make this about money" then you should say, "I agree; if it's not about money, then you should be able to pay me what I need." You must help them understand that part of your calling as a ministry professional-- a major part, in fact-- is to take care of yourself and those in your family. If they don't get this, you don't want to work with for them.

There will always be the church that simply can't afford to pay you what you need. If you're equally convinced that God has called you there, then it comes back to you to figure it out. When you're satisfied that they have offered you as much as they can afford (or as much as you need, whichever is less), then it's time to find another source to supplement.

But if you're not negotiating with one of these churches, then you should expect more. Realize that this will help set a pattern of precedent for how the leadership will treat you. So many pastors who complain that their leaders give them as little investment in ministry as they can get away with could. I wonder how many could trace this problem back to the salary negotiations?

Consider this your first act as their pastor...

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