When there are allegations of financial misdeeds or puzzling ways of fund-raising in some religious groups, citizens who are not keen on religion and even some church members may unwisely and unfairly generalize and think that all or most church groups operate that way.
Did the Pathways young man on All Angles really say they collected on a given night $150.000? If any Jamaica Baptist Union rural circuit (=plurality of local assemblies) took in that much in any quarter they would suspect that a druggist or money launderer visited and gave a sizeable offering!
Though even while serving as a Pastor I held no rank in my Jamaica Baptist Union denomination I feel compelled to share a bit of my experience in the pastorate re finances.
I cannot speak for most denominations but since I have talked with clergy colleagues from quite a few of the regular denominations where pastors’ basic stipend/salary is determined from headquarters, I would say that most of us from such denominations very rarely get a livable stipend/salary. Dead serious!
In the case of my denomination, the recommended stipend is a basic (floor) amount that the circuit or individual church would send to HQ for the pastor’s salary cheque or bank account upload but the church or circuit is expected to top up that basic directly to the pastor.
Problem is some or most circuits have difficulties finding even the basic and so the suggested floor stipend becomes a ceiling or roof to the detriment of the pastor. In the JBU, pastors are not supposed to be signatories to the church’s bank account. A finance team deals with the church’s financial commitments. This safeguards the pastor.
The weirdest thing too about a pastor’s stipend/salary is that you either can’t or don’t feel it is appropriate to negotiate your stipend/salary before finalizing ‘the call ‘ to any pastorate, lest you be seen as too concerned about money.
Worse, there is an unspoken but entrenched mentality, prayer even, in not a few churches “Lord keep him/her humble we will keep him/her poor.”
Additionally, a companion sentiment among church leaders who constitute the Board or Officers of churches is that “no parson can earn as much as I earn”. This sentiment has nothing to do with said parson’s qualification/experience, competence, dedication and calibre of service and forget cost of living index. So parsons are expected to live by faith while others live by their salaries!!
As if a pastor can go to a supermarket, pull up a full trolley of groceries by the cashier and just quietly advise “Jesus paid it all.”
My personal experience in a pastorate in the USA is instructive. I raised a query in an Officers’ meeting about what they call the ‘salary package’. I asked innocently of the treasurer “kindly disaggregate the package for me so I am clear about salary [under my absolute prerogative to expend] as opposed to ministry expense [e.g., visitation/travelling allowance, car upkeep, etc.]. The treasurer bringled and responded in a way indicating that he read my request as a thinly veiled demand for a salary increase. I am a straightshooter but am not silly, so I calmly told him that his understanding was wrong to which he took umbrage and relented only when a Deacon with clout in that church came to my defence and argued that my request was quite in order because the package, by denominational policy, needs to be itemized.
In this said pastorate, where admittedly, I was simply an associate pastor, there was no health insurance policy for any staff member at all! First world country my…
Embarrassing truth be told, with very few exceptions, most clergy families escape being under the poverty line because of the salary of the working wife of the clergyman [deliberate gender bias here]. I lack the permission to share examples here but it is true of my family.
There is hardly a denomination that sets a basic stipend/salary for its pastors that seemingly is haunted by the passage “if a man does not take care of his family he is worse than an infidel/unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).
With the best intentions in the world, minus a wife’s salary help the average clergyman struggles with survival so saving and investment are wild fantasies.
Sum ting wong, seriously wong here!
I have served in 3 pastorates in Jamaica, all rural but for one that was suburban and they all did the best they could but the livable wage dilemma prevailed in all. Maybe it’s just me but…Ok my Pastor (Henlin) I know you are on the ready to help me if I say ‘maybe I just need Jesus’ (smile).
Bottom line, very few pastors qualify beyond being a financial sufferer. Those pastors who start their own ‘work’ [church] are in a totally different class from the rest of us and literally above our pay grade. Let the records reflect this.