If you want to make everyone at church uncomfortable, just start asking questions about the pastor’s salary. Money is always a touchy subject, but opinions abound even more so when the church is factored in.
Should a pastor take a vow of poverty? Should a pastor’s salary be more than those he leads as an example of how generous God’s people should be? Does the Bible really say how much money a pastor should make?
A Pastor Should Make Around the Same Amount of Money as His Flock Makes?
Certainly questions regarding the pastor’s salary are not simple. There are many layers in the decision making process for each church when it comes to considering how much they should pay their pastor. However, it’s never a bad idea to start with common sense.
Galatians 6:6 states, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” A tithe is traditionally ten percent of the church member’s income. Aside from outside donations given to the church from those who do not attend the church, typically most of the church’s resources come through tithe. (Note: God is the one who provides and he uses tithes as his means.)
Common sense, therefore, would conclude that a pastor should make around the same amount of money as those he pastors. If the pastor’s income puts him at the bottom of the church’s economic spectrum, the church is failing their pastor. However, if the pastor is at the top of the church’s economic spectrum, often times the pastor is failing the church.
As Galatians 6:6 explains, if the church is supposed to share their resources with the pastor who serves and leads them, it would make sense that the pastor’s economic situation should reflect the church he pastors.
If the pastor works in at an inner city church, the pastor should make around the same amount of money as those he serves in the inner city. If the pastor, however, works in a wealthy suburban church, something would be really wrong at the church if this pastor makes the same amount of money as the pastor in the inner city. If the pastor’s congregants make a lot of money, it makes sense that the pastor should also make a lot of money.
A Pastor Should Not Make Less Money Just Because He Is a Pastor
People often come to church with preconceived notions. Pastors are often seen as holy men who spend their days in the monastery chanting and writing with feather pens on some old scrolls. Pastors certainly do have a high calling from God (James 3:1), but pastors are under the same guidelines as all Christians.
We often want to elevate our pastors above the average Christian. Of course in some ways we should. When Paul gives instructions on the requirements for an elder/pastor, he wrote:
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
Are there any requirements here that any Christian should not aspire to? Certainly some of the requirements, like teaching, are gifts that some people simply do not possess. But the moral requirements for an elder are requirements that all Christians must seek to follow. No Christian should have a love of money. Therefore, when it comes to personal income, to hold a pastor to a higher standard that you would not hold any Christian to is unfair and unbiblical.
The Church Should Pay the Pastor What is Agreed Upon By the Group of Elders
As I said at the beginning of this article, deciding on how much money a pastor should make is not always so simple. How much money should a pastor make if he pastors a mega church with millions in the budget? How much should the pastor’s salary be if he has skills that are highly sought after in the secular world? How much money should a pastor make if he’s been working faithfully for thirty years in a growing suburban church where he receives a raise every year along with the rest of the staff? Should there be a cap on the how much money the pastor should make?
As with most questions in life, there is not always a cookie cutter answer. This is why God has ordained that his local churches should be governed by a body of elders. The biblical church model found in the New Testament always includes a plurality of elders. When one man is in control, trouble is sure to follow.
Therefore, whatever the pastor’s salary ends up being, the pastor himself should not be the one making the final decision. Each church is different because each church has different types of people attending that church. It is the elders’ job to look at the church, the health of the budget, and the specific pastor/role in question and make the best, biblical decision they can make.
Summary: How Much Money Should a Pastor Make?
In short, there are no easy answers to the questions regarding a pastor’s salary. What’s clear is that there is no set dollar amount in the Bible that all pastors should or should not make. Common sense found in Scripture, however, dictates that the economic status of a pastor should reflect the economic status of the church a pastor serves and leads. Just because a pastor seeks to serve the Lord does not mean that a pastor and his family should be poor. And lastly, church money should never be left in the hands of one man.
The elders should pray, consult the Bible, and evaluate the specific factors in each situation to choose a salary that is honoring to God, the church, and the pastor.