By Jamaal Williams
“Honey I understand that things are tight, but things are tight at the church as well. Instead of requesting a raise this year maybe we can think of other ways to generate income. After all, this is what the Lord has called us to. Right?” If you’ve ever had to say words like this to your wife then you know that this is a tough place to be as a pastor, husband, and leader of your family. Yet the majority of pastors across the globe know what it’s like to serve a church they sincerely love while being underpaid.
Before I give you some helpful advice, know that Jesus feels your pain. He has called you where you serve and wants what’s best for you and your family as well as His Kingdom. As Scripture testifies, God allows suffering for a myriad of reasons. Even in the midst of you struggling to meet your family’s needs, God is at work and is helping you to look more like Christ. The Apostle Paul was perhaps the hardest working minister of all time, and God allowed him to go through seasons of being “brought low” in order to learn to be content. So, God hasn’t forsaken you; He has a plan during this period. If you’re wading through this situation or know someone else who is, here are a few things to keep in mind.
First, make sure that you’re approaching the situation with humility.
Money and the lack thereof can be a touchy subject. As you seek to approach your leadership with particular needs, make sure that your heart is in the right place. If not, the request and entire conversation can go wrong very quickly. While many churches underestimate the work and value of a pastor, some just simply haven’t been taught to give “double honor” to those who labor among them.
Second, make sure that you have preached on financial discipleship.
There is a refreshing way to preach on financial discipleship. No one wants to be forced into giving or be reminded of how “bad” of a Christian they are. I believe people will respond and give when we preach what Jesus had to say about stewardship. If the church is struggling financially and we haven’t painted a vision for giving, then we’re to blame for not preaching the whole counsel of God. Early on in my pastorate I tried to ignore stressing financial discipleship, and the church suffered. However, once I boldly proclaimed God’s vision for our finances, the congregation responded by giving.
Third, go to your leaders with a plan.
As you approach your leadership team, make sure that you have suggestions for how the church can afford a pay increase for you and your family. The plan should be simple and well prepared. If the church has the monies to give a raise but has not, make sure you know why, and offer a clear and Godly counter argument. Part of the plan may be suggesting that your finance committee re-evaluate how the church is spending money and make suggestions for areas that can be changed.
Fourth, bring in an outside consultant with fresh eyes.
When I was called to pastor the church that I serve, I desired to know what a fair salary was. Instead of us negotiating my salary, we called in a group from our denominational convention who specialized in helping churches and pastors come to a good agreement. Our outside group compared churches that were our numerical size and in our economic bracket and made suggestions based on these and other factors. The results surprised many at the church as they discovered that previous ministers where underpaid. By God’s grace, they stepped up to the challenge and went a step beyond. Bringing in fresh eyes and consultants can help you and the church have realistic expectations.
Copyright © 2015 by Jamaal Williams. Used by permission.
Jamaal Williams is Pastor of Forest Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. He is a native of Chicago, IL. Jamaal received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University where he served as president of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s black chapter. He has the M.A in Church Ministries and is currently pursuing a D.Ed. Min in Black Church Leadership from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jamaal serves on the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Leadership Council. He is married to Amber, and they are the parents of Nia, Kayla, and Josiah.