More and more pastors are looking for work. A recent story on the subject by the Wall Street Journal set off a chain reaction of linked commentary on Christian sites and the comments left at those sites have been quite interesting. The Out of Ur blog posted its own commentary on the issue and today I see where Dan Edelen has added some food for thought on this growing issue.
So what’s the problem? Simple..Giving is down in most churches. Mission organizations are reporting less than adequate funding for its programs and the number of people they are able to send to plant new works is decreasing because of it. What I found most interesting about this story is the fact that many larger churches are the ones letting staff go. Specialty positions in larger churches are going away because churches can’t pay for them. Overcommitment to larger buildings and the utilities needed to drive them get in the way of paying actual people for doing the work of ministry. Many churches are hamstrung because of buildings and so people pay the price.
Neil Cole discussed the issue of pastoral salary in his blog over a year ago and has taken some criticism for his thoughts. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of this issue, I believe it’s wise to consider being fully trained in a second field of work so you CAN stay at your pastoral calling if hard times hit. I waited to enter ministry until I was nearly 35 years old so that I could establish myself in an alternate career if needed to. I’ve been blessed to be able to work at my ministerial job full-time (which the work truly is) and am grateful for each and every person who makes it possible. I know every day is a blessing and fully believe in what Paul wrote to his young protegé Timothy:
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
(1 Timothy 5:17-18 ESV)
But I also understand the reality of the situation as the Wall Street Journal reports. The sad fact is that many pastors are not trained in any other work and many churches do not offer any kind of severance package. They are not required to pay unemployment taxes so that option is out as well. If you are in ministry full-time, what would you do if the money wasn’t there to pay you? What would your next steps be?
My heart breaks for the men highlighted in these stories. Many I’m sure had no clue what was happening until the hammer actually fell. May we all be good stewards of the money God has blessed us with and do all we can to minister to those who are in need today!