I have been asked to share on a topic that many of us deal with and that is, “Living on little income when in ministry.” I am not a financial expert, but I can speak to you from my heart and our experiences.
Our very first ministry out of college, my husband was the Associate Pastor at a church and Assistant Principal at their Christian School, and I was the church and school secretary. We went 3 months with no pay because the church was barely surviving. To this day, all I can say is God provided in ways we never expected. We were only at this church for about 9 months and God moved us back close to our home town.
The next church close to our home town, my husband was the senior pastor and was paid $75 per sermon. So with Sunday morning and Sunday night services, that was $150 per week. This did not include insurance or a housing allowance. That was it, $150 per week. However, if it snowed and church got cancelled, he did not get paid. This was in WV so there were times that weather prevented us from having services. Needless to say I had to work a full-time job to make ends meet and my husband worked a part-time job as well. Even with us both working outside the church it was difficult to make ends meet. There were times we would get paid with vegetables from people’s gardens or a chicken when they were killing chickens. While we were very grateful for those things, it still didn’t pay our bills. This was back in the 80’s, not the stone ages. Ha!
What we started doing to help with our budget was putting a set amount of money each pay period in an envelope (i.e. gas, groceries, spending money) and this helped us stay on track. This was about 38 years ago, so way before we knew about the Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace. But this simple process helped us tremendously. I would suggest you come up with a similar plan to help you stay on track financially. It is very easy for our finances to get out of control and because of the lack of money we live on credit cards, which we all know is a disaster. We have been there and regret it.
The first 19 years of our ministry were very difficult financially because the ministries we served in did not see the importance of taking care of the pastoral family. Therefore, we have been playing catch up the past 19 years, but again, God has been faithful. I don’t believe the average Christian understands what their pastoral family goes through, not just emotionally and physically but financially as well.
It breaks my heart how many churches do not see the importance of taking care of their pastor and family. I’m not sure how the mentality has gotten into our churches that because you are in ministry you are supposed to just trust God to meet your needs and the pastor’s position isn’t worthy of the same pay the church attendees make at their corporate jobs. And while we do trust God to meet our needs, the church needs to do their part also.
Oh and by the way they say, “He or she only works one day a week.” I wonder how many of them would go out in the middle of the night to the hospital or someone’s home when called. Or how many of them would cancel a family vacation because someone died or got sick. I doubt very many. I could go on and on with scenarios but I won’t; you already know because you deal with it on a daily basis.
I am very thankful that through the years of ministry God has taken care of us, but I do believe the church in general needs to be educated on how to take care of their pastors. The scriptures are very clear that the pastor is worthy of his hire. I Corinthians 9:14: In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. And in my opinion, the pastor’s living should be as good as the average church attendee.
It is very difficult to stand up for yourself as a pastor, but I believe more pastors need to stand up for their families and remind the leaders in their churches that your family has to survive just like theirs.
I pray our journey has helped you in this area and that your church will take care of you as they should, if they don’t already.