10 brief thoughts on getting paid as a priest

Preface: I’m not saying here every senior pastor must be paid, or be full time, or that full-time, paid pastors are even necessarily optimal in every situation. There are pros and cons to the various ways of supporting clergy, and that’s what this is about.

  1. I believe the pastoral load, evangelistic efforts, and the tasks of administrating the church should be shared by the whole congregation–every member–paid and unpaid in some measure. Full-time doesn’t mean “does everything.”
  2. That said, I am grateful to be paid so I can devote a great deal of time to prayer, study, caring for people at their work places and during business hours, and so on.
  3. And personally, if I were part-time, I wouldn’t have much bandwidth to do much more than prepare the sermon.
  4. If I was part time or unpaid my sermons likely wouldn’t be as helpful because I wouldn’t have as much time to connect with the community.
  5. Sometimes there are long stretches where it is tempting for introverts to like myself to retreat to my office and not truly engage with the world outside my bubble. Bi-vocational pastors have some built in accountability and opportunity in this area I don’t have.
  6. Being full-time at church is a blessing to my family that I don’t take for granted, because I’m flexible enough to help with things like pick-ups from school.
  7. If you love your work (as I do) and you see it more as “vocation” than “job” (as I do), and you are very aware of the intense level need around you (as I am) you it’s all-too-easy to forget to rest (as I too often do).
  8. Related to #7: Full-time still isn’t enough time to accomplish everything I want to accomplish. Even full-timers must be aware of their limits.
  9. Relying on the community of faith for the bulk of your financial support is an act of faith that God will provide your daily bread.
  10. A stipend is funds you receive to live on (like an allowance), so you can be what you are called to be. A salary is payment given in exchange for the performance specific duties. It may be semantics, but in light of the crazily diverse range of things that I do, and the erratic “schedule” that I keep, and the ethical shadiness of “getting paid to pray,” I think of the financial support I receive as the former more than the latter.

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