Why Do Ministries Pay So Badly?

Over the last few months I’ve had conversations with numerous people who used to work in either fundamentalist or evangelical ministries and just can’t afford to keep doing it. When you’re putting in a full week of work but eating from your own church’s food pantry because you can’t afford groceries that might be a problem.

There is a serious problem in American Christianity with “ministry” employees being underpaid, undervalued, and under-appreciated. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Isolation.

By the nature of being sacred instead of secular, many ministry employees are isolated from the rest of the job market. Being cut off from the rest of their colleagues makes them prone to believing the lies that they didn’t need to get accreditation or certification. As a result they have no relationships with those kinds of bodies and they don’t participate in continuing education with their secular counterparts.

As a result they simply have no idea what their skills might be worth in the rest of the world or how to build a set of credentials that makes them worth more.

2. Delayed Gratification.

“Treasures in heaven” is the cry of those who really don’t want to pay for good dental benefits on earth. Christian workers are told that somehow their efforts are more special and worthy of greater rewards. Lots of people work in school cafeterias but Jesus loves people who work in Christian school cafeterias just a little bit more. The celestial payout is going to be awesome! (So we’ll need you to go ahead and work for peanuts while you’re here.)

After all, it’s all about getting people saved! Who can put a price tag on that?

3. Shrinking Population.

Church attendance is in decline. That means fewer checks in the offering plate and less operating budget. Like any other business the first place any ministry is going to start cutting its expenses is not in buildings or salaries at the top. They’re going to start by seeing how much they can save by reducing the number of paid days off or requiring all employees to contribute some amount of time for free.

This is just suffering for Jesus.

4. Heavy Indoctrination.

Fundamentalist and Evangelicals have done well in playing the education game. Every year there is a crop of idealistic fresh faces that emerge from their high-schools and colleges having spent hundreds of hours in classrooms being taught that there is no higher calling than being grist to the ministry mill. With new cheap labor being manufactured every day there’s no incentive for raises for the people who have been here all along.

Jesus is the greatest coupon ever.

5. Total Prevarication.

If you ever work for a ministry that tells you that if you just serve the Lord with them for 30 years that there will be a pension at the end to take care of you in your old age I advise you to smile politely and then walk away quickly. There is no retirement. There. is. no. retirement. There is, however, a pink slip with your name on it sealed in an envelope that says “to be opened when the employee is 65.”

Unless you’re putting savings in your own IRA or stuffing it in your mattress then there will be no money.

So the formula goes like this:

Isolated employees + A Heavenly Mission + Declining Revenue + Renewable Workforce + Lies = Starvation Wages.

If you give people too much then how will they ever learn to trust God? The food pantry is open from 3-6 on Thursdays.

199 thoughts on “Why Do Ministries Pay So Badly?”

  1. Because if you leave you’ll always be referred to as the failure who turned his back on God. They don’t have to pay you cause you’re trapped.

      1. And then there is the missionary story about the guy who left the mission field in Australia and his son died!!!! God punishes unfaithful labourers.

  2. I doubt I’m first, but as one who worked for two different ministries (both mission organizations), and having friends who continue to do so, it also very much depends on the ministry. I was never hungry and I had what I needed, and often more-including very good health benefits. It also meant raising more support than some of my friends in other ministries. The local church I attend also pays its staff a good wage, and they are responsible about how many people they hire (we had a very painful period a few years ago when they had to downsize a couple staff). I have “real” degrees, too, and most responsible ministries require them. To go on too long–if you truly feel called (and I was!), check out the organization, look at your budget, and follow God’s lead if that is where you really want to be. It is a faith venture, but God also gave you a brain. When I did go back to a secular job 15 years ago, my ministry experience was a big part of why I was hired. Why did I leave? Health reasons (could not keep up with the pace anymore) and God called me back to classroom teaching in a secular environment–my current mission field.

    1. You make a good point. The non-for-profit world in general is like this: there are some good employers and some bad ones. My own employer is a not-for-profit but prides itself on providing some of the best benefits available anywhere (and this is more than just lip-service – our benefits really are great). A rule of thumb in our area is for non-profits to compensate employees at least on par with similar jobs in state government. So, I don’t have any complaints. But I know it’s hit and miss with other non-profit employers, for sure!

  3. Don’t forget that whatever the salary is, 10% comes off the top. Then we have missions giving and faith promise. And you are going to contribute to the food pantry, aren’t you?

    1. Food pantry? What food pantry? Oh you mean the nice new furniture for the new Sunday School/school wing at a few hundred dollars a piece? Or the drop-down screen in the auditorium? Or the covered car drop-off area?

    2. I’ve heard of churches trying to get away with deducting the tithes and other “gifts” from the employees’ checks. This is a blatant violation of federal and state labor law, not to mention stupid and manipulative because I’ve also heard that said employees feel guilt-tripped into tithing again off the amount that is paid to them.

      1. WCBC is kind enough to tithe for all the college students on the work-study program. Gotta keep them moneys flowin’ in, and the blessings flowin’ down.

        1. Really? Forced tithing is just so wrong. Whether or not one believes in tithing, giving should be free will – even if one works for the church. This is just terrible.

          It’s hardly obedience when you don’t have a choice.

        2. You mean the students are paid their normal wage, and the college chips in an extra 11% on top to cover the tithe?

      2. I’ve heard rumor – never substantiated – that one of the major Christian aid-to-the-poor charities in at least one place and at least one time was doing this to the direct monetary aid checks.

        1. This is far to vague & admittedly rumor spreading it probably shouldn’t be posted, IMO.

          I have (1) no idea what it means, and (2) don’t have much confidence whatever it means is true.

  4. As far as the retirement thing goes, I do think ministers should plan for their own retirement and shouldn’t necessarily get a pension from their ministry. The days of employer contributions towards retirement are over for most everyone….not just ministers. Why should they continue to receive checks from parishioners when they didn’t prepare for retirement, or opted out of social security just because they were soooo sure the rapture would happen before they were 65? It burns me up that some of these people live off of cashing offering checks from people living off of the social security system to which they refused to contribute themselves.

    Are faithful ministers worthy of good pay? Yes. But that should be on the front end IMHO, and when they stop being useful or desire to retire, they should stop sucking funds that should go elsewhere….to ya know….feeding the poor or something.

    This is EXACTLY why so much missions giving goes to home office workers and retired missionaries….because instead of actually going home and getting a job or contributing to social security, many of these guys come back and become the “unneccassary mission board representative for southeastern Idaho” or something like that. Gotta have somebody to preach those missions conferences in Idaho, right?

    These shepherds continue to feed themselves, but have absolutely no concern for the flock. One of the many reasons fundamentalism is dying is because many of these old MOG’s don’t care about anything really except cashing a check until they die. No better than Creflo Dollar or Benny Hinn really…they just have a smaller niche market.

    1. I agree. That’s why I pay SS, because I want to always be self-supporting. The church pays me well, because they want me to be full time here, with no other jobs. I am paying my full share of taxes and prepping for the day I can no longer serve here.

      The Southern Baptist Convention has retirement preparation options that you pay into, then if anything happens to you, your wife gets part of it (since she sacrificed for you, too). The SBC also pays every penny of medical needs that their missionaries have. I’m sure many “Evangelicals” are business minded, like that movie “Believe Me”, but we shouldn’t be lumped in the same crew as the Fundies.

      1. My ex-MOG worked like a regular person for years, and even ran his own business for a while and was bi-vocational. He has some SS eligibility but I have no idea what’s going to happen when he hits retirement age, which isn’t all that far off.

        His wife needs to start thinking about working with the great unwashed heathens now that their fundy educational facility is closed.

        1. We pastors consider ourselves “regular people.”

          However, the problem is too many of us tasted the power and forgot why we work for “regular people.” That lead to sucking up all of the money we could and now there’s this trust problem with the people who can think. Well the best way we could think to handle that is to preach against and make up stories about those “ungodly intellectuals” so that the loyal ones, who never thought about how much we take advantage of them, would be scared of them and stay away from them.

          So far that seems to be working well enough for them.

        2. Greg, perhaps you and a few other pastors consider yourselves to be “regular people”. Not every pastor does. Examples of such pastors are regularly mentioned on this blog and the forum.

    2. “These shepherds continue to feed themselves, but have absolutely no concern for the flock. One of the many reasons fundamentalism is dying is because many of these old MOG’s don’t care about anything really except cashing a check until they die. No better than Creflo Dollar or Benny Hinn really…they just have a smaller niche market.”

      So very true! True not only in fundamentalism, but in evangelical churches in general. It’s hard for any man who has been lifted up above his fellows (clergy) to give up the view and perks.

    3. One thing I do admire about the fundy MOG that I grew up with was that he made it a priority to support the widows of former pastors. He never asked them to attend our church or placed any other conditions on them, but he tried hard (even self-sacrificially at times) to make sure they were taken care of. I imagine he did this partly because he expected similar treatment when he retired, but it didn’t work out that way. Instead, even though our church supported him pretty well, he still had to maintain a furniture business on the side and his wife worked full time at the local JC Penney. He had inherited a fair bit of money as well when his parents, who were big Arkansas landowners, died in the late 1990s.

      1. JCPenney really went downhill. Trying to be all hip and cool and calling themselves “JCP” hasn’t really brought it back to what is once was.

        1. I also agree with Stacy! I loved the clothes they used to have, but have been unimpressed with their selection lately. I don’t see even hipsters buying anything at Penny’s because they are trying to be cool and their is nothing so unappealing as that.

  5. The opposite side of that is the people at the top get a new
    $50, 000 truck every year, a motorcycle, a million dollar farm property for “reconnecting”, and live in a half million dollar house. Also their wife gets a brand new Cadillac or lexus every year. They receive 100% medical care and get to go on a tropical vacation for 2 weeks every year to recuperate from all their hard work. Did I mention that all of this is done while constantly yelling at the flock to give and sacrifice? I know this applies mostly to mega-churches and not to small congregations.

    1. This is so true; I’ve been in a few churches due to moving around the country. I’ve been a part of churches where the pastor was humble, and the people did their best to pay him a decent wage, but it was a struggle for him, and his family would do without. Such men are heroic, I think.

      But I have been in churches like you describe, where the people were struggling with jobs and having a tough time, yet the pastor built himself a high-dollar custom home in an exclusive neighborhood, and lived very, very well, while most of the church struggled.

      1. Our pastor (see above) also built himself a luxurious custom home, but he actually paid for it himself (mostly) and NOT out of church funds. Even so, it almost split the church when it was revealed that a “missionary-carpenter” had come to preach and while he was staying in town on the church’s dime had also done carpentry work on the pastor’s house for free.

        Around the same time, a controversy erupted between the pastor and deacons over a longstanding policy under which the deacons would sign several blank checks each Sunday for the church staff to use for various needs during the week. Three deacons refused to participate in this practice any longer, due partly to the allegations about the pastor’s house. Three other deacons were ass-sniffing loyalists. (Not saying they were in the wrong on this one, but they were supporting the MOG for all the wrong reasons). Guess who was the swing vote? My father. He resigned the deacon board and left the church in a fit of pique because the pastor refused to go after church members who had left and visit them. Since my father was the biggest tither, the pastor promptly went after him and brought my family back into the fold.

        1. I’ve often wondered how differently my wife and I would have been treated at our respective churches had we been big givers.

          When I was making my elongated exit from the church I grew up in, I never got one call from the “pastor.” When I was nearly all the way out, I got one email from him, and that was it.

          I’d been at the church since I was two and finished leaving when I was about 36; I played piano and organ there for probably 20 years. I know the “pastor” had plenty of time he could have called — he certainly didn’t spend any time studying for his lousy sermons. It just showed me how small of a shit he gave about people.

          (I filled in playing piano at another church over Christmas and it was almost unbearable. I like the church fine, but it’s going to be a loooong time before I sit down behind the keyboard at a church again. I felt miserable.)

          Then after what my wife and I endured at her old church…

          Let’s just say I’m sick of petulant paycheck-preachers. They make themselves out to be martyrs when they’re the ones who do the killing. Forget going to find the lost sheep — they strip people of any standing or power and then abuse them for being weak.

          Pathetic schmucks.

        2. Also also, my old church bailed out that “pastor” to the tune of $50,000 to pay off mostly credit card debts he and his wife ran up. That was only a year or two after they bought a building that was at a good price for how big it was, but still too big for the church. I still kick myself for voting for that “bonus” in the business meeting. I was still in thrall to the “take care of the MOG no matter the cost, and God will take care of you.”

          A few months ago, I remembered that he used to preach at the singles group because we’d often go out to eat after Sunday evening service. He’d ask how many missionaries we could be supporting if we quit eating out.


        3. I’m sorry that the joy of playing the piano at church was taken from you. It’s been something that’s truly brought me great enjoyment through the years and having painful memories rob you of that pleasure is a shame. I hope someday (if you wish) that you can do it again freely.

        4. I also hate the “what you could do with that money if you’d give up something you enjoy.” While I appreciate frugality especially so people can then be generous, there needs to be balance. After all, we can’t follow the Bible’s command to be hospitable without spending money for food and drink.

      2. Yup yup, like my former MOGs. Except then their extensive church property got foreclosed on, and the bank found another buyer so out they go.

    2. Lol! EXACTLY the perks of the pastor of my old church..hmmm. I think it has a lot to do with MOG popularity – the more likable he is, the more perks he gets

      1. You know, for that size that’s actually not a bad price. My company just finished building a 12,000 sq.ft. house, and it cost about $4 million. Of course that includes landscaping, pool, cabanas, etc etc.

        Still outrageous for a pastor’s home.

        1. It is outrageous for anyone–pastor, actor, politician. Honestly, when there are homeless and hungry people in the world to have a home so extravagant is a sin–read the OT and God judges Israel’s leadership for living in homes of ivory while the widow and orphans go hungry.

        2. Agreed, Leanne. I posted that so we could be reminded that the cancer of greed and power has infected some “evangelical” churches. Elevation Church is SBC. Check out their website. It looks like an homage of photos to Steve Furtick, who is in his early 30s. Makes me want to puke. Makes me want to do anything, anything, but EVER go back to church. Ever.

    3. “…Did I mention that all of this is done while constantly yelling at the flock to give and sacrifice?”

      This also applies to the self-appointed MOG who, out of pride, convinces his small flock to buy land and build a building on credit so he can impress his college pals and proclaim throughout the land how God has blessed HIS (the MOG) ministry! Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed MOG preaches about giving and brings in his buddies to preach about giving. And yes, his buddies will go on and on and on about how great their pastor is and that they should honor him, love him, cherish him, adore him, sit in awe of him, and continue to give to “the Lord’s work.”

      The volume of said sermon, whether of the MOG himself or his college pal, is totally determined by the size of debt this charlatan drove the people into.

      It’s maddening when men like this attribute the results of their manipulation to God and miracles.

  6. When I started at IFB church I had taken a 10k a year pay cut because I thought if The Lord called me he’d provide. However if I looked at the benefits my previous employer had paid it was probably a 20k a year paycut. Nevertheless, we still had food in the table a nice house and didn’t have to raid the food pantry

  7. The IFB church I was at gave the pastor a house to live in (well, a double-wide on church property), a fairly generous phone allowance, money to pay off student debt, money to use at his discretion for the ministry (but often went to meals he ate out with certain others). Oh, and “equity replacement” because he wasn’t buying a house, so he wasn’t building up equity in his own property. Oh, and the church paid for the Medicare taxes on his salary as a separate line item.

    I am sure there is a bit more. But a lot of the expenses most people would pay for out of pocket the church picked up as non-salary items.

    The “salary” looked small. But when you compared his total compensation package, it was fairly considerable. Quite a bit more than most people in the church, including my own teacher’s salary.

    1. That’s because pastors are “self employed” according to the IRS. The average business owner will write off things they use for the business and get a break. Other companies will pay back travel expenses and wear-and-tear for the cars of employees who travel or pick up stuff for the business. Just like your paycheck doesn’t include the benefits, you still get them on the company, even though you work for them.
      Your pastor seems to have taken more liberty with those than he should have, but according to the IRS, and other company practices, he has every right to.
      I don’t break up my salary for anything but phone (%40 is covered because the church publishes my number and it is used for work), housing, and insurance.

    2. Know what you mean. I got hold of some financial records my previous church had to submit to the bank, and yeah, the pastors’ initial salary wasn’t anything to write home about. Add in the cars, the house, etc etc it was quite substantial. I should dig them out and take a look….

  8. I was employed doing computer work for a church ministry. I was told that if I was being paid for the computer work, it wasn’t nearly enough, but if they were paying me for ministry it was way too much.

    1. -My father still does that for the old IFB church. He is seriously extremely underappreciated. It is sickening some of the shite they pull on him. Things like getting upset at not adding things to the website even though he would have no way of knowing otherwise as he has his actual job from 9-5 each day. Does everything for free for them, and it’s still never enough.

  9. Darrell, your comments on ministry pay are spot on. As far as I can tell, most churches of any decent size pay their pastor well. The ones who don’t wind up cycling through pastors every couple of years or so.

    The real crimes of pay are in ministry staff, such as the secretaries or the teachers in the associated “Christian” school.

    Dewink and Herbster from Bob Jones University wrote a book, “Effective Christian School Management,” in which they decided to rank the kind of pay ministries should give their employees — as a percentage of the Pastor’s salary.

    Christian school teachers ranked at 50%. Without all the extra benefits the Pastor would get, of course!

    When I attended a Christian School Fair at BJU in my senior year, I was appalled at the salary offerings. I knew what it would take to raise a family, and those salaries would hardly cover rent. Furthermore, many of the schools demanded that the wives of the married employees “contribute” 20 hours of unpaid labor a week to the ministry.

    I don’t know if it was hubris or what, but I figured with my training in the ministry I felt God had called me to, I had done as much as most preachers — and I thought I might actually know as much as some preachers about the Bible, too. Certainly the preacher boys had not impressed me with their knowledge of Scripture (though I did not dare say this to anyone). I was offended by the idea that someone thought my ministry value was only half that of the preacher’s.

    So, I abandoned the idea of being a Christian School teacher, and went for my first Master’s degree.

    1. That’s for sure! When the school teachers have to get a second job during the summer to make ends meet and the senior pastor is living in a brand new house in the nicest neighborhood in the area, something is wrong!

      1. I taught public school in a wealthy but very conservative state in the midwest. Starting salary in the early 90s for me..first contract..8500 dollars for a “part time” job teaching four out of seven class periods. (13 grand today) After a couple years of coaching and driving bus, working from 7 am to 5 pm, I was making the princely sum of 21 grand a year. That’s about 32 grand today. Well, we moved to another state. Was tired of being dirt poor every month. Still have the summer job though 🙂 No longer “need it” to make it, but it pays for a few extras and keeps me busy.

    2. This is the real crime. While the pastor may get a fairly decent salary and compensation package, most pastoral staff that are just entering the ministry are starting out at $20,000 a year.

      I was living in one of the most expensive counties in CA a few years back with a wife and kids and a salary of $24k. One paycheck (paid twice weekly) couldn’t even pay my rent.

      I decided I should become a pastor because I couldn’t afford being an assistant to the pastor.

    3. The “your spouse has to contribute hours for free” rule is completely illegal and a violation of federal labor law. So many IFB peons have major wage claims against their employers. (I know there are “ministerial exceptions” to labor laws, but they aren’t as broad as many churches think. My aunt, a CPA, volunteered to do the bookkeeping for her smallish southern Baptist church and was horrified by the “we’re a church so whatever” attitude they had towards all sorts of legal financial obligations.)

    4. The first Christian school I taught at offered me a starting salary in 1997 of $10,000 a year and no benefits. Oh, and we had to buy our own classroom supplies, such as cabinets, teacher’s chair, chalk and erasers, pencil sharpeners… The principal pointed out that “of course” I couldn’t expect to be paid the same as another teacher with the same experience (exactly NONE) I had because he was married and had to support his family. I wish I had known about labor laws at the time, but having graduated from PCC…

      Now (after getting my Master’s from an accredited university) I teach at another Christian school with a salary that’s good enough to keep this single parent with three kids off food stamps. And I get benefits! And the pay scale is laid out clearly for everyone to see. It doesn’t equal public school pay, but we all know exactly what comes in and where it goes, so it’s much easier to “sacrifice”.

      1. I am glad you are able to tell this story. It is remarkable that, as a single father, you could actually find a Christian school to teach at! Of course, if it is an Episcopal School or an upper-end private school, that would make sense. But most fundy schools would see you as a bad influence.

        Another reason I decided to avoid Christian schools was the inevitable requirement that I attend *their* church, attend *all* the meetings, participate in or support *all* the activities of the church (as a “minister” of sorts for free!). Well, maybe not “all,” but durn near. Many churches have so many activities through the week that if you participate in all of them you have no time left for self or family. Not that the MOG cares, mind you.

        Thanks for your story!

  10. And then , there’s the church musicians: Every IFB church I’ve had contact with, unless you’re the “Music Minister” (either combined with youth or being the MoG’s son), you could forget getting any kind of pay – it’s “A Gift From G-d, and should be offered back as such”. Doesn’t matter the cost of training, music, practice time, etc…

    1. Our church paid the song leader $100/week and the church pianist and organist (husband and wife – who honestly would have done it for free) $50 each /week. But then, they fired the song leader for coming to church drunk one Sunday morning. And then it was decided that it was wiser to simply let everyone do everything for free! This, we were told, would be a blessing to them, because it would no longer be “work” but rather a way for them to serve God.

        1. Auchentoshan 18 Year Old Scotch is right at $100. Seems more sensible to me!

      1. If that’s the Fundy idea of a Blessing From gid, I think I’d rather be cursed.

        1. I think some of the difficulty is when there’s a worship band. You can’t really pay one musician and not the others and few churches could afford to pay all of them.

      2. That’s a good idea if they actually bought the sheet music used in the service lol I’m thinking of all the awesome music I could get if I didn’t have to worry about paying for it out of pocket!

    2. The idea of paying musicians is a touchy subject. If musicians are willing to volunteer their time, that’s great. Our church has a full choir and orchestra of volunteer (in large part professional) musicians, and they love to do it; naturally, when you have all-volunteers, you have to be VERY respectful of their schedules and add value to the time they commit as much as possible. I suppose if the church’s culture is one of celebrating, equipping, and encouraging volunteers instead guilt-tripping them into service, then amazing things can happen. That being said, I don’t begrudge churches which have the resources to “pay for play.” I’m just thankful to be part of a congregation that has so many high-caliber players, with more waiting in the wings each week to join.

      1. You get what you pay for….or don’t pay for. If you want someone to commit hours to practice and preparation…someone who can read music and is not tone deaf, then pay them. If you are happy with the choir director who doesn’t actually direct anything except the page number of the hymn and then leads the music by screaming louder than the rest of the tone deaf choir, then accept volunteers for the position.

        1. But then does this apply to Sunday School teachers or children’s church teachers? If you want someone to put in hours of preparation and planning, someone who isn’t just going through the motions but who cares about communicating God’s truth effectively, adapting to the age levels, learning styles, and disabilities of the children in his or her class, shouldn’t they be paid too? Is music more important than teaching? Will people join the church solely on the strength of the music program or, for families at least, don’t they expect a quality children’s program?

          (Not asking to be argumentative but trying to think through the implications of paying for SOME church ministries and not others.)

        2. It depends how you define “pay.” Our church had a worship arts pastor on staff who recently retired after 45 years and grew to a bit of “legendary” status. His role is being temporarily being filled by a much younger staff member who–quite frankly–is world class musician; an incredible songwriter and guitarist as good as any you’ll see. Both the former and the interim worship pastors are men of the highest talent and dedication, and I think that’s why so many talented volunteers are eager to join their team. They (the volunteers) are obviously getting something out of it beyond money. Now, I don’t know what the salary for the staff is, but from what I’ve heard it’s not bad, but definitely not as much as they could have made in the secular music biz. Seriously, these guys are that good.

  11. ill throw in my 2 cents. I recently had the opportunity to work at my home church. previously i was working at a well known plant/factory. it was the kind of place that everyone and their grandma applied at when job fairs were held. they employ about 1000-1500 people i guess in my city. the door then opened for a place at our church. i knew that it was something i wanted to do but the only reservation i had was the pay. i had no clue what to expect and was willing to take approx a 10k pay cut and make it work.

    well after a few talks and such i received an offer from our church. the $ amount was almost exactly the same (and when i worked in the plant i had to work some OT to get to that level, 40ish K).
    so i go from swing shift 12 hour rotation to ministry schedule, typically monday – friday, home by 5 or so, if i plan an activity that requires friday or sat night time just spend some extra time with my family during the week, etc.
    the church also pays all of my health insurance, all of my cell phone, all of my gas, and two weeks vacation with a vacation bonus check, and a christmas bonus check, church matches 3% of what i put in a 401k.
    when i got off the phone after being told all of that i went into the house and told my wife and started crying. i was willing to cut and sacrifice all i could to accept this and when i heard the offer it was better than anything i could ever expect working production in the well known plant i was employed at.
    church is about 25 years old, in a town of about 200,000 people where the average wage is in the mid 30’s and the best paying plant is about 15 an hour.
    our church wouldnt fit the typical ifb mold. 90 percent of the members wouldnt have a clue to the story behind any of the articles on this website. besides our pastor and a handful of people here most wouldnt know the difference between phil jackson and phill kidd, or tony hutson and tony kukock.

    anyways, I’ve rambled enough but as someone who has recently entered the world of “full time ministry” (i never really liked that title) i was surprised that i get to do what i want to do, make the same thing as i used to make, better side benefits like the phone and bonus checkouts, etc, and a much better schedule to spend time with my family. i pray that i stay humble and that i always remember that the families sitting next to me at our church that are killing themselves working in the same plant i left are the ones making it possible for me to do what i now get to do.

    1. Glad it’s like that now. I too had it pretty good when I started, four years later I was working hours on end without days off, couldn’t say no to anything and subject to the whims of an employer. Make sure you get your comp package in writing.

      1. I don’t expect things to go bad. I’ve been there nearly 19 years. I’m 30 now. The last two guys stayed about 8-10 years them move on to be sr pastors. Both of them were happy when they left with no hard feelings. The last guy wasn’t even looking to leave. A church needing a pastor asked if he would be interested. And he took it. We are pretty close and he told me he is actually making less now as a sr pastor than he was as a youth pastor at our church. He just felt it was time to become a sr pastor since he is a little older. Nearing 40. Both he and the previous guy had what I would call normal schedules throughout their entire time at our church. A typical day for them was a few hours of studying and planning and a list of about 5 people a day to visit during the school year. During summer they set their own schedules and spent time with the youth. That’s what it appeared to be for the last two guys going back as far as I can remember. I have small kids and was told by my boss ‘I spent a lot of time when I was younger running around to camp meetings and revivals. Kids grow up fast, spend time with yours while they are young, study for a few hours, go make some visits, be home no later than 6.” I have listened to some of the ifb guys mentioned here and went to a small ifb college. Thankful that our preacher isn’t the way most here are portrayed and isn’t the typical micromanager some churches seem to be like.

  12. Honestly, I think the difference between a fat cat pastor and one that relies on the food bank has a lot to do with back-office deals. I worked for free as a youth pastor for three years because I was told the church couldn’t afford it, putting in far more hours than the pastor because his “office” was at home. Only after the church sorted through the budget did they realize that salary, health benefits, housing, and education benefits totaled 80,000 dollars or so. No wonder the church could barely pay the bills!

    Meanwhile, I’d taken a position at another ministry’s school in the area to support my family. The philosophy there was one from a book published by A Beka– pay your people as little as possible to avoid worldliness. And it showed, because working my two full-time jobs landed us on food stamps. By the time I realized what was going on and left the church to simply attend an SBC church while my family regrouped, the damage was done.

    SBC churches don’t want graduates from an IFB college. IFB ministries don’t want attendees of an SBC church. Neither want you if you appear to abandon your call by switching from ministry to “secular” work. So I work at my secular place of employment, being paid a decent wage and able to actually spend time with my family. We attend and are involved in our church with no strings attached. And I wouldn’t go back for all the money in the world…or lack thereof.

    1. Grew up a PK and actually loved it. Then 4 years of IFB college, 10 years as assistant MOG, and now working in a secular field. For the first time in my life I go to church and serve with “no strings attached” and love it!

      Left vocational ministry to start a non-profit ministry. I anticipate trouble raising funds from my IFB friends because of the “compromise” in the church I now attend. Not sure how I’ll be received by the greater evangelical community either due to “high standards” I’ll ask mentors in my organization to observe (like attending church services at least once/week). They may see it as legalism when I see it as appropriate expectations.

      Still, I glad to be where I am in this journey…

  13. I’m not sure about your first point – my experience is that people working in the ministry (teachers, other staff, etc.) know full well how well they’re not being paid.

    That being said, my fundie father simply left the teaching field 30+ years ago (after getting a Master’s in Christian Education) because it didn’t pay well enough to support our family.

    Also, this isn’t a problem limited to IFB ministries. Our Lutheran church/school also struggles to pay teachers anything competitive. We know it’s a problem and we’d all like to change it, but if we charged enough tuition to pay teachers what their secular counterparts make, we’d lose pretty much all students. Therein lies the conundrum.

    1. This is why Catholic schools were traditionally staffed by nuns and priests who worked for free.

      1. The nuns and priests who worked the the Catholic school I attended got housing and transportation. I’m assuming they got a small stipend to cover incidentals, but their work was primarily exchanged for tangible benefits other than money.

        1. George, take your first “the” and replace it with “at”! Phooey on you.

  14. As someone who teaches at a Midwestern Bible college, this post really resonated with me. My experience is similar to fundynomore’s: I have a good employer, who tries hard to take care of me (They pay for my health insurance, for instance, and I get free lunch during the school year).

    Still, the pay is not high. This is mainly due to the third reason Darrell mentioned, the shrinking population means that whatever money comes in needs to go to making the institution more appealing, lest it die. So we hire new teachers, or replace the ancient windows (both needed), and I content myself with the salary I have.

    I guess my main concern with the low pay, even from good institutions like mine, is that it makes it hard to stay here long-term. I’m young, there are a lot of advantages to where I work, but as I get older, I would like (will need) to be paid more. Ministries risk losing their best workers when they can’t pay them very much.

  15. Also, I want to add one reason to Darrell’s five: Ministries have other priorities besides paying their workers well. My mom works for a Christian school which prides itself on keeping tuition low for students; they’re also fairly rigid and idealistic about how they do fundraising. Essentially, fundies & evangelicals continue to believe that there is in fact such a thing as a free lunch, then wonder why they can’t get good workers and teachers.

  16. Firstly: The pastor and the missionary should be adequately paid.

    Secondly: It’s a supply and demand issue. There is a huge supply of people who want to serve the Lord vocationally. The demand is not there. I don’t have any firm statistics but scores of seminary grads never find a pastorate. Think of the number of missionary candidates who fail to reach full support and drop out.

    Thirdly: In fundy circles being a lowly paid church staff worker (could be custodian, secretary, IT guy, etc) is regarded as “being in the ministry”. The same work for a secular job is not as highly regarded

    Fourthly: Some really have no other job skills. They’ve been “in the ghetto” so long that the secular job arena is closed. So working for lower pay “in the ministry” beats no job at all. (There is a high tolerance for ineptitude in church and ministry staff positions)

    1. Good points!

      The second point is so true! I heard speaker after speaker at summer camp or in college or at revival services push young people into committing to full-time service. If you REALLY loved God, if you were REALLY serious about living for Him, you’d surrender to full-time ministry. It was like a caste system. Some people perhaps see it as an easy ride. Others may see it as a way to control people and accrue power. But a lot, I think, are idealistic young people who really love God and think the best way to show it is to go into ministry, not realizing that there really aren’t enough positions for them all.

    2. Yes, the high number of graduates from major IFB colleges and Basement Bible Colleges and the low growth of the IFB movement is also contributing to the drive by LBC/WCBC and NVBC/GSBC to plant IFB churches in every town in the west.

      What else are they going to do with all of these graduates of unaccredited universities whose degrees aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on? They usually can’t get a decent secular job.

      The added bonus that way in the mind of those in fundyland at least, is that when the unwanted and unneeded church in Hicksville, AZ (pop 25 with 5 churches already) fails, it is not the fault of the college, but the graduate.

      1. This is so harmful!

        1. First to the universal church because when a new IFB church tries to start in a town, the pastor preaches against the other churches: how liberal and ungodly they are and how if you want to REALLY follow Christ, you have to go to HIS church. They are so afraid of being ecumenical that they see unity as a dirty word and prefer to separate instead of finding common ground with other believers.

        2. Second to the young pastor. When the church fails, when he “does everything right” (meaning everything they told him to do in fundy college), he can be deeply wounded because the attitude is so strongly “God isn’t blessing? You must be doing something wrong.”

        1. Reference #1:

          My former fundy CEO planted a “church” in our town with the premise that there wasn’t another church in all the land that preached the gospel. He, therefore, needed to grace the land with a church of his own design, which was manufactured in the likeness of his alma mater (BJU).

          There are a few pastors (good men, and sincere) in our town who saved the article from the local paper from almost two decades ago where these statements were made. There were over 80 churches in town at the time (now about 100) which he, by inference, blasted as not “preaching the gospel.” Really? ALL of them?

          He now has a “faithful core group” of people who stick with him come hell or high water to pay the mortgage, electric, gas, and telephone bills along with his his salary, retirement and medical benefits. These faithful ones have dipped into savings and retirement to prop up this Mog and the little kingdom he has created.

          PW, your statement, “They are so afraid of being ecumenical that they see unity as a dirty word and prefer to separate instead of finding common ground with other believers” is accurate and beyond dispute. Further, if you leave this man’s church, you are in the “gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” This is not an overstatement.


  17. I can’t believe you left out the number one reason. Public schools. Apart from what anyone thinks about the value of a public school or Christian school, the fact is that the number of people who can afford to pay property taxes plus a private school tuition is small and the number who can afford it and think it is a worthwhile expense is smaller still. The second reason, which is somewhat related to some that you mentioned, is Accounting. The fixed costs of facilities is immense. Those costs have to be included in the tuition of every student. If your school has 3000 kids, the fixed costs per student are low relative to the christian school that may have 300 kids. Something has to give and it creates a market for teachers who may not have the best credentials. Lack of credentials is not indicative of ability to teach (see: Salman Khan) but it is an easy way out for a lot of girls only in college for their MRS. Some Christian colleges (Bob Jones, Arlington Baptist)do produce state certified teachers, some do not. I think the rest of your thoughts might explain why teachers take such a low salary, but don’t touch why a school might have to offer it. On the other hand, if you are a large ministry with a large school and the money to do it, you are a garbage human if you still pay your staff terrible wages. In a secular context like Walmart, I would say that it’s your choice to take what they offer and if you accept it it’s because you believe it is a better situation than your next best option. In this context, it’s a little different because the ones that do accept a substandard package typically have been taught to value the non-monetary benefits to such a high degree. No one gets taught from an early age and from the pulpit that working at Walmart is a high calling.

    1. Sharperiron.org has an article scheduled to publish tomorrow called “If Adam Smith ran a Christian School”. I’ve read it and it is interesting. It deals with consolidation as a way to spread fixed costs to enable the schools to be more efficient and better pay teachers.

      1. When I was in the IFB and cared, I would have loved to see consolidation. The problem is that each IFB is often run like a mini-fiefdom, with each pastor making up his own extra-Biblical rules. When you equate your own preferences with the Word of God, how can you cooperate with other churches that have different preferences? The culottes-wearing crowd, the anti-theater-attendance crowd, the KJV only supporters, the only-hymns-are-holy advocates — few of these people have the grace, humility, and wisdom to admit that their pet issues are areas in which good Christians can disagree. Instead they quibble over nonessentials, separating from each other and starting tiny little schools that can’t bring in enough to pay a decent wage to the staff.

        1. I think the same thing applies to churches as to the Christian schools.

        2. I don’t understand your post. I don’t know of ANY conservative Christians who endorse going to moving picture shows. Although, some of those other topics you mentioned may be up to an in-house debate. I know of some liberal Christians who think that going to picture shows is ok because Hollywood is now making much more quality pictures than they were 40 or 60 or more years ago and that smoking is now frowned upon and only engaged in by the bad characters in the movie. This may be something that conservatives will legitimately wrestle with in the years to come, as movies become better and better. I admit that I was reticent to agree to this, but our younger generations might find that going to picture shows is no longer a taboo subject, as long as Hollywood continues on this trend of better movies with good scripts and characterizations such as portraying smokers as degenerates.

        3. Wait a second…….Rob M is stacymcanderson??!!.11? Did I miss him admitting to it or getting caught? I need to know.

          On second thought, assuming stacy is a Poe, I don’t want her to go away.

        4. @ stacymcanderson :

          Picture shows? Really? PICTURE SHOWS?!

          I haven’t heard that term since my late grandmother (may she rest in peace) said it. Wow. If she were living she would be 107. Her husband, my grandfather, would be 115. Picture show?

          You are not who you are portraying yourself to be. You’re no “Stacy,” and I would venture to guess, no female either. I would say that you’re an old white guy who is simply bitter; bitter that his way of life is being threatened. Bitter that not everyone agrees with your pet doctrines and political positions. Bitter that there is a place where people are free to be themselves. Bitter that no one is hanging on every single little this or that you have to say. You, sir, must certainly be in the gall of all bitterness!

          Further, I would say with the utmost of confidence that you are a troll. I, therefore, shall ignore your advances from this point forward.



        5. It’s very difficult to take seriously any reprimands from someone with such an uncouth and crude moniker as “Big Red One.” That’s just as bad as that proctology guy; I don’t take anything he says seriously either. Get yourself a less ignoble name and perhaps we would have a sane conversation.

        6. C’mon Stacy! Can’t you make some kind of reference about him being a communist because of the “red” in his name? You’re just not on it today. ; )

        7. Well done Rob M errr… Stacymcanderson.


          Wait a second…….Rob M is stacymcanderson??!!.11? Did I miss him admitting to it or getting caught? I need to know.

          On second thought, assuming stacy is a Poe, I don’t want her to go away.

          Oh good grief! I go to work this AM same as usual, and come back to find out I’ve apparently got the reputation of being “stacy”. Believe me, she drives me as insane as the rest of everyone.

          There’s absolutely not credibility or intellectual rigor behind idiotic statements like “no conservative Christians endorse movies”. It’s preposterous on it’s face. Focus on the Family has a movie review for “family friendliness” ffs. I quibble with giving Dobson/Focus on the Family any credit, as their reviews are awful and vastly overstate “dangers” of all the reviews they do, but it’s entirely (1) disingenuous and (2) misleading to claim make this claim by “stacy”.

        8. @BJg There are very few people I know in Alabama, however 100% of the residents of Alabama that I do know would disassociate from all of “stacy”s comments faster than you can see “cheesy grits”. I think they would all feel insulted to be compared to “her”. lol

        9. It’s also extremely unclear if stacy is aware that it was communism that very instrumentally helped save the world from fascism. Amusingly enough stacy tends to line up with the fascists pointing her gnarled fingers at actual capitalists accusing them of being socialists & communists.

        10. You can’t expect fundamentalists or conservatives of limited mindset to keep these things straight. They all go into the “Bad! Bad!” category of words, with no other apparent meaning attached.

          There are conservatives of considerable intellect — or there were. Buckley was one. Interestingly enough, Buckley abandoned the Conservative framework a few years ago (which demonstrated his intellect!).

          I know. I have a lot of Conservative friends. But honestly, they do not have the mental chops to keep this sort of thing straight. They watch Fox Noise. They get hyper and repeat Limbaugh talking points. They are “good people” as far as they are concerned, but their social and political preferences are destructive. And yes, they are IFBers who, steeped in the movement, haven’t a clue as to why I had to leave. I try very hard to be kind and spare them from talking about it.

        11. rob and rtgmath,
          I have heard of people claiming that Hitler was a commie. Seriously.

          Stacy: Socialism. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. You think it is the worst.thing.ever.to.happen.on.the.face.of the.earth. It is nothing more than organizing some of the largest for profit industries so that the profit benefits the larger society. It is organizing a society to ensure that all members of that society are cared for. It doesn’t mean people can’t own businesses, work, or even become rich. I have relatives in Norway and some of them do quite well I believe. They have a wonderful quality of life. They are not sitting there eating a steady diet of government cheese and living in a van down by the river. They have great jobs, can travel, have lovely homes, beautiful cities, good schools. You would call Norway socialist I am sure because of some nationalized industries and high taxes on the wealthy.

        12. @B.R.O., I was sort of hoping that your moniker indicated that you’re a fan of antique Farmall tractors (all red, sometimes affectionately called “Big Red.”)

          I have a 46 Ford 2N that I hope to restore after retirement. But that, as they say, is way off topic.

        13. BJg, I love tractors almost as much as my youngest son. Farmall was a favorite of an old boss of mine in the HVAC business. I prefer Ford and John Deere.

          I know, I have no imagination.


      2. B.R.O., even if I were ignorant of military history, your old avatar would have made the reference obvious. (At least to me) My son wears a red taro leaf with a yellow lightning bolt on it. His division isn’t as old or storied as yours, but his base is way cooler than Kansas!

        1. Not to be pedantic, but just a friendly correction for you. The Army has posts. Other services have bases.

        2. Yep, Lady Semp, as usual, is correct. But there’s no use in straining at a gnat or swallowing a camel!


          UncleWilver, I think I need to rid myself of the frito bandito and return to The Big Red 1 avatar.

        3. The Frito Bandito is cool, to me. I had the official Bandito pencil topper/erasure back in the day.

          Lady Semp, it’s all cool. That is the kind of mistake I hate to make. I prefer being the one making correct statements. Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of ex Air Force employees. Hearing them speak of bases stuck in my mind, I guess. My grandpa, Major Harrington, would appreciate you correcting me also, were he still here.

    2. “Lack of credentials is not indicative of ability to teach.”

      Well, I am not so sure about that. Credentialing is important. Experience is important. I can see hiring an engineer without a teaching degree or a degree in mathematics to teach math to a certain level. But unless they worked extensively in a mathematics field, I would not hire an uncredentialed person to teach mathematics. Or science. Or history.

      I am not saying that every credentialed person can be a good teacher. That is obviously false. But generally speaking, there are too many people out there who think they know more than they do to trust unproven people with the education of children.

      1. Credentials aren’t really important for teachers. I like the 4th grade textbook published by BJU that said:

        “Electricity is a mystery. No one has ever observed it or heard it or felt it. We can see and hear and feel only what electricity does. We know that it makes light bulbs shine and irons heat up and telephones ring. But we cannot say what electricity itself is like.

        We cannot even say where electricity comes from. Some scientists think that the sun may be the source of most electricity. Others think that the movement of the earth produces some of it. All anyone knows is that electricity seems to be everywhere and that there are many ways to bring it forth.

        How would you have to change the way you get ready for school if you did not use electricity?

        ‘The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.’ Psalm 77:18”


        1. Calling that “appalling” is to utterly understate how terrible it is.

          Were they that bad, say, 30 years ago? Or is this a more recent capitulation to the anti-science crowd?

          I took a few science courses at BJU. The Biology series, Physical Science Survey, and Geology Survey. My memories of those courses was not of anything radically wrong (with the exception that the biology mantra was a disbelief in evolution). In the Geology Survey and Fundamentals of Geography. The evolutionary model was presented strongly in Geography, though the teacher noted the reason was that if we went to a University, we would need to understand the evolutionary model, not that we had to believe it.

          The way she taught it, I got the impression that she was comfortable with the evolutionary model!

          Of course, 30 years ago the Creationist movement was not completely integrated into the Fundamentalist framework. Creationism was, after all, a Seventh-Day-Adventist notion, and by peddling it sans denominational labels, they gained ground in traditional fundamentalism.

        2. I suspect that the 4th grade text in question was written by an elementary education major, not a science major.

      2. My [somewhat incidental] point is that credentials in any field only certify that an individual can regurgitate enough right answers to satisfy the testing organization. I think we all know this. It is a mistake then to look at a school and automatically label as good or bad based on credentials. I would expect that having an advanced degree would at least mean a broader familiarity, but even that falls short given the amount of information easily available to an auto-didact. I think each teacher should be judged on more specific criteria. It should also be clear that facility with a subject and the ability to teach it are on a sliding scale of importance relative to the level of the student. For a kindergartener, if you can count to 100, you have enough math knowledge and it is more important that you be able to communicate on their level. For an honors math class, it’s more important to have a high level of math expertise and not so much the communication aspect.

        1. “For a kindergartener, if you can count to 100, you have enough math knowledge and it is more important that you be able to communicate on their level.”

          I understand where you are coming from. But I still have to disagree.

          One cannot teach at the edge of their knowledge. It simply isn’t possible. With your criteria for the lower grades (which I admit is the criteria used by a lot of administrators), the results are always abysmal.

          I taught Mathematics for Elementary School Teachers at Clemson University for three years. The students in the classroom thought I was being too hard on them. I had them learning theory, being able to restate reasons in their own words. I taught them a fictitious number system from the ground up by having them experience it.

          I got several reports from the students that they were able to help children the ‘experienced’ teachers in the classroom were unable to help. My students learned the why, the how, and had experienced the same frustrations as their young students. And they recognized the thinking instead of just labeling it “wrong.”

          You cannot teach at the edge of your knowledge. You cannot possibly understand the varieties of thinking with which children approach problems if you barely know the material yourself.

          But because of a lack of understanding in the teaching and learning processes, we have horrible teachers communicating poorly to students who need someone with superior understanding and empathy. That is one major reason why our students perform so abysmally.

        2. Speaking up for those of us who are credentialed teachers (by a reputable university in the state I live in, not by FundyU), it is more than just subject matter. There is a great deal of methodology, how to best teach certain types of learners (based on age, special needs, English language learners), as well as working with children in our digital, multicultural society. As a 32-year veteran teacher, I take my credentialing seriously, and I am constantly working to keep current with the changes in education. I also had to learn to use technology in the classroom, which I do well, despite being a dinosaur who attended a high school where we had typing classes.

        3. Don’t get caught up in the details of my example. I was merely laying the ends of the spectrum. Do you really think it takes intimacy with calculus to teach someone to count? Also, don’t set up straw men. The options here are not an idiot teacher or a fantastic teacher. Even being a product of Basement College doesn’t mean you wouldn’t pass the state certification if they recognized your diploma and let you take the test. It just means you have to show it a different, and ultimately more worthwhile way. If you walk into a classroom and see learning going on with a great teacher and walk into another and see a terrible teacher, does it change your perception if the terrible teacher has the state seal and the other did not?
          My church has had a school in the past so I have wrestled with this question for a long time. How do you start and maintain a quality Christian school and pay the staff well? I had the worst of both worlds. My teachers were paid quite poorly and i had PACES from 5th grade until I graduated. Seriously, it’s a wonder I can tie my shoes.

  18. This is a great post, Darrell. A few thoughts:
    1) There is nothing wrong with working for a low wage in order to minister, given certain circumstances. For example, my pastor is “retired” but has pastored our little mission church for years for free. Of course, he has had a successful bi-vocational career and can afford it. I know another pastor who has a PhD and is frankly brilliant who was expected to accept a full professorship. Instead, he took a job in rural Kentucky for a very low wage. However, he is in a place financially where he can do that, and spoke with financial planners, etc. to make sure he understood what he was getting into and had a plan for success.

    2) For others, however, there are significant ethical issues to consider. For example, Paul writes that we are to work diligently with our own hands so that we don’t put upon “outsiders” for subsistence. There is biblical precedence for using wisdom, saving for the future, etc.

    3) There is a huge distinction between someone who accepts poverty to share the gospel in Vietnam, and someone who accepts poverty to be a secretary at a Christian School in South Carolina.

    4) It is a fundamental violation of the Christian ethic for staffers to be given subsistence wages while the pastor makes a (very good) salary, or nice new shiny toys are purchased or erected. Do you know how foolish and low-class you look if your secretary makes $24,000 a year, and your “ministry” has a water slide and rock climbing wall? It makes your values all to clear to a cynical world.

    5) Being a business person, I can’t help but add that if you are providing valuable goods or services, you should be able to hire competitively. We have several local (not fundy) churches which are able to pay their staffers quite well.

    1. 4) It is a fundamental violation of the Christian ethic for staffers to be given subsistence wages while the pastor makes a (very good) salary, or nice new shiny toys are purchased or erected.

      I sure saw that at my former Fundy church. Many staffers made less than 20% of the mannogid’s overblown salary.

      I guess it is good to be king.

      1. And that does not take into account the church’s (four digits left of the decimal) Christmas gift, car allowance, or housing allowance for the Mog either.

    2. 5) you can hire competitively if your competitors are on a level playing field. Good luck having a good enough product/service when your competitor’s product is almost completely subsidized. If parents had a choice to spend X dollars per year on a public school or the same number on a Christian school, the situation would be dramatically different. Status quo, no matter how cheap a Christian school is, anything above free is more expensive than a public school.

      1. Expense is not the issue, as any freshman level economics course could explain. We have four K-12 catholic schools in my county that are all doing quite well – and their teachers make more than their public school contemporaries.

        1. Yes, catholic schools seem to have the answer. I need to call someone and find out what there business model is.

  19. Wow… I worked for a church/christian school a few years back… Banked a lucrative $1000 a month… Worked 60-80 hours a week…

    Glad to be an ex-IFBer… Thankful for God’s grace…

    Some good, mislead folks there but glad to be gone…

  20. The fundy church I went to gave the pastor and the assistant a very decent salary. Not only were they given a nice salary they were given a housing allowance which paid for the housing, a gas allowance for them to go outside ministry, medical and dental. So the salary is pretty much used for food, shopping,and vacations every other Month. Mean while there are a lot of families that are struggling and even unemployed and yet they give from their unemployment. Not to mention they are in the process of building a new church building with a gymnasium.

  21. You hit the nail on the head with this post. I spent 25 years in the ministry and was in poverty the whole time. As I look back on it now, I blame myself. I put God, church, and the ministry before taking care of my wife and children and providing for our future.

    I thought, this is the way God wants me to live. See Jesus, I love you so much I am willing to be poor for the sake of the call. Funny thing is….our family was the only one living this way. While I was busy laying up treasures in heaven, church members were busy laying up treasures in the bank and their retirement program.

    I naively thought God and the church would be with me to the end. The Church moved on, I no longer believe in God, and now I am disabled relying on my wife to work to support our family. While I am sick enough to draw disability, I opted out of social,security decades ago thinking God and the church would take care of me.

    No sours grapes here. My choices, no matter how well intentioned, are what put me where I am today. When I talk with young preachers I advise them to put their family and personal financial welfare first. Quite frankly, I think most pastors should be bivocational. First, it helps them financially. Second, it forces them to work in the real world. By mixing it up in the secular world, they see that few people have the luxury to spend their time praying, reading the Bible, and reading John Piper’s latest book. (Many pastors are quite disconnected from how their parishoners live their lives)

    Bruce out. Back to my corner of the internet.

    Keep up the good work. I appreciate all you do.

    1. Bruce – i could not agree more with your comment about psators being bivocational. When my old IFB pastor of a smallish church (75 on Sundays) went to “full-time” ministry and quit his secular job, things went downhill. He changed as a person. He became mean behind the pulpit. Almost every sermon included a few minutes of how much more we should all be giving financially.
      A part time job is enough for a pastor to see how the rest of the worlds lives and would help him realize that the average person does not have the time to be a prayer warrior while running a bus route, youth minstry and Saturday morning door-knocking.

      1. I will say though that the church has to deeply change their expectations of their pastor if he’s bivocational.

        I know that when my husband took a second job, since it was for minimum wage, he had to work over 30 hours a week to make it worth it which, added to the church work, left him with no family time at all. Minimum wage jobs usually require you to work on the weekend so he’d work Saturday, do church work all day Sunday, and with the kids in school Monday to Friday, we had no time together. All the sacrifice of attending seminary, all the family time we gave up so he could get his M.Div., now stretches on before you perpetually as a lifetime choice.

        Truly, my husband didn’t need the “reality check”: he was already balanced and accommodating to his member’s needs. We never had a bus route or Thursday night visitation, for example.

        Going bivocational was horrible for our family.

        1. PW,

          Who cares about being bivocational? I think we really need to show our support for our bisexual pastors instead. That’s the real important issue.

        2. You might just have a point, Stacy. It might be located at the apex of your noggin, but you might just have a point.

        3. Dear stacymcanderson:

          On Darrell’s July 9, 2014 ‘VBS Promotions’ post at http://tinyurl.com/otep9mf , I outlined where your pattern of speech stands in contradiction of the teaching of Saint James the apostle and half-brother of our Lord.

          On that post, you made a statement. You reversed it. You sought middle ground in which to hide. You tried to narrow the application of your aspersions. You denied having any wrongful motives. And you insisted that you were dealing solely in matters of fact. You traverse the whole field seeking a place to stand, but you find none.

          The sole issue on which you must focus is your pattern of systematic dishonesty which is evidenced by your own hand.

          Again, please confess your wrongdoing to God, to Darrell, and to forum participants.

          Christian Socialist

    2. I think of that every time an evangelist who has never had a corporate job tells me how I need to be an outspoken witness to my coworkers. Many times they have almost no idea how to form relationships with people who didn’t already come to them with questions. It’s a different story when you have to befriend someone, care about them, be genuinely interested in them and then interest them in what you have to say.

    3. Dear Bruce Gerencser:

      Totally predictable typical and utterly evil, this is at once hilarious and heartbreaking. If the people do these things could see themselves as others … but what am I saying! My dog has a much capacity for such reflection. Thank you for dropping by, and please do so again from time to time.

      Christian Socialist

  22. Darrell wrote:
    “If you ever work for a ministry that tells you that if you just serve the Lord with them for 30 years that there will be a pension at the end to take care of you in your old age I advise you to smile politely and then walk away quickly. There is no retirement. There. is. no. retirement. There is, however, a pink slip with your name on it sealed in an envelope that says “to be opened when the employee is 65.”

    I thought I’d heard that Bob Jones Univ promised career professors that the university would take care of their needs in retirement. Does anyone know (1) If BJU ever said that and (2) If BJU kept its promise?

    1. I have known of a few professors who were given some kind of pension or support by the University after having retired. One of them is Dr. Gary Guthrie, the former dean of the Math Department. He was my all-time favorite teacher of mathematics. Great sense of humor, keen mind, asked open-ended questions philosophically, and kept his students on their toes.

      1. Simply unbelievable. I had heard BJU pay was low. That’s amazing though.

        1. LOL. I guess they wouldn’t be secret then, would they?

          Here’s one of mine, though it’s no secret to people in my real life: I love the song OTGDY. No one ever told me the price that I’d pay for things that I might have done.

      2. Good grief. I’m not sure how BJ can claim to be a Christian Bible Believing institution and have those kinds of immoral pay rates. Holy Cow.

  23. Let me add one more reason. The church may have all the staff they need, but once the MOG’s kids graduate from Fundy U and get married, they need jobs. There’s no better place for them to go than Daddy’s empire. Suddenly, the money that was just enough to pay a few people has to pay two more. Then a few years later, two more come along. And too bad for the church members who are just told the kids are coming because there isn’t a vote in fundy churches.

  24. A bible college grad was invited to go out west and work with a pastor there. When he asked how much he would be paid, he was told that the church couldn’t afford to pay him right now. The pastor then challenged him to come out and live by faith. To which he replied: “Why don’t you split your salary with me and we can both live by faith”. Needless to say, the pastor didn’t like the idea of living by faith himself.

  25. I am a Methodist pastor–so a master’s degree is for the most part necessary to be ordained. I have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. In my one church there were people who had been part of the baptist church now attending my church. It was a struggling church–they really could not afford an ordained pastor but wanted one for the prestige of having one. And that couple came to me and told me the baptist pastor they had gave back their entire check to the church as a tithe. Why am I not as spiritual as he was?

  26. I know a wonderful, high quality, certified, truly humble and sweet teacher who just retired (health issues) who along with her husband have given their life to Christian school ministry and they are UTTERLY SCREWED concerning retirement. I never saw a person pinch a penny so far. This is the same church that kept hounding us to give $400 to to help raise the money to purchase a luxury car for the pastor’s anniversary (immodest much?). And teachers who pushed for more ($ or perks) or less (fewer hours, less purchasing of basic supplies) are gone.

  27. If you’re in the ministry and you aren’t on TBN/Charismatic side, you aren’t in the money.

    However, there are some IFB pastors who’ve lived well above their means and will deny it. (Hyles/Schaap/Trieber/Jim Vineyard/Tom Vineyard/John Wilkerson/Tony Hutson).

  28. Our current IFB pastor knows how to stick it to up-tight deacons. At a former church/school, he was told to “live by faith” when he requested a pay raise to support his family. He then challenged the deacons to give him their salaries for a few months, and for them to live by faith. Needless to say, he got the raise he needed.

  29. After my wife received her M.Ed. at a certain FundyU, she was promptly hired at the associated elementary school to start their “basket weaving” program. She was absolutely treated horribly in many ways. It was the most godless environment I’d ever seen in a so-called “Christian” school. I will not elaborate here.

    What really ticks me off is that I didn’t leave this system as a result of our experience these many years ago. How could I have been so bloody stupid as to stay in fundyland thinking it all wasn’t like that?

    It started with my wife’s dean at the University which I shall not name here, the dishonorable guy who spoke with a thick european accent, who thought it his duty to berate his students (and others in public) in a manner in keeping with his “superior” heritage.

    Then the low pay (and I mean really, really low take home pay) at a school bereft of kindness and saturated with politics and personal grudges. I look back on those people with utter contempt and even pity. And to think I stayed in fundyland for another twenty years!

    I have not been exposed to all schools in all places. I only know that when I read comments in posts like this, it’s not as isolated as so many would like us to believe. It’s another man-made system with bible verses attached to keep those with weak consciences (vassals) serving under iron-fisted totalitarian rulers (lords) at a subsistence living.

    Their favorite verse? Hebrew 13:7 (KJV only of course, since many other good versions actually translate the text outside the 17th century Anglican political viewpoint)

    Health and peace to you all,


    1. Don’t kick yourself brother. A lot of us here at SFL stayed a helluva lot longer in fundyland than we should have. But only hindsight is 20/20. We did what we thought was right, what we thought was God’s will, at the time. But we were not the ones who manipulated others in the name of God.

      1. You’re right, BJg, we did do what we thought was right at the time…and so it was. Certainly the years spent since those early years weren’t in vain.


        1. My years in fundamentalism were not wasted. Since I was born into a fundamentalist family, I needed time to change. I do wish change had come more quickly! But it is what it is.

          The process of becoming who I am now included the hurts, the false starts, the hard lessons learned, the realization of the real destruction lies can effect in lives and belief structures. If I had not experienced the negative consequences, I would not be so against fundamentalism now.

          I know I thought I was doing God’s will — like the Pharisees thought they were doing! But thinking you are doing God’s will doesn’t mean you are actually doing God’s will. Fortunately, the experiences I gained were steadily moving my heart and mind away from the darkness of fundamentalism that I once had thought was “light.”

          As to how God will judge me, I have no idea. The changes from my early years to where I am now are dramatic ones. But at least I am out of that situation.

        2. Yes, rtgmath, “the process of becoming who I am now included the hurts, the false starts, the hard lessons learned, the realization of the real destruction lies can effect in lives and belief structures. If I had not experienced the negative consequences, I would not be so against fundamentalism now!” And you put it so well, in that this is exactly where I am and what I believe right now.



        3. Author Jane Catherine Lotter’s final advice to her children (published in her self-written obit) said:

          “And may you always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path.”

          A bit Taoist, but it’s been true for me.

  30. I knew many staff members when I was a student at HAC. Jack Hyles didn’t pay staff and faculty very much and so whenever they needed to buy anything, a car, washer and dryer, etc. They had to go to preacher for advice. So Jack, could pay these minions, a less than living wage, they would come and say, preacher my car has 240,000 miles on it and I don’t have the money for a new one. So Jack would buy them a car, washer and dryer, etc. and they would think he was their hero, when they should have had that money in their paycheck all along. I believe it was simply a tool to control people and also to use it to his advantage to be able to “give” them money when they needed it.

    1. So true; as the Scripture puts it “The borrower is servant to the lender”

  31. I seldom agree with SFL, but I am on the same page. There is a HUGE church I know of, and they have a school and large pastoral staff. I was broken hearted seeing one of their staff member wives using food stamps late at night so no one would see her. I think that’s messed up. I love them as brothers in Christ, but that’s flat out wrong and I don’t understand why this happens. I feel like some churches make the pastor CEO and he needs a full team to do the most basic stuff. Moreover, churches get too big and forget that they need to plant other churches.

    1. also, the Mormons (of all cults) will start a “church”, get to about 200 and then split to start another church. thats why they grow so fast.

    2. Yes, at our old church the staff was underpaid because the Mog wanted to have a bigger staff, thus showing off how his church had grown. It’s all about the numbers game, remember?

      Why should he pay 10 staff members something they could live on when he could pay 50 staff members a pittance. 50 staff members looks much more impressive than 10 to his Mog buddies. And who could tell how much the were paid? Staff were forbidden to talk about it and one set of armor-alled wheels looks just as shiny any other.

      It’s the same as with the IFB missions funding wackiness. Why fund 1 missionary family fully when you can give 50 missionary families $10 a month?

      Why was that poor staff lady paid so little? Because these Mog have been giving to increase their little kingdoms before men while sounding a trumpet before them, that they may have glory of men.

      1. Yea, missions can be pretty bad at a lot of churches. But I met a pastor who took on a missionary to Israel at almost full time money, it was pretty sweet. I like that better than 10 here, 10 there and hey, we have 800 missionaries.

  32. I believe the way my old IFB church operated was completely wrong. They had all of the problems listed above: underpaying staff, shrinking income (from CS students), and a terrible financial oligarchy. If we didn’t have my father’s secular job, our family would be screwed. My mother has been teaching at their school for around 10 years now (not counting all the countless non-school service hours), and I don’t think she has ever gotten a pay raise. Meanwhile, the school is funneling all their funding into making the school more “attractive” to students rather than give teachers a reasonable salary in the now. I heard they recently just bought a brand new computer lab (which my father formatted for free), a new(ish) greyhound bus, and spend money in countless other unnecessary places.

    What confuses me is how fundies are all about democracy and rule by the people, but as soon as they obtain their own little government (the church), they set up a system with a few in power while the common people pay their “taxes” (tithes) with little to no say in how it gets used (granted, it’s not much different in our federal government, but that’s because it is such a large system it would not be feasible). To mix up our forefather’s words: “tithing without representation is tyranny.” I’m just sick of people in power taking advantage of those below them to make a buck. It is proof of a corrupt system that needs to be ended.

  33. After graduating from HA”C,” I took a job at an extreme Fundy ACE school. The pay was a place to live, free lunches (lots of vegetables not much meat) on school days, the opportunity to buy extremely low priced food (no doubt the organization had received it for free), and I think $150.00 per month. Naturally there was no insurance of any kind. As far as the place to live goes, at one point I had to share a bedroom with a roommate not of my choosing. The church also reserved the right to inspect our living quarters without our permission, as far as I knew, any time they saw fit.

    1. Liutgard,

      Servicemen and women have access to military dentists and physicians and also receive life insurance. The base pay of even the lowest ranking military personnel was also a good deal higher than mine at that time. On the plus side, the folks running the ACE school didn’t have the authority to send any of us to some place like Iraq.

      On a slightly more serious note, in addition to horrible pay, the place was a low respect/low trust (in my opinion) environment. I never felt farther from God than during my time there and in spite of trying to help the students academically, I don’t believe I did a single thing that had any spiritual value.

  34. Some blather and free opinions:

    There was a Viet Nam veteran who was a senior drill instructor and also a born again Christian. This man was absolutely certain that God wanted him to, “teach young men discipline.” Those who met him would find no reason to doubt that claim. One reason that this is worth mentioning is that many fundy Mogs do not recognize any Divine calling that leads one to become something other than a pastor, evangelist, or missionary. To men such as this, the office workers and school teachers beneath him are not co-laborers and fellow servants of God. The church secretary is just a woman who works for the church because she can’t find anything better.The high school teacher is just a guy who couldn’t cut it as a preacher.Throw in some anti-intellectualism,and selfishness (more money for the staff, less money potentially available for the pastor), and it would be easy to see why a man would not work too hard to ensure a better paycheck for people he doesn’t really respect all that much doing jobs he doesn’t really respect all that much.

    Regarding Isolation: There was a woman who was a good elementary school teacher who was interested in
    possibly becoming a public school teacher. Unfortunately, her degree was from a Fundy U and she was pretty much trapped in the Christian school. She almost certainly enrolled in that institution with the best of intentions, but later on she was left with few options with regards to employment.

    Regarding Delayed Gratification: There was a widow with children to support who worked for a church. She lived in a home built by a charitable organization and she went to the pastor to ask for a pay increase because she was struggling financially. Essentially he told her to be content with her wages. Often in churches those who are most lightly esteemed are expected to make the greatest sacrifices. “Suffering for Jesus” is for the “little people.”

    There was a Christian School that had a first rate group of teachers and on at least one occasion, the school turned a profit. Instead of that extra money going to the teachers in the form of bonuses or being used to improve the school, the money was pumped into the church.

    There was a Christian School on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska that (in the first half of the nineties) paid first year teachers with a bachelors degree in the very low 20’s maybe. That school was supported by multiple churches. Jack Hyles taught and presumably believed something he referred to as, “Divine Perpetuity.” As I understand it, that doctrine taught that any organization that was not a part of the ministry of a local church was foreordained to ultimately becoming corrupted. For those preachers who bought into that teaching, participating with other churches to run a school, as was done in Alaska, would have been out of the question.

    Finally when Fundamentalist churches help set their pay scale by comparing their workers’ salaries to those of other Fundamentalist churches, they may come to mistaken conclusions about the fairness of their employment compensation packages. For example, compared to actually wicked and disgraceful, they may think they are doing right by their workers when they pay them wages that are merely very low.

    That’s more than enough.

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