It used to be that being a pastor was synonymous with being poor. This changed at some point with televangelism or something. I don’t know. I just know it changed.
Pastors became celebrities and churches began competing with Business for larger buildings and programs. As churches grew; so did pastors’ salaries. (One might cynically conclude the desire for a larger church is actually a desire for a larger salary. But only very bad, cynical people would actually state that opinion publically.)
While many pastors are making a comfortable living, there are many who struggle to get by.
I’d be one of those pastors.
It’s cute and easy to tell me how to grow my church and be like those famous pastors with large churches and salaries, but no. It doesn’t work in towns in rural America. I can Saddleback on that Church Growth horse all day and it aint happening. I would also feel like a complete sellout that is close to shipwrecking his faith if I did that.
Over the years I have supplemented my income in several ways. I’ve worked as housekeeping in local resorts. I’ve done grounds crew for a millionaire’s home. I do some writing. I flip things on the internet. None of these things has made me rich, but they’ve all gotten my family and I through to this point. My wife has also taken part in such things and now that our kids are out of the house, she works part-time. She’s struggled along at my side the whole time too. My kids were all employed at young ages as well. It was a family effort.
Some pastors build a ministry around their name. Others pick up every spare funeral or wedding. Others speak at camps and conferences, selling their products at the table in back and a freewill offering. I can’t bring myself to do these things. That’s fine if you can; I just can’t. I don’t know why. I just can’t.
I prefer to make extra money in a way that does not leverage the Gospel any further than I already am. Again, I don’t know why, that’s just the way I am.
As I’ve struggled along financially, I’ve also gotten very good at managing the money I do have. I’m probably in a better financial position than many who make way more money than I do. I buy within my means. I avoid debt. I avoid monthly expenses that slowly drip away money.
I’ve also gotten good at asking for help and receiving help. Many people have stepped up to help us over the years and I greatly appreciate this. This has also made me more generous. Knowing how helpful it is to get help makes me want to help others.
I’m also a firm believer in the words of Jesus Christ that if you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things will be added unto you. They have been. That’s all I can say. I don’t know how.
I’ve been told by everyone who knows how little I make or when I have to take another pay cut (although most people have no idea), “You just gotta have faith.” It’s annoying to have rich people tell you that. I’ve heard it many times. I nod my head. But it’s not the advice I’d give other pastors who are struggling financially.
I’d say: Be faithful to the Word of God and your calling. Give. Seek righteousness. Be smart with your money–don’t buy stuff. If you don’t buy stuff, you don’t have to make much money! Give. Pray. Be patient. Watch the Lord provide. Work. Give. Hang in there. You’re not alone; I know your struggles. This is all teaching you to be like Christ. It bears some fantastic fruit if you let it. Lay hold on eternal life. Put your treasure in heaven. Preach the Word. Give.