When our Association Committee reviewed our staff salary packages, we asked the question, “How should staff pay compare to other salaries?”
When we looked to the Bible, we found a bunch of passages that gave us some good principles which we could apply to staff salaries. There are also some places where ministry staff pay is discussed directly. Looking at some of these, there are three main conclusions we established.
1. It’s a job, just like everyone else’s job
When Paul writes to Timothy he tells him that:
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
By Double Honour, he is referring to the honour of the position as well as financial remuneration. You can’t expect an ox to work without its food, and nor can we expect a HBC staff worker to go without fair pay. In fact, our staff are in a honourable position, which you’d think would typically attract an honourable pay packet. Some people might be tempted on occasion to think that Ministry Workers should be poor, or at the very least, shouldn’t get paid more than “me”. Perhaps this misconception comes from the fact that so many people volunteer for ministry work. But Paul pretty much slams that here, as does Jesus when he said it to the 72 disciples. Nowhere does Paul (or Jesus) say that the worker is worth a poor wage.
2. It’s up to the church family to generate the money to pay our staff
In Galatians, it’s made very clear:
the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
And it’s not out of obligation that we pay our staff, but out of love that we share all good things. We don’t hold back; we want others to have what we have. But what about those of us that don’t earn much? How can I be expected to give towards staff that earn more than I do? It’s important here to not confuse church with a charity. With charitable giving we give to people who earn less than us because they are in some way worse off than we are and we want to demonstrate compassion and justice. But church is not a charity – we give because we want to have people in our church who can teach us and lead us. Our staff are incredibly wise and skilful people – in most cases they have two or more degrees and bunch of other training. We give to them out of love and appreciation rather than pity or compassion.
3. We don’t want money to be a burden, because we want staff to love their jobs
And we can see the underlying principle here in Hebrews, where the writer tells them:
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
And Paul encourages the Thessalonians…
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
You might argue that we should just cover their needs. Some churches take that approach, and indeed Paul took that approach for himself. But it’s not a Biblical expectation for all churches. As Paul instructed Timothy earlier – the staff SHOULD be paid. And we see here in Hebrews and 1Thessalonians that we should be caring for our leaders and making sure they are not burdened, and of course financial pressure can be a massive burden, leading to:
- Negative impact on spouse relationship
- Impact staff kids’ view of the church
- Resentment – “I’m busting a gut, but struggling to make ends meet for these people who (financially) don’t seem to care.”
To be free from burden means that our staff should not have to forego the many things that we enjoy. We could argue that they have the same ‘needs’ as you and I – including the need for safe and comfortable housing, family health care and education, recreation, and so on.
Therefore; staff salaries should be:
- Comparable, according to the work they do
- Provided by us – the church
- Tending on the side of “more than they need” (rather than “less than they need”)
Tomorrow… What should they compare to?