Jobs With More Stress Than the Pay Justifies: Preacher and Worship Minister

According to a survey by CNN Money, of the 10 jobs that carry the most stress for the pay received, 2 are found in the ministry professions —

5. Music Ministry Director

Median pay: $40,800
% who say their job is stressful: 67%

You may not think of people who plan, direct and conduct performances for religious services as being under a particularly high amount of stress. But they also choose the appropriate psalm or hymn for every wedding and funeral — only some of the most important events in a family’s life. And those stressful situations can create some demanding clients.

“Every now and then you’ll get a strange request,” said Dan Fenn, Music Ministry Director at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield, Minn. “A couple of years ago I got a request to play the Beer Barrel Polka at a funeral. You have to ask yourself, is this appropriate for a worship service?”

And coming in at number 10 —


10. Minister

Median pay: $45,300
% who say their job is stressful: 71%

They may answer to a higher calling, but all that spirituality does not come stress free. It’s a lot of responsibility being an authority on morality. Leading religious worship every week and providing spiritual and moral guidance can be a heavy cross to bear for those in the ministry.

“People who are deathly sick, people with substance abuse problems, things of that nature, that can be emotionally draining,” said Father Dan Skvir of Princeton, N.J. “I’ve had calls at 2 or 3 in the morning to come and attend to someone, people in imminent danger of death.”

Now, I’ve never been in either position, so I have no opinion (he says not wanting to give offense to current staff members). I just figure it has to be better in the Churches of Christ where the ministers get to wear regular clothes.

[PS — Bob, professional fundraiser comes in at 7! Marcus, college professor is number 3 on the paid-well-for-little-stress list.]


15 Responses

  1. My mom had a cousin who couldn’t handle the pressure of being a CofC preacher.

    He became an air traffic controller.


    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. If their matrix is pay vs. stress, then in the Church of Christ the two would’ve ranked higher on the list. The CofC median pay is below average.

    (not a complaint, but a reality)

  3. Tim,

    LOL. Really.

  4. Tim – Yikes!

  5. It must be stressful worrying which musical instrument to use. 🙂

  6. We once in our business meeting agreed to have our full time preacher keep an hourly time clock form for a month like so many of us did in our jobs. Would any of you be so bold as to ask for that today or agree to do it if asked???

    He visited the hospital twice, so did most of us, as the person sick was our friend as well as our brother.
    He preached twice on Sundays and didn’t teach on Wednesday as one of us taught on Wednesdays.

    The rest of the time was marked as time spent in study.
    Heck, those of us that taught classes studied for our classes too but did it after working a full shift.

    We let him go and started having great old retired preachers and those young ones gettting started come and it helped them, delighted some, and cost us far less.

    No, I don’t think that any preacher should make a salary above the average member where he preaches.

    There are some that should be paid double that work hard.

    Most though don’t do much and have side businesses selling something and its a gravy job for them.

  7. John,

    I think you hit the nail on the head. I think far too many churches pay a preacher and then expect him to do the things we should all be doing. All bible teachers should be engaged in bible study and congregations should be developing teachers beyond their preacher. Everyone should be involved in ministry to the sick and others in need.

    However, I don’t think we should eliminate paid ministry staff. I think we need to be creative and think outside the box as to what our ministry staff should be doing. Just a couple of ideas that jump off my head. Ministry staff should be far more invovled in training members to study and become teachers and ministry staff should act as faciliators to get more people involved in individual ministry. The congregations I have been involved with have needed this type of leadership far more than simply having a guy willing to preach 40 minutes a week and teach bible classes.

  8. Jay,

    Things may be different at your congregation, but plenty of CoC’s expect their preachers to be “in uniform.” i’ve preached sermons i thought i worked hard on only to have an someone at the end say nothing about it, but sharply ask mere where my coat was or where my tie was or why i didn’t wear a nicer suit than i had. i led singing for a small church in DFW for a few months and they had no comment on my singing but handed me a check to go buy a suit. Just because CoC’s don’t expect ministers to wear frocks or robes doesn’t mean they don’t believe in “priestly garb.” i mean, really, who are we kidding? Despite what we say, our actions reveal that we believe in a clergy/laity distinction every bit as much as any other denomination.


  9. Guy, my wife and I had the same thoughts as we read the post ie. uniforms.

    John, if that was his idea of ministry, the problem is ministers, but that minister. That’s less than many I know do on their “day off”. But then, I’m in the NE where coasting like that is SO not an option.

  10. One observation is that in the big, large numbers of members Churches of Christ they always seem to require their preacher to work hard.

    I know of one in my area that is a go getter and has been for many years and that’s Jerry Jenking. He earns whatever he’s paid.

    Come to think about it, maybe the hardworking preacher came first before the large number of members did.

    Food for thought?

  11. Yep. Real growth (not just the swelling that comes to some Bible Belt churches when disgruntled shift happens…been there, seen that) takes lots of sowing and reaping. That doesn’t happen when the minister sees his job as hiding in office with a commentary (though healthy study time is requisite, don’t get me wrong). Fortunately, I’ve known quite a few hard workers in my time in ministry. Interestingly, most of them don’t have names on the Christian bookstore shelves or spend their time on the speaking circuits (though I know of couple of those guys that earn their keep and then some, too).

  12. Now that i’ve been out of ministry a few years, i’ve wondered if having full-time paid ministers coddles people who prefer to be passive participants in Christianity. i go to a congregation with lots of great people, but several people (in leadership positions) seem to think the answer to every problem is to hire yet another staff members. What might motivate people to see *themselves* as the answer to various service needs rather than hiring another professional? Maybe a different view of what a preacher is supposed to do with his time. i don’t know.


  13. Out preacher tossed his tie two years ago. And this year . . . he tossed his jacket. And the sermons are getting better! I think he is able to think more clearly . . . you know . . . more oxygen to the brain kind a thing. Who says we are a denomination? Get real my friend. Don’t paint us in a corner.

  14. Guy,

    The uniform requirement for our preachers is true enough (that part of the Franchise Agreement is repealed at my church), but at least we don’t make them wear girlie frocks like that poor worship minister in the picture. That would send me straight to suicide!

  15. Jay,

    Fair enough. Nevertheless, i think by and large we are every bit as image-obsessed about our ministers as any other religious group is about their clergy. A mistake in my judgment.


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