Clergy & Laity: And he wants Mondays off?! you want to hear some strong opinions from elders, don’t ask about instrumental music or speaking in tongues; ask about the preacher’s weekday day off.

It’s becoming customary for ministers to expect a day off during the Monday through Friday work week. The premise is that Sunday is essentially a workday for many of them. They have to be at the building early, meet and greet, preach a sermon, perhaps teach a class, and come back on Sunday night for a second sermon.

Teen ministers don’t have to preach either time, of course, but they have to be “on” during, before, and after the services, teach a class, and often have teen events after Sunday night church.

In addition, the ministers often have nightime events, weddings, funerals, and emergencies in the evenings and weekends. Some receive a constant flow of phone calls at night.

I’m inclined to concede that ministers often need more time off than Saturdays and Sunday afternoon. But there’s a counter argument.

Some ministers spend Sunday afternoons working the phone, calling visitors, visiting in the hospitals, and make Sunday into a full workday. Some take naps, watch football, and minister at churches that have no Sunday night service at all.

Some have to lead a small group instead of preach, but in that case, they aren’t doing anything that dozens of other members aren’t also doing — and not being paid for.

To me, the fair comparison is to a member making the same wages as the preacher in a professional sort of job. If the preacher’s making $60,000, who in your church has a white collar job that pays the same? A junior CPA maybe? A middle manager in business? An engineer?

Now ask how many hours that person has to put in, including attending political fund raisers, “volunteering” at the Chamber to generate business, traveling on audits or jobs or trials, etc.? Now add in the time a moderately active church member commits to preparing a children’s class or adult class or small group and such like. And that’s what I figure a minister at that pay level ought to commit to the church to be fair.

(I’ve never suggested that a minister should match my own work ethic — just that of a typically active volunteer in their ministry who holds down a job making their kind of money.)

I’m not sure any minister agrees with me. I’m not asking them to match the work ethic of the most devoted, most church-obsessed members. Or the most type-A professional. Or an empty nester. Just work as hard as someone of similar age, similar job, similar family responsibilities for similar pay.

But whenever I speak in these terms, I get in all sorts of trouble. And so one day I called a friend who is the executive pastor at a large Baptist Church. I explained the conundrum and asked how to handle it. You see, he hires, supervises, and when need be, fires the age-group and worship pastors in his church.

He smiled, nodded knowingly (he’s very good at this), and said, “In each line of work, there are different expectations. If in your denomination the pastors, I mean, “ministers” expect to get a day off (and they do in my church as well), you can’t refuse. Rather, just take it into account in setting their compensation.

And so that would mean I look at fair pay taking into account the hours the minister is willing to work — “fair” being defined in part by how similarly situated ministers in other churches are paid and in part by the financial wherewithal of my congregation — but taking into account the day off somehow or other.

Now, the “somehow or other” is tough because of the accountability issue we considered in the last post of this series. If the minister won’t keep up with his time, how do I know whether to pay him like a 40+ hour professional or a 36-hour-and-no-more employee?


Blue or white collar, most Americans work more than 40 hours a week at their jobs. According to Business Week,

More than 31% of college-educated male workers are regularly logging 50 or more hours a week at work, up from 22% in 1980.

A 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey shows that working parents on average work more than a 40-hour week, and includes public and private employees.

Time use on an average work day for  employed persons ages 25 to 54 with children

So, I’m just saying that the average church-going adult works over 40 hours per week, often endures a long commute, attends church, Bible class, small group, Wednesday night, and prepares a lesson for a class or otherwise volunteers. That’s a lot of hours. Let’s see —

* 44 hours work (8.8 hours x 5 days)

* 2 hours Sunday morning worship and class

* 1 hour Wednesday night

* 2 hours small group

* 3 hours preparing to teach the 3-year olds

That’s 52 hours, assuming no more commute than the minister.

According to LifeWay Research, most pastors work far more than 40 hours per week.

Protestant pastors in America are working long hours, sometimes at the expense of relationships with church members, prospects, family and even the Lord.

A telephone survey of more than 1,000 senior pastors indicated a full 65 percent of them work 50 or more hours a week – with 8 percent saying they work 70 or more hours. …

When factoring out those who are not full time, the median number of hours full-time senior pastors work for their churches each week is 55 hours, with 42 percent working 60 or more hours.

I find those numbers entirely credible. I do. I just don’t see how you can take Mondays and Saturdays off, work 55 hours a week spread over 5 days (one of which is a Sunday), and not burn out. The occasional 11-hour day is the nature of life. Regular 11-hour days would be brutal. I figure that means many ministers are either not taking a weekday off or else are working on their weekdays off. In fact, I know some who do just that.

And I concede that there is a real difference between attending church and leading worship or preaching at church. It’s easier to just attend. But, of course, many who “just attend” are wrestling children in the pews, teaching hour-long classes, coping with screaming babies, putting on puppet shows, running the PowerPoint, or otherwise doing very hard work during church. The preacher isn’t the only one working or stressed during the service.

For discussion

And so, dear readers, what do you think? How many hours is a fair congregational expectation, assuming the minister is being paid about the same as the similarly employed members of the church. (If you’re underpaying him, no fair asking him to work as hard as you do. He didn’t take a vow of poverty.)

And at what point are ministers at risk of burn out? It’s entirely legitimate for ministers to want to spend time with wife and children and have hobbies and, you know, a life outside work. Even if you love your job and pursue it with Spirit-infused passion, you still need some time away. And sometimes the elders need to urge a minister to delegate or just do less. What’s right and fair?

There are many causes of burn out, but for now, I’m thinking purely of the working-too-many-hours kind.


Of course, another way of looking at all this is to ask whether we’re asking too much of our members. Are we?


Another way of looking at this — and I know some elders and ministers who work this way — is the elders and ministers expect the minister to work a 40-hour week, or somewhat more, but not a lot. BUT they also expect the minister to volunteer just like a member — but his volunteer work is as a member, not a minister, so he’s not as “on” or responsible as, you know, “the preacher.”

The idea is that the minister should be as involved in church work as the rest of us mensches, that is, after he’s done his “regular” job, he then volunteers in some area outside his official ministerial capacity — allowing him to serve just as the members do and allowing him to get out of the ministerial silo.

And there is a certain appeal to seeing the preacher of a 300-member church volunteering for the grass cutting team, not because it’s his job, but because it’s not his job.

So it’s an idea — but an idea that’s not possible unless the minister’s work load in his “official” capacity allows it, which is often not the case.


Yes, of course, you could just pay the minister for “results,” but do you really want to pay him based baptisms? or membership growth? or contributions? And if not, then how do you measure the spiritual growth and maturity of the church? And how much of it do you credit to the preacher? Sometimes it’s from the Bible class teachers. Or the elders. Or the Holy Spirit. How do you measure the preacher’s contribution if you don’t know how he spends his time?

Now, I believe in paying ministers and in paying them fairly. They do very important work in the Kingdom and should be compensated for their time, energy, and sacrifice. It’s immoral to try to squeeze them for the last nickel.

I personally try to err on the side of generosity — to the extent the church has the resources. I just want to be fair to the church and Jesus as well. And it’s a very difficult thing to do in today’s world.


44 Responses

  1. We that are of the working world get two days off together so I suggest the preacher also get two off together.

    Saturday would be out as its used to refresh and prepare for preaching on Sunday and so is Tuesday and Wednesday needed to prepare for Wednesday nights lesson.

    That only leaves Monday, Thursday and Friday so, if we want him to have two together, it is simple. Its got to be Thursday and Friday.

    Thurday and Friday off each week.

    I vote for those two from my reasoning!

  2. I don’t think of ministry as a “job” in the same sense as being a bank manager or a UPS Delivery person. Sure ministry is a job but more importantly, it is a calling. Within that calling, there are certain tasks that must be completed regardless of whether I have that day as an “off day.” Yes I understand about not sacrificing family, etc… in order to chase after every little “ministry” thing in the church. But if I happen to be on “off time” whether that is a Monday morning, Thursday evening, or else and say someone who has been visiting the church for a while calls me wanting to meet to learn more about Jesus, the gospel, baptism, etc… or someone calls and says that their spouse has just been rushed to the emergency room in cardiac arrest, am I going to say “sorry, can’t come, I’m not on the clock right now”?

    I think ministry is one of those vocations where it will become apparent over time whether the minister is a hard-worker or a slacker.

    Grace and peace,


  3. Many ministers teach a Bible class or two each week. In larger congregations, some members teach a Bible class or two each week – for no pay.

    . Should teaching a Bible class be part of the minister’s pay? In one respect, I answer no.

    . Should the minister study for a Bible class during his paid hours? In one respect, I answer no.

    I think that this leads us back to the issue of who in a congregation has Bible knowledge and should teach Bible classes and how many Bible classes should we be having?

    I have been a part of small rural congregations where the minister was the only one with the Bible knowledge able to teach a Bible class. That situation is different from a suburban congregation with many highly educated members.

  4. Rex, we are all called to be ministers, we are not all preachers, ministry, is a way of life, preaching is a vocation.

  5. Jay

    Meet and Greet. Come on. How many ministers do you see as a part of the greeters?


  6. Question – do we view being a minister more like being a teacher or being a counselor? Is the minister one who primarily imparts information or one who primarily engages relationally/emotionally/spiritually?

    I’m in the counselor camp, so I would look at the work habits of counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc for a better comparison than lawyers, mangers, etc.

    Said another way, there should be an extreme spiritual, psychological, and emotional cost to being a minister (or counselor, or social worker, etc) that is quite different from the cost of being a lawyer, manager, consultant, etc, at least if you are with me in the primary role of the minister as a counselor instead of a teacher. Those who work in the emotional fields need more and contiguous time off in order to recover spiritually – which takes longer to recover from than intellectual exhaustion, which takes longer to recover than physical exhaustion.

    So, if you expect your minister to be a grounds keeper, he can work a lot more hours than if he is a teacher. If you expect your minister to be a teacher, he can work a lot more hours than if he is a counselor. If you expect your minister to be a counselor, he must have significant and contiguous time off.

    With Jesus as the model (primarily counselor, not teacher or laborer), we should expect our ministers, like Jesus, to take significant time off, to retreat on their own regularly, to spend lots of time away from the flock. That way, like Jesus, they stay both connected to the source of their energy (God the Father), and become refreshed in spirit thereby enabling them to engage with their flock in an emotionally and spiritually honest way.

    Jesus was accused of being lazy, of eating and drinking too much, of spending too much time away from his “core constituency”. Maybe our ministers need to be a little more like Jesus in that regard?

  7. Laymond,

    Your splitting hairs again…pshh.

  8. Another reason I feel a preacher should get Friday off is a lot of weddings are done on Friday night. Its an additional and separate job and so he gets paid for doing it and it doesn’t have anything to do with what the Church pays him. Its a service he’s requested to perform .

    A preacherame as any of us working two jobs.

    Funerals performed should be charged for, paid and considered an extra income if they fall on his two off days, but not if its held on a work day.

    How much to, pay for weddings and funerals on off days?

    We, by law, get time and a half for working off days so it should be at least that much.

  9. I have been at this for over a decade. I have always tried to observe Monday as a “day off.” But it is more of a “Sabbath” than anything else. It is my principal fast day, my do next to nothing day, my “try to push the 1,000 screaming things a preacher/minister/pastor has in his head away” day.

    I would also like to highlight that last bit. A landscaper puts in his 50 hours, goes home and becomes something/someone else. The average white collar worker does the same. The minister is one of those who always bears the “burden of the churches.” There really is no “day off.” Just a day where time is structured differently and where the congregation knows to call me only if it is really important.

  10. Jay,

    I find it almost laughable the way we expect some folks to be tireless servants who make themselves available 24/7 when relatively few of the congregation they serve will ever be on call for such duty. And we lament the demands on the lives of parents who are police officers or firefighters or military, noting the pinch that puts on their family lives, but fail to note the same demands we almost eagerly expect to be able to place upon preachers and others employed by the congregation.

    And while I am sure there are actually preachers around who are paid more than $60,000/yr + benefits, I am also quite sure that for every one of those there are at least five others who receive less than $40,000/yr including benefits.

    We seem ready enough to compare the Sunday School and Wednesday Bible Study teaching to that of other members who also teach classes, but do we consider the differences in the way we view their families from the way we view the family of the preacher? The preacher is supposed to model a better standard of parenting and time management and neighborliness and so on, reflected at every turn in the way his family conducts itself. And who can tell of a place today where the critical examination of the elders’ families are as well documented by commentary in the vestibule/foyer as is that of the preacher’s kids? What do we pay preachers for that, if it is the fact of their being paid that makes all the difference?

    Of course, the taboo truth of the matter is that we are paying the preacher to take up the slack in our learning of God and our learning to be good parents – and NOT to learn of God and be good parents to their own families. They should learn of God and be good parents, of course, but we do not pay them for that, right? So how is it then that we think their pay entitles us to judge them for their families when we would be offended to be judged similarly for our own at our next job interview? And yet we are just fine doing our time as a Sunday School teacher, knowing volunteers are seldom ever judged for the way they teach their families at home. Is the standard for ALL who teach our kids (including our kids’ parents) or just for those who get paid as preachers?

    Frankly, Jay, the only scrap of encouragement I got from this post was when you said you considered 55 hours in 5 days of work to be a bit much. I say scrap of encouragement because I find it more than a little amazing to think that anyone in a leadership role has any delusions/illusions about preachers getting 2 days off each week. I have not even met a part-time, volunteer, unpaid, retired preacher who gets 2 days off per week on any kind of regular basis. Some (or is it many?) struggle to get just one full day off each week when someone else will be ‘on call’ when the church phone rings. Then again, I have also not met a preacher in the churches of Christ who got paid more than $60,000/yr (even with benefits included) by any congregation north of the Mason-Dixon line. Still, I have only known the salaries of a couple hundred or so in the upper Midwest (IL, MO, IA, NE, IN, and MI), so maybe that is a regional thing.

    I would have hoped this kind of an approach to preacher employment was a thing of the past, but perhaps I was too unrealistic in that hope. I know we claim we do not want to run the church as a business, but I also know that when it comes down to paying salaries, we seldom adopt anything other than a buiness mentality in the way it is approached. So are we going to hang with the unofficial business mentality or are we going to make a real effort to find another way? Ahh…the $64.000 question.

    Preachers should be accountable, just like any other leaders, paid or unpaid, among the Lord’s people. Finding measurable goals and standards by which to measure their employment is evidently NOT something many in the churches of Christ are either willing to talk about or willing to come to agreement on. So why not ask what standards and measures we can use? And why not also ask ourselves honestly how we are willing to have our own lives (and families) assessed in relation to a job (preaching is not play) that we choose as a profession. This is not impossible, but it most certainly is thinking that most congregation members are NOT familiar with doing.

    With hope for a better way,


  11. Jay (and others),

    Thanks for this series. It puts into clear perspective the reasons why I can’t (and won’t) pursue employment as a “minister” of any kind.

    Rex, I used to think I was “called.” But just reading the way that both sides of this discussion monetize the spiritual life of those who would seek to serve the church is nauseating. Does my distaste for the “business side” of church work negate my “calling”?

  12. Grizz,

    Great post. You nailed my own sentiments and frustrations.

  13. A couple of things I’ve heard:
    (1) Ministers should expect to work at least a 55 hour week. Any other member should be expected to put in 15 hours per week to the church, so that time should be added to the normal 40 hours.
    (2) One reason ministers need another day off is that, unlike other church members, they are expected to be at church on Sunday as part of their job. If other members need to take off for mom’s anniversary, kids’ softball, whatever, they can do it without major ramifications. Ministers are expected to be at church on Sunday, unless it’s taken as vacation time.

    As you’ve pointed out, so much comes down to the individual. Some will by nature tend to overwork, and these will need to be encouraged to take time off. Some will underwork by nature and will need to be encouraged to do their job.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  14. Aaron,

    I too have a disdain for the “business” aspect of congregational ministry but I don’t think that negates my calling into such ministry. I just see the business aspect as something (a necessary evil?) to be minized, remembering the my calling is about the gospel and people…not a business.

    Grace and peace,


  15. Jay;

    I have known many worthless and lazy preachers. That said, we cannot quantify the work of the evangelist the same way we do the worker on an assembly line.

    Last night I worked on theological studies until 3 AM. Spending the day in the office fielding questions from church members (when DOES that ladies class meet?) I will leave at 5 PM to drive to Nashville, to spend the long weekend on vacation. Wait, vacation? I will spend at least 12 hours over the weekend in meetings with various church leaders.

    For the next four weeks, every day is filled with church work. I will take our teenagers on a mission trip and conduct a week of church camp both 24/7 activities.

    According to my calendar, I do have July 4 off, but even then I will be engaged in some work for the church.

    I look at what a school teacher with a master’s would make after 30 years of tenure (which is where I am) and I am amazed. School teachers have more days off in a year than they work. And after 25 years most school teachers are able to retire with very comfortable pensions.

    Just to say, Jay, before you start putting your preacher on the punch card to record his time, are you ready to call him at 5:01 in the afternoon with a prayer request and to be told “sorry, I’m off the clock.”


  16. adam, you said: “Those who work in the emotional fields need more and contiguous time off in order to recover spiritually – which takes longer to recover from than intellectual exhaustion, which takes longer to recover than physical exhaustion.”

    is that true? i mean proven? because i’ve never been a professional counselor, though i’ve counseled as a minister. i’ve been in paid ministry. i’ve been school teacher. i’ve been a soccer and running coach. i’m currently a missionary. and i’ve done several types of manual labor.

    it took longer to recover from landscaping than any other job i’ve had. and i’m not an out-of-shape guy who shouldn’t be holding a weed-eater or using a shovel.

  17. i’ll probably not be popular for this, but i’ll bring it all the same. there’s been some mention that, in many cases, preachers are being asked to do what all christians should be doing but are unwilling. does anyone think the answer might be to back away a few steps from this paying full-time preachers bit? maybe we ask each member to use his/her spiritual gifts in order to mature the church. and the guy who’s really gifted at teaching and/or leadership (etc) might be asked to work a little more than others — and be paid for this extra time. so i’m thinking quarter- or half-time or something.

    because we keep talking about how the preacher should do what a regular member does, plus his duties. what if everyone just did their duties? hey, i’m just asking…

  18. “Meet and Greet. Come on. How many ministers do you see as a part of the greeters?”

    At least ONE. To me that’s a part of the role of minister. I think we could sum this whole conversation up really quickly by just asking the guy who was in the first congregation I preached for. Every Sunday he would tell me, “Boy, I sure wished I was a preacher so I only had to work two days a week!”

  19. Okay, I’ll jump in with a few jabs to the ribs of my own 🙂

    1) Agree with Brett about the whole “paid minister” thing. Church buildings too. Maybe that is why “paid” is barely mentioned in the bible, and buildings are not. We spend more time on this stuff than being church.

    2) I laugh when I read the posts of the guys who think it is unfathomable to take a call on their day off, etc…or think it is so unfair that a preacher’s family/life in under a microscope. First off, the microscope is only being used by around 150 people in your community…and 2/3 of them don’t care, either. So if you live in a community of 25,000 people, you’ve got 50 people looking at you with high expectations. Welcome to real life in a leadership position! As far as being on call, etc….well, again, the real world welcomes you!! I went to visit my parents a few weeks ago…my biz had a major problem occur….I sat at my parents house the whole day putting out fires. That’s life. If I don’t like it, I can find something else to do. If a preacher doesn’t like that, he should hang it up and minister for free like the rest of us.

    3) Finally, I’m not a huge fan of the whole paid preacher/building thing…but of course, I partake. We act like it is shameful to have to talk about money for preachers. The preachers don’t seem to want to work for free. So at a point, it becomes a business arrangement. I have no prob with this, though I wonder if God does. Being said, like any other biz arrangement, I say let the market do it’s thing.


    (pot shot at the elders, too 🙂 ) Our “ministers” wouldn’t be so beat-down if they weren’t also the “pastor”!! Fix that, and you’ll fix your burnt-out-preacher problems. Counseling people (taking their problems upon yourself) is extremely mentally taxing. Another thing—teach our preachers the values of boundaries. Saying “no” will sting some people at first, but once people realize you’ll say “no” if you want to, they’ll become far more careful as to what they request of you.

    We should prepare our preachers to understand that being the minister isn’t resigning yourself to being a wallflower; you can also be a swordsman. People respect a no-nonsense approach, and people take advantage of “the nice guy”…unintentionally, of course…but nonetheless.

  20. JMF,

    I’m guessing you think a preacher ought to get a “real” job. Am I right?

    And I’m thinking maybe you wouldn’t want an elder to get paid, either?

    I am all for more vocational preachers and more members exercising the gifts that have been tucked away inside the flap of their Bibles. And yet I am also all for paying the people who are working hard among us as Paul taught they should be …

    1 Cor 9
    This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

    Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?

    and also 1 Timothy 5
    Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

    Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

    Is there a biblical rationale for supporting financially those who do the ministry of the word among God’s people? Yes, as I have just shown Paul to teach. And not only Paul …

    Matthew 10
    Read it all, especially v.10 – support for those who minister

    Jesus said a laborer has a right to eat and be given a place to stay. And in this case, Jesus said that is all the pay they can expect…no silver or gold. And most ministers I have known will tell you the money isn’t the thing. And most churches make sure that their ministers are not getting rich, nor are they even having enough to lay aside anything for retirement.

    Fair enough. The retirement plan Jesus says they will have beats anything a 401K can buy you anyway. Of course, in those days the wife and family would be taken care of by family and community in any case, not just for preachers, if that resonates within you at all. Is the household of God’s family ready to do as much for the preacher’s family? Or are we anxious to let them go before they might get old enough to collapse while ministering and leave such a concern as surviving family for the church to care for?

    Let the laborer be counted worthy of his hire.

    And, James, when your wife is criticized and ostracized at the not infrequent whim of the sisters she is supposed to be looking to for help and support in the congregation, then just look at her and tell her that this is the price of you being a leader anywhere. She will not get much comfort from that, but I am pretty sure you will get an education at that point.

    And we say these things … and still wonder why our congregations aren’t growing? We shoot our servants in the feet and then wonder why they hobble to serve instead of running to grab our bags? Is that the way we model Jesus back to our leaders? Have they shot us in the feet? What army is this that does such things?

    With deep sadness for those whose only memorial day will come as some of those whom they loved and served are perishing for the want of giving a cup of refreshment to God’s servants…


  21. For the record…as a “paid minister” I don’t look at it as “salary” or “compensation” instead I look at it as simply support so that I can spend the majority of my week occupying myself with the mission of God – you kow, meeting with people in hopes of equiping them to live out the life they were created with, being in the word so that I can be a faithful interpreter of God’s will for God’s people in order to call them deeper into the story of God, meeting with other church leaders to equip them for greater leadership in the church, going and visiting with a non-Christian/church member who wants to see a “pastor” because he/she is going through a difficult time, shall I go on – without having to take the time out in order to support myself though employment.

    I am a second-vocational minister, spent several years working as a machinest. I have been a part of a couple of churches that had no “full-time minister” and the results are different. I am not saying that a “paid minister” is for every congregation but there are some biblical examples in the NT of Christians receiving support for their mission/ministry work, so if you think your congregation would be able to carry out God’s mission more effectively with a “full-time” minister then please give him enough financial support to care for his family and financial responsibilities.

    And by the way…the first two congregations I served with as a full-time minister were for “salaries” (as some of you think of it) that kept me either at or near poverty level but that was ok because it was and never has been about money for me (there are other profession better suited for those whose goal is wealth).

    Grace and peace,


  22. Jay, we’ll always have these conundrums as long as we try to define the work of ministry in business terms. Obviously we’ve created these problems by making ministry into a profession that serves the church business. By mixing the business world with Kingdom work, we’ve set ourselves up to constantly wrestle with what professional ministers can and should be doing because we pay them. Now, certainly I’m not against paid ministers (I am one), but I am well aware of the tensions and the complications we create by buying into paid ministry.

    I think if the elders and other church leaders have the kind of deep, personal, spiritual relationships they should have with ministers, then acting as business managers who must demand time accounting will become a non-issue.

    Every now and then I have a day where I can relax. But truthfully, this is not a job, it’s a 24/7 lifestyle – supported by other church members so I don’t have to work another job to have any money.

  23. Okay….I don’t mind hijacking here because I think the post will disappear within an hour or two.

    On you guys’ end, are the responses still disappearing? I thought that was happening as part of the blog transfer—I assume the transfer is still going on?

    When it says, “22 responses”, do you guys see 22 responses or do you see 2 or 3 responses?

  24. The site only displays the most recent comments now. Once an article has more than 20 comments, the old ones are moved off the main page. Just above the “leave a reply” form you should see a link to “older comments.” You can click there to see the previous comments, in groups of 20 at a time. I think.

    I can’t find an “older comments” link using the mobile version of the site. Is there a way to change that, Jay?

  25. JMF.

    You have to click on “older comments to see the rest. That usually happens when you reach capacity for one page of comments, and…uh…I…er…uh….have had some…um…longer ones. (sorry)


  26. Cary said, “Every now and then I have a day where I can relax. But truthfully, this is not a job, it’s a 24/7 lifestyle – supported by other church members so I don’t have to work another job to have any money.”

    That is well expressed. Thank you!

    Grace and peace,


  27. I know a set of elders who base the pulpit minister’s pay on the going rate for public school teachers with the same degree level and experience. They deemed the tax payer based pay for public service as the closest in terms of personal skills, responsibilities and motivation for service.

    Would that work in your community?

  28. Grizz,

    Grizz asked me:

    I’m guessing you think a preacher ought to get a “real” job. Am I right?
    And I’m thinking maybe you wouldn’t want an elder to get paid, either?


    Grizz, this is simply a case of the “I work harder than you!! You have no idea of what I go through…” argument. Any white, educated American male has had it many times with his friends. I have a friend that is a banker, and any time I call him, I lead in with, “Must be nice to get to sit inside in the A/C all day…..” I have another friend that owns a landscaping company. Any time I call him, I lead in with, “Must be nice to never have to sit behind a desk….”

    I’m not familiar with enough other cultures to know if this is a cultural phenomenon, but I’d say it is probably limited to us that are constantly striving to get ahead. Our company was doing a job for this cowboy-type guy from Oklahoma…you know the type: had a farm; sharp tongue; recently retired; lots of energy. I called him one morning to check on things….it was about 10 am. My first question to him was, “Did I wake you?” I’d been better to have insulted his wife, from the response I got! He HATED that I implied that he might have still been in bed at 10am. Of course, I was just doing this to pester and irritate him; but the point is, we all think we work harder than everyone else.

    No, I don’t think a preacher should get a “real” job. Honestly, I don’t really care. All I am saying is that since we’ve turned this in to a biz relationship, then it should be treated like biz. That means, let the market sort it out! If I am an elder and a guy comes in wanting 60K, and another guy wants 30K and is just as good, I’ll take the 30K guy and have 30K left over to give to the needy.

    Just like if preachers start saying, “You know what? This isn’t worth it. I’m going civilian.”, and all of a sudden there is a shortage of preachers, I’ll expect to pay 60K or more.

    If you have a problem with preachers not getting paid enough, let me ask you this: If in your town all of the COC ministers left, and they insisted on hiring a local, so you are the only COC preacher available to 4 different churches, would you see your value as having been raised? Did Grizz all of a sudden become in worthy of a solid 401K plan? …And maybe the digs need to be upped from a 3 br/2 bth to a 4/3 “so that your family can be as comfortable as possible, so you can focus on your work”? Maybe the men should handle the Wed. night sermon…so Grizz can really bring the pain on Sunday morning?

    That would be the market sorting things out.

    Cary wrote a great post. I completely agree with his sentiments.

    As to whether or not elders should get paid…I’ve never heard of this. I don’t have any scriptural pro or con. But personally, I wish my contribution was used to help spread Christ’s message or Christ’s love. In my church, I think about 10-15% of contrib. actually goes to evangelism/needs (NOT counting preacher as evangelism…our salaries are 50% of contrib.). The rest goes to paying for “church”. Nothing makes me feel good about that. It’s like a chinese fire drill….we pay in, get the output of a building and sermons, and we don’t grow. Rinse and repeat. Again. And again.

    So I can’t fight about preacher pay. He is a service provider. His worth is determined by the market (since it is a biz arrangement.) As far as actual solutions to the issue Jay brings up, I feel the problem goes far deeper. I’ve got “Radical Restoration” by F. LaGard Smith sitting on desk ready to be read, and I have a feeling he is going to address many of my concerns.

    Peace Grizz, may God bless you and yours….and I appreciate the service you provide for God’s Kingdom. That may not show based on what I am writing, but it is my true sentiment.

  29. Well said, JMF!

    I agre with you, too, more than not. Sometimes I remember the grief given a young preacher’s family and it still burns a bit. Please forgive me the wincing out loud. I’ll try to do better. Both you and my Lord deserve it, I am certain. So mea culpa.

    I think what Cary wrote was awesome. I have really enjoyed some of what Rex has written and am learning from many of the others. I am really not as grouchy as I may have come across being.

    For most of the time I count my blessings and thank God for the opportnities to grow that challenge me. And I am almost continually amazed at the wide range of people and backgrounds that come together when we gather. I do long for more employment of gifts from more folks, but that’s a work in progress and probably always should be.

    As far as subsidizing elders so they can spend more time with the sheep, I think we have almost done as poor a job communicating what Paul told Timothy about honor and double-honor as we have training these exemplary brethren for the work we expect them to master on-the-job more often than not. More churches whose true pastor-teachers were supported to do pastoring and teaching would only make for a stronger body, IMHO. Preachers could start really focusing in on reaching the lost, deacons could see why administration gifts are so valuable and not so big a deal for elder-shepherds, and all the other members would know what it felt like to actually be tended like sheep by their shepherds and would know their shepherds’ voices when they heard them.

    For many of my generation who have come through years of law-based and obedience-centered performance-driven approaches to following Jesus, the transition into a grace-driven, faith-based, relational approach to living for and with Jesus has been like breaking frozen ground to rebuild from the ground up. What we began with full of questions has grown us and grown within us and has spread further and faster than we once dared to hope – to the glory of God our Father!

    God help us to find a better model than the business world in the way we honor those who work among us. Help us to be open to the Spirit to walk in Your ways and not just in our best guesses. Forgive us as we forgive others and teach us to do that better every day. This life is for You, Father. Use us up!



  30. Rex,


  31. Bob,

    Our ministers are not part of the “greeter ministry” but are active in meeting and greeting members and guests, both to church and to class. And I think it’s more effective if they’re not in an assigned station.

  32. Adam,

    Ministers are generally hired both as counselors and as teachers/exhorters, as well as organizerss of certain ministries requiring extensive oversight and as equippers. It’s a big job, with differing responsibilities depending on the ministry.

    While our ministers all have counseling responsibilities, I’ve never been comfortable with the preference some ministers have to focus almost exclusively on counseling, as when counseling is the focus, the minister becomes too internally focused. He can doubtlessly do great good counseling the members, but when the pulpit man is so focused on the members, I think the church can easily become internally focused — which is a very bad thing.

    And, I’d add, most ministers aren’t trained for some of the more serious problems, and as a result, we often have refer people out to trained professionals to make sure they get the serious help they often need.

  33. Grizz,

    A chart of preacher salaries in the Churches of Christ is posted at You’ll see that a great many preachers make more than $60,000, and this is out of date. The 2010 ACU minister salary survey shows AVERAGE fulltime pulpit minister total compensation of $72,904. The average total comp of a youth minister is $53,571.

    We are totally in agreement when you say, “Preachers should be accountable, just like any other leaders, paid or unpaid, among the Lord’s people.” And I’m entirely good with the elders being equally accountable. But as I said, I’m not asking anyone to work as hard as me. I’m not normal.

    And I agree that the norm is likely that most ministers fail to actually get two days off. The survey data I posted shows that to be true — because you can’t average 55 hours a week and take two whole days off.

    So I’m not even sure where we disagree. I mean, how would you react if you had a job application from a minister who wants to take Fridays and Mondays off — and fully intends to always take them off? This is, in my opinion, becoming the norm.

    It’s not the norm, but as the baby boomers retire, this is becoming quite common. And salaries are trending upwards fairly fast.

    I’m open to the measurable goals idea in concept — but I just don’t see how to effect it in a ministerial position. Nor do I see any church thriving when the ministers work less hard than the members.

  34. JMF,

    I thought I’d fixed that. I’ve made another stab at it. Let me know if it doesn’t work.

  35. Rich,

    I tend to look at the annual salary survey as a starting point — it at least can tell you what ministers in a similar situation are being paid. Teacher salary is not a fair comparable — the jobs aren’t remotely the same.

  36. grizz, you said: “And, James, when your wife is criticized and ostracized at the not infrequent whim of the sisters she is supposed to be looking to for help and support in the congregation, then just look at her and tell her that this is the price of you being a leader anywhere. She will not get much comfort from that, but I am pretty sure you will get an education at that point.”

    i’m not exactly sure what you mean. is it that because a preacher’s family is likely to be treated unfairly, he should be paid full-time? i agree that wives of preachers often are treated poorly (though i’d say they’re not expected to work quite as much for free as is the youth minister’s wife — it’s as if churches believe they’re hiring husband and wife for that position, of course only paying one). and my wife has had her share of being mistreated because of me. but i don’t understand really what that has to do with full-time work and pay versus part-time work and pay….

  37. grizz, you also said, “And we say these things … and still wonder why our congregations aren’t growing? We shoot our servants in the feet and then wonder why they hobble to serve instead of running to grab our bags? Is that the way we model Jesus back to our leaders? Have they shot us in the feet? What army is this that does such things?”

    i don’t think questioning the wisdom in paying ministers full-time is shooting them in the feet. i’m merely looking at a situation and trying to determine what might bring improvement. in my opinion, the preacher is expected to do too much work — he’s expected himself (alone) to be Christ in the community. he’s expected to do the church’s evangelism. he’s expected to preach all the funerals and do all the visitation, etc. i don’t think the answer is, “well we’d better pay him better since we expect so much.”

    for me the answer looks like each member of the body doing his/her part. so all i’m asking is might that be the answer? if we stopped paying a preacher to do all of that, and the congregation understood why, would we begin to be Christ ourselves? are we enabling watered-down christianity by paying preachers to do everyone else’s “work?” are we contributing to the problem? these are legitimate questions.

    i, myself, am paid by a collection of churches and individuals to be a servant. and i struggle with it everyday. i am now thinking, praying, and making plans to one day not have to take this support. i’m just uncomfortable with it — i’m not saying others have to be. but for me personally, i don’t think it’s a great system. when i was a missionary in china (for only three years), i was able to teach school and only raise money for my plane ticket there and back and my $100/month (very basic) insurance. i miss being a “lay” person, and doing God’s work simply because that’s what christians do.

    no matter how we look at the paying preachers situation, i think you’re way off if you think our congregations aren’t growing because of how we treat our leadership. that may play some very small part in it all — but surely it has more to do with the people of God not being the people of God in their communities.

  38. There is a big difference in supporting a minister and employing one. Support means the congregation provides the means for a person to live to the standards of the area and work ministry with limited supervision. It is a trust in the vision the person being supported. However employment is solely to profit the church. When either money or people begin to wane ones job is on the line. But when money and people and coming in droves well capitalism kicks in Saturday and Mondays become part of the perks….Employment too means oversight and managing and micromanaging charts and graphs and a business models. Now I say this because it does work whether it is spiritual or not is subjective. But 2 Biblical principles come to mind you reap what you sow, the greater your responsibility in the church the greater the judgment is from God.

  39. I just gonna throw this out there-

    Where is the New Testament example for paid evangelists? I know that local elders are to be paid if their work is full-time to the point of making it impossible to work other employment. I also find warnings about traveling (non-permanent) evangelists… Wouldn’t it be more biblical to “hire” one of the local elders to be the paid minister? Its truly biblical, but the current system may not be.

  40. Paul,

    1 Corinthians 9.1-18…it does not suggest that a worker for the gospel *must* accept financial support, just that such received support is ethical.

    Grace and peace,


  41. Jay Guin, on May 28, 2010 at 9:08 pm Said: A chart of preacher salaries in the Churches of Christ is posted at You’ll see that a great many preachers make more than $60,000, and this is out of date. The 2010 ACU minister salary survey shows AVERAGE fulltime pulpit minister total compensation of $72,904.

    Grizz: I took a look at both surveys, but will stick with the ACU 2010 survey to keep things a bit less confused. And to begin with, while you seemed content to flip back and forth between salary and total compensation, there is a sizable difference between the two numbers. The ACU survey calls them “base salary” and “total compensation”, and the major difference is the inclusion of benefits and allowances*. Base salary is just like any other job, it is the annual amount in paychecks given to the individual. Benefits include various types of health insurance (medical, dental, vision) as well as life insurance, 401k matching funds, employer-paid retirement plans, and educational funds provided by the employer at most any job. Allowances*, though, are different for ministers than for many other jobs. Allowances for ministers can cover a lot of things that are non-taxable when paid out by churches as allowances, like housing, utilities, vehicles (portion used for ministry), books, planned educational expenses, etc.. Ministers can also opt out of the Social Security program and many do, which also impacts their tax burden. NOTE: These allowances were INCLUDED in the ACU survey numbers.

    While an average total compensation for full-time ministers in the ACU 2010 survey is listed at $72,904, an average salary is much lower, coming in at $57,597 (a difference of $15,307). With a national average of about $12,000/yr (an old number, pre-2006) for health insurance benefits per employee, this brings average compensation down to $60,904 without accounting for life insurance, 401k matching funds, employer paid retirement plans, and FSA (pre-tax medical expenses) accounts. Still, relatively few congregations offer these additional benefits common in most other middle management level jobs in other industries, so we can probably estimate around $60k for a comparative average annual salary among churches of Christ that completed the survey. (And this is likely somewhat inflated due to the concentration of larger congregations in the areas where ACU got the most responses.)

    Another thing I noted about the ACU 2010 survey is that out of the more than 6,500 men preaching in churches of Christ, only 557 ministers of any type responded to the survey, and less than half of the respondents were working as full-time preachers (approximately 3.8% of the preachers in churches of Christ in the USA). And while there are congregations with full-time ministers in all 50 states, ministers of any kind from only 39 states responded, with only one respondent in each some states, concentrating results where the churches of Christ are most concentrated – in the South.

    Alabama – 250 congregations, 231 with a full-time preacher

    Indiana – 108 congregations, 90 with a full-time preacher**

    ** compiled from info at

    These two examples would account for more preachers than all of those who answered the ACU survey, with 48 states left to go! At the very least, the representative sampling was a very small sample that is unlikely to accurately represent the averages within churches of Christ. A sampling of at least 1,000 preachers would be necessary to have a fairly reliable number. (more than 4 times as many as were surveyed by ACU 2010)

    Jay: We are totally in agreement when you say, “Preachers should be accountable, just like any other leaders, paid or unpaid, among the Lord’s people.” And I’m entirely good with the elders being equally accountable. But as I said, I’m not asking anyone to work as hard as me. I’m not normal.

    Grizz: Jay, JMF identifies this type of statement as the I-work-harder-than-you-do syndrome. Since you admittedly have not worked as a full-time preacher, I would have to question the comparison. I do not know what your average hourly rate of pay is, but I once ran down the numbers on an average week in 1987 for me (in the middle of my career in full-time preaching ministry) and found I was making about $6.01/hour. That was approximately the same rate of pay at that time for a Crew Chief (lowest level of supervision) at McDonald’s. And at 64 documented hours per week average that year (if I include my 10 vacation days and any sick days to get a 52 week average of documented hours worked), I worked about 20 hours/week more than one of those Crew Chiefs. And yes, that includes benefits and allowances. Of course, I was expected to work longer average hours to get that rate because I did not have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.

    Jay: And I agree that the norm is likely that most ministers fail to actually get two days off. The survey data I posted shows that to be true — because you can’t average 55 hours a week and take two whole days off.

    Grizz: As noted above, my averages were higher. I rarely took time off on Sunday afternoons at all and Saturday was a regular work day. Mondays were my only scheduled days off aside from vacation time. That did not mean I always got to take Monday off, but at least it gave the church some indication of my availability in non-emergency situations. Perhaps, like you, I am not normal.

    Jay: So I’m not even sure where we disagree. I mean, how would you react if you had a job application from a minister who wants to take Fridays and Mondays off — and fully intends to always take them off? This is, in my opinion, becoming the norm.

    Grizz: Honestly, I would assume he had better organizing/scheduling discipline than I had. When I was preaching full-time, I did not count time in evangelistic outreach and home Bible study groups as on-the-clock, documented time. When asked about that (and I was), my standard reply was that I would expect anyone who knows the good news to share it as they saw an opening, so I hardly felt justified to even consider counting that time as time on-the-clock. And if someone asked, I would show them the hours and uses submitted to the elders for the time I did claim and also show them where I spent time off-the-clock in evangelism and home Bible studies. I often invited those who were concerned about such things to go with me to do outreach, but rarely had anyone take me up on the offer outside the 1-2 people I was working with at any given time.

    Jay: It’s not the norm, but as the baby boomers retire, this is becoming quite common. And salaries are trending upwards fairly fast.

    Grizz: Frankly, Jay, even with the very small sampling done on the ACU survey, I was amazed at how much salaries/compensation packages have changed. Then I realized that I was primarily working in congregations with less than 150 members, and when I compared those results found not nearly as much change as I had assumed before focusing my search in the ACU results. In my highest paid year, when I had a wife and 3 young children to provide for, I received $30,200 in annual total compensation ($24,000 of that in salary and the rest in benefits and allowances).

    Jay: I’m open to the measurable goals idea in concept — but I just don’t see how to effect it in a ministerial position. Nor do I see any church thriving when the ministers work less hard than the members.

    Grizz: When a congregation calls a minister to a work, one must assume they have selected someone whose quality of preaching they find agreeable. I would personally also assume that they have had a chance to review his teaching style/skills as well, though it is possible that some do not take their opportunity to do so when interviewing the candidates.

    Regarding how hard a minister works in relationship to whether the church is ‘thriving’, I think back to my first years in full-time ministry among congregations where the majority of those congregations were either farmers or ranchers. When I compare my average hours per week to theirs, the numbers were not very flattering to me. Still, the congregations grew and thrived spiritually as well as numerically while I was with those congregations, so maybe it has more to do with the quality and effectiveness of the work being done and the relationships being grown that matters more than the amount of time spent doing it.

    You want something measurable?

    Ask your preacher how many homes of members he has visited during the review period.

    Ask your preacher how many homes of non-members he has visited during the review period.

    Survey the congregation’s members in a general review of the preacher’s work on a 3-point scale (unacceptable-acceptable-exceptional) in the following areas:

    Frequency of visits to their home (to be reported as the actual number of visits made/attempted that they are aware of) – both scheduled and un-scheduled.

    Quality of visits to their home (if and when he stopped by/responded to a call/etc.).
    Sermons are relevant and practical in application to my daily life.

    Sermons are scripturally based and spiritually uplifting to me.

    Teaching is clear and effective and relevant to my life.

    Responses to questions are enlightening and helpful.

    Reasonably accessible and timely in responses when needed.

    Models the teachings of Jesus in our interactions and activities together (i.e. walks the walk).

    Regularly challenges me to walk closer to Jesus and to our Father’s desire for my life (i.e. talks the talk).

    A review along these primarily relational lines in a general survey of the congregation encourages members to focus during their interactions with the preacher and others in leadership and also reflects the overall impression of the congregation towards his work and his example as they relate to their daily lives. This kind of survey also can expose areas of weakness that need to be addressed, though the elders should already be aware of those through their own interactions and through regular feedback during their own visits with members of the congregation.

    These are just some suggestions, Jay. You may well have concerns that are best expressed in other ways and which could also be included in a regular review process. And in addition to these items, I would encourage regular, scheduled & executed meetings with each of the elders to deepen relationships and understanding of the vision being cast for the congregation as well as the methodology/strategy to be employed to achieve short- and long-term goals.

    And I would also do a personal review of the preacher’s home/family relationships to be sure he had the time or was taking enough time to address his own family’s needs and desires. And I would also suggest that a prayer-partner relationship be maintained on a regular basis with one elder at a time between review periods, to be rotated through the elders at the beginning of each review period.

  42. A different view, since I have never been a member of a congregation with a paid full-time minister:

    Just a “silly” calculation: If we dvivide these 50+ hours among a congregation of ca. 100 baptized and spirit-filled brothers and sisters, that would mean 30 min each/week.

    30 min, invested in relationships, in caring for one another, in visiting, in encouraging, in rebuking, in building each other up, in teaching each other. By simply doing this, we would build the Lord’s temple and it would blossom and bring fruit in its season.

    Somehow, it is expected, that the one minister/evangelist/preacher/”pastor” is the one who keeps everything going. At least on the visible level: He is standing in front of the church, giving sermons every Sunday; His face and e-mail will be seen first at the churche’s web-page. If he is good, many people will be attracted by his preaching-style, etc. …

    But the church always sees one face, hears one voice, adheres to on a man with his more or less strong personality. The gift, our Lord has put in other brothers is kept silent in worship (what about 1 Cor:14:26ff). How about dividing up the task of preaching the sermons evenly among the elders and gifted brothers in church? There would be different personalities speaking to the church, different characters, different view-points and emphasis, different methods and humor, … all for the benefit of a church full of different people who respond differently.

    Let’s say, a congregation of 100 members has 5-8 gifted brothers who are able to teach and preach (you don’t need a seminary to learn that). Preparing a sermon, needs – besides letting your thoughts wander everywhere you go – four to eight hours of work (depending on the text and the topic), the longer and closer you walk with God, the beter you know your Bible, the less hours you need for a sermon.

    Which means: Every one of these brothers would have to invest 1 hour per week for preparing a sermon, and will be called to speak once every one or two months. That’s absolutely manageable.

    That’s not a theory, that’s something I have experienced the past 23 years! It helps Christians to understand, that every part of the body is called to ministry.

    Especially in Austria, where I live, the expectation from our Roman Catholic Background is like this: If there is a priest, he is responsible for everything. If you have a question – go ask the priest. If you need counselling, go to the priest. If you are sick in bed, go call the priest. The priest is conducting worship, the priest is baptizing, the priest … is the only one competent around.

    It is really something very difficult in such a culture to teach converts to serve. When the CoC missionaries left Vienna, the church that at first grew tremendously stopped growing. Many churches ceased to exist. The Vienna Church (once 120 members strong) declined to something around 50. Why? Because the paid missionaries did everything just like the Roman Chatholic priest. The church was not equipped for the service. It was the minister who greeted the people who came to worship, and it was the minister who called on those who did not show up. They left behind a church that maintained doctrine and discipline, in the way of trying to hold fast what they have received, but they stopped growing and started splitting …

    I don’t want to sound too negative about full-time ministry, because it has some very good points to it. But I wanted to point out that the “core duties” of a minister might be something else, more in the sense of equipping the church for the ministry, as it is written:

    (Eph 4:11-12 NIV) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors (shepherds) and teachers, to prepare God’s people for the work of service …

    I can’t speak for the church-culture in the US. But in Austria sitting in the pews and watching the priest means: Here is the church that is being ministerd to – how can we convey the message: “The church is called to do the ministry” in a setting like this? As I said, the churches I attended so far, never had a full-time ministry, but they grew and flourished. The CoC that I joined a few years ago once had “professionals” serving them, but almost died out after they left. Now after we restructured our church life our members slowly begin to grasp the idea of full-time ministry: We all – each and every one – live and serve the Lord full-time wherever we are. And all of us will be judged whether we were good and faithful servants/stewards or lazy ones, when He returns.

    In Christ

  43. thank you, alexander, for your thoughts. i appreciate them a great deal and am truly excited to hear about the congregation of which you’re a part. i think you guys are really onto something, and i want you to know i’ve just spent a few minutes praying for the church there in austria.

    i’m sorry, though, that it seems not many want to talk about these issues. but i’d like to know more. of course what i really want to know will require more than just you answering. what do churches here believe will fall through the cracks if they don’t have a full-time paid preacher — and then how are you guys doing on / dealing with those issues?

  44. James, we also could chat in private: is my e-mail address

    Looking forward to hearing/reading from you

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