1 Timothy 5:17-18 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” (Also see Philippians 2:25; 4:10-19). Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.The church is stained by the presence of greedy preachers who misuse their ministries and abuse their followers in their craving for riches. Television newsmagazines have produced a variety of exposes on various pastors and evangelists who have displayed their material lust. Books and movies give colorful depictions of Elmer Gantry and all of his look-a-likes.Christian leaders struggle with the same temptations as others and most of us have struggled with a deep wanting for more money and more stuff. So in 1 Peter 5: 3, God tells pastors, don’t “be greedy for money.”

But here is the flip side of this issue. While leaders need to be careful not to be greedy, churches have to be careful not to be stingy. God calls on churches to be generous with their pastors.

I have found it fascinating to watch churches negotiate the pay packages that they offer new pastors. My friend, Steve Johnson, suggests that there are three main attitudes: some try to get a deal, some try to give the fair market value of what other pastors are getting, and others seek to be generous.

Those who try to get a deal barter like they would at a garage sale. Apparently believing that all spiritual pastors have taken a vow of poverty, they try to get a pastor at the lowest cost possible. Their prayer is, “Lord, you keep them humble and we will keep them poor.” These churches devalue their pastors from the get-go. Churches that are cheap with their pastors are telling them that they aren’t worth much. Their pastors will not only have financial difficulties but will also doubt their churches respect and love for them. When scripture says that pastors are worthy of double honor, it is speaking about displaying respectful attitudes and giving respectable salaries.

Churches that attempt to arrive at a fair market value often use one of three forms of comparison: people, peer and professional. The people comparison looks at the people in their own church or at least the key leaders and then gives the pastor the average of their own salary packages. Those doing peer comparisons try to discover what other pastors in similar sized churches with similar education and experience get. I get a new book every year from a company that does this research and then provides it to ministries. The churches use these peer comparisons to determine an equitable pastoral package. The professional comparison looks at the community for comparisons. The typical pastor has seven years of post high school education and the job of managing and leading a large number of people. A fair comparison may be a school principal or superintendent. The church finds out what those positions pay and then provides that level of pastoral package. David Wayne suggests another form of professional comparison:

A minister shouldn’t be paid an exorbitant salary, but please consider a few things. Pastoring a church is comparable to running a small business so think of the pastor’s task in those terms. Also, the Stanford MBA is a two-year program requiring 100 quarter hours for graduation. The standard degree for a pastor is a Masters of Divinity which is a three year program requiring over 100 semester hours. In other words, in terms of education your pastor has probably put in about 1/3 more educational work to prepare to be your pastor than the Stanford MBA has put in to prepare for his or her very lucrative career move. Yes, I am saying that your pastor has a better education in his own field than the Stanford MBA has in his.

This isn’t to say that your pastor needs to make what the Stanford MBA makes or what the guy with the lucrative small business makes, but it is to say that his education and tasks are comparable. And considering those things, it is reasonable to do all you can to make sure he has the same opportunities that you have in terms of housing, retirement and health benefits and college savings.

The best approach is to be a generous church that treats pastors they way they would like to be treated. They want to bless their pastor in whatever way they can. This goes beyond salary issues. Knowing the heavy pressure that pastors face, they make sure that their pastors get three to four weeks vacation so that they can recharge their batteries. They also monitor their work weeks. (I recommend the goal of 50 to 55 hours.) Instead of always making sure that their pastors are working enough hours, they make sure that they aren’t working too much. “Pastor, did you take a day off this week? Pastor, you have had several evening meetings this week, are you taking some afternoons off to compensate?”

Would it be possible for your church to offer periodic sabbaticals for your pastor(s)? I am so blessed to be in a ministry that was generous enough to give me one last year. Doug Fagerstrom writes, “In some Christian ministries, the ‘sabbatical leave’ is rather controversial. Much broader in scope than in educational circles, it can be offered to build up, prepare, stimulate, refresh, and recreate ministry staff after an extended period of hard faithful labor. Consider it for your staff… Not every ministry can grant a six-week leave. However, extra time away does not need to be expensive or lengthy. A weeklong retreat, a weekend at a retreat center, even an extra day off can provide encouragement to an overworked, overstressed ministry staff person… Give the gift of rest and renewal.”

Generosity includes acts of kindness like providing baby sitting, the use of a lake cottage, giving the names of good dentists or mechanics, providing a good book, giving a Christmas bonus, sending the pastors to conferences, etc.

Bigheartedness has wonderful dividends. Paul, in thanking the Philippians for their financial gifts assures them that they would be blessed by their act of giving. The gifts would be “credited to your account” (Phil. 4:17). In addition, your generosity is an act of worship. The gifts are “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:19).

“But we can’t afford to be generous.” You can’t afford not to be. God gives generously to generous givers. Philippians 4 closes its admonition on generosity with the assurance that “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

Are you a generous Christian?

Is yours a generous church?