Performance-Based Salaries for Pastors

October 8, 2005 by

I seem to be on a Mark Oestreicher roll this week (actually, I’ve just been catching up on my RSS feeds), but I stumbled across another great entry: Worst Church Idea of the Month Award:

A pastor said to me that he loves to try new things. And the thing he’s trying right now that he thinks is such a good idea? [drum roll, please — and brace yourself] He’s paying his staff based on how many people, on average, attend the ministries they are in charge of. He grinned as he told me that, for example, one of the pastors has a fairly low monthly salary, because he’s new and his particular ministry is average-sized; but if the ministry reaches x-amount on average, his pay will bump to another level, and at xx-amount, to another level, which is a great salary for their area. He said it’s a great system because it builds self-motivation in automatically.

Wow. Performance-based salaries for church. Ouch. That hurts on so many levels.

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Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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25 Responses to “Performance-Based Salaries for Pastors”

  • Rustynails
    October 8, 2005

    Wow! I don’t even know where to start. Can you say grace?

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  • Jason
    October 8, 2005

    So wrong. If only because it measures success by numbers, but what if one someone stops coming because, say, the music sucks. Then the others who headed up the ministries this person was involved in are punished because someone else is bad at their job.

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  • corey
    October 8, 2005

    Having read this, “sucks” is the tamest of cusswords that comes to mind. This wreaks of idiocy. This kind of system may work elsewhere, where attendance is mandatory but PROGRESS is measurable (like school, a business, etc.). But to measure and/or reward individuals based on the popularity of their programs is so backwards- especially in today’s fickle church culture.

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  • Nathan Smith
    October 8, 2005

    While I have nothing against mega-churches, that is just so wrong. First of all, we want people to feel like people, and not just numbers, or notches in a belt.
    Secondly, who actually likes to go shopping at stores whose employees work on commission? This is basically the situaion that performance-based ministry pay creates, because if every church did this, we’d be clamoring over each other, trying to pull as many bodies in the door as possible.
    This negates the way Jesus operated, with the twelve, who in turn went on to impact the world.

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  • Bill Kinnon
    October 9, 2005

    This is such utter and abject nonsense. And the mindset is one of the reasons we have so little discipleship in the Western Church.
    When the focus is numbers, our only concern is getting people “saved”. They become objects rather than the living, breathing, effective Body of Christ. Get’em into the “kingdom”, put another notch on our belts & move on to the next “customer”.
    This is the “bums in chairs” mentality of the entertainment industry – which, come to think of it, is probably the model for these “pastors”.

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  • kevin
    October 9, 2005

    This negates the way Jesus operated, with the twelve, who in turn went on to impact the world. – Nathan Smith

    Hmmm… maybe this guy should drop the performance-based pay structure and go with a pyramid scheme!

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  • brand1m
    October 9, 2005

    While I think this is a horrible idea, there could be another way of looking at it.
    The reality is many pastors are judged on their ability to bring people in. So for these guys, they get the median salary, and when they start losing people or aren’t growing quickly enough, they get fired. So the church ends up with a rotating staff that changes out every few years.
    It looks like, in this situation, the church is willing to tolerate a little mediocrity for saving money. I still don’t think its a good idea, but maybe this is their angle.
    I think incentive based positions can work in a church environment, but this is the wrong criteria to base the incentives on, in my opinion. If you were going to do it, it should be based on a wide variety of criteria.

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  • Tyler Jagen
    October 9, 2005

    A lot of churches are communicating to staff today: Come work for me. I’ll treat you as if you are in the corporate world and you are my employee.
    Who gets into ministry for money and who gets into ministry to be an employee? We get into ministry because we have a passion to be used by God in impacting other people. You want your people to succeed? Become a senior “pastor” not a boss, and your staff will do anything for you.

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  • Nathan Smith
    October 9, 2005

    “Hmmm… maybe this guy should drop the performance-based pay structure and go with a pyramid scheme!”
    Yeah, that would rock. We could have apostles that made basic toiletries available via mail-order. You want toothpaste – come to our church! :)

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  • Michael Rew
    October 9, 2005

    Please. The only big difference between this pastor and how the average church with paid staff act is that this pastor openly admitted his plan and smiled openly about it.

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  • The Theo Speak Guy
    October 9, 2005

    Having worked in a commission sales environment I can speak to the fact that quantity doesn’t always equal quality. I often didn’t make as much money as other salespeople because I was concerned more with giving each customer awesome customer service no matter what they were buying.
    Frankly, the pastor who is doing this is a clown. I thought we were supposed to be in the world but not of the world? Yet here is a pastor basing his church’s success on butts in the seats not lives changed. He’s measuring his success in quantity not quality, just like our society does.
    This is a great way for him to alienate, and ultimately lose, quality staff.

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  • brand1m
    October 9, 2005

    Not to play devil’s advocate here, but what is really the right way to compensate people that work for the church? Jesus, as far as we know, didn’t pay the disciples to work in the ministry. So should everyone be volunteer?
    I think some are taking issue with performance based compensation when I think the real issue is the criteria that the compensation is based on and the guy’s attitude.
    In fact, if you look at Matthew 10:5-10, one might be able to interpret that Jesus is telling the disciples that they will be taken care of if they are doing the work (kind of like performance compensation).
    Make no mistake, I think this guy is wrong in his approach and his reasoning. However, I don’t think its the mode of compensation that is the problem.

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  • Ron
    October 9, 2005

    So often I have seen non-senior pastors in their positions only as stepping-stones to become a “Senior Pastor.” Many youth and associate pastors are in their position for only a few short years until they have gained enough experience so that they may move on to pastor a church of their own.
    Why? Because the senior pastor makes more money. Because he has actual authority to get things done. Has more job security…
    So while this idea of paying for performance is absolutely ridiculous, I see it as an unfortunate amplification of the way many churches already operate. Too many non-senior pastors are forced to struggle with the choice of a settling for a lower income or “moving up” to the position of senior pastor. Perhaps even worse, too many people vital ministries are being lead not by those called to that ministry, but instead by those looking to climb the church ladder.

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  • Rich Kirkpatrick
    October 9, 2005

    If not for numbers, how about for character, for work ethic, for some sort of fruit. It is silly to say I want to get paid and then offer no tangible reason for being paid other than a title. Getting a raise should be weighed in the same way. (Maybe I am hoping for one, too).
    Here is what I propose as my list of things a pastor’s performance should warrant increased compensation:
    1) How well does the pastor empower, organize and motivate volunteers for works of service. Are people under his leadership relying on him, or can he give the ministry away and structure things to operate without his ego in the way?
    2) How equipped are those under his teaching and leadership? This is the Ephesian 4 thing. Can the people actually handle life better as a result of sound counsel, advice and modeling from the pastor?
    3) Is the ministry growing under him due to charisma and personality or do these people actually mature in their faith and evidence that by their interest and involvement.
    4) How hard and smart is the pastor working? Is he using “best practices” or is he relying on what he did last year? Is he a learner and willing to do the hard stuff behind the scenes?
    5) How well have the people this pastor has put in leadership around him duplicated his vision? Is there fruit?
    I think it is terrible in any profession to not ask qualitative things. It is very important to pay someone for achievements. Pastors should be no less considered. If a sermon is delivered sloppily, a song service falls flat week after week or a youth pastor runs on the hype of his events we each then are not doing our jobs. If compensation is derived from results, so be it–just let those not be simply numbers. After one makes a living wage, then we have freedom to add to that to be sure we are being good stewards and invest in the mission of the church.

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  • Shawn Raloff
    October 10, 2005

    Small church pastors get paid less than big church pastors right? If you only have experience with a small church you’re not going to get hired to Pastor a big church and your salary is going to be lower.
    We already pay based on performance; this guy is just making it known. How many of you who pastor a small church now would get a raise if your church grew? How many of you would leave if you didn’t?
    That is what I thought…

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  • Josh
    October 10, 2005

    My question is how do the media/tech people get paid in this church?
    I’m not going to say anything about this church and their decisions. I hope God blesses their church. Who am I to say that what they are doing is “wrong”?

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  • Jamie A. Grant
    October 11, 2005

    At first glance, I would chime in and agree that this is a silly concept. However, I do think that there should be some measuring stick for pastors and ministry workers in general. Practical accountability and all that.
    And for a more “spiritual” parallel, doesn’t Yonggi Cho’s church in South Korea promote people to paid pastoral staff based on how many cell groups they started and oversee? They have to/had to lead 500 cell groups or something similar.

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  • David Frey
    October 14, 2005

    Reading this post makes me glad that I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where NO local church leaders gets paid.

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  • Faith to Face
    November 3, 2005

    I think this is perfect evidence of how the use of monitary metaphors in language associated with Love has spread to the actual valuation of somebody by money itself. We have gone from metaphorically saying you are of great worth, to saying your worth is limited to your assumed abilities.

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  • VC
    November 9, 2005

    A focus of a Pastor should be on souls for Christ not whether he will be treated fairly financially, that should be a given. But in today’s Christiandom that is unfortunately not the case. So doesn’t a Pastor have a personal stewardship responsiblity to him and his family just like anybody eles?
    A “real” Pastor works very hard, and is usually taken for granted until YOU need him. It is a position that requires a continual pouring out of ones-self and great labor to continually fill ones-self.
    In my biblical opinion (1 Corinthians 9:14 which declares, “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.”) we should not expect a Pastor to live in poverty or be at the mercy of a Church board that has a problem providing more as the Church is in a position to do more, which in essence is “performance based” for any paid Pastor/leader no matter how you slice it.
    Besides if anyone in any profession in the USA thinks that they are not working in a performance based field just because it’s not sales, just try to go to work for the next month and fail to perform your job and see if you won’t get fired. From the Whitehouse to the Unions of America to Corporate white collar workers. EVERYONE who works, works in a performance based situaion.
    Just as freedom is not free (there was a great price paid for us to have the benefits we have, so is it unfair to ask all that is asked of God’s man without taken the best care of him as possible.

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  • jolynn
    April 20, 2006

    i my self think it is sad that a pastor would have to use money to modavate his people to try and bring people in to the church in my church we try to bring people in to learn the word of god just because its the right thing to do and the reason pastors in small churches arnt making any money is because even with the members in attendence everybody ant praying and everybody ant paying i dont fill people sew into thair ministry the way thay should.thair is more than tithing to keep a church up and runing 45000 churches a year close down due to not having the funds to pay the bills its kinda hard for the pastor to pry for the people when he is always having to pray for the church doors to stay maybe he is trying hard not to be one of the 45000 churches shuting down this year.just maybe if the members of the churches would pull togeather a little more for thair pastors the churches would grow in unity and faith as well as not saying that is the case with this pastor cause i dont know him and im not gona judge him i just know that a lot of the churches in todays socity are suffering and i know the pastors cant do it alone

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  • Tony
    December 26, 2006

    The whole system is flawed. First of all, Jesus said “Freely you have received, freely give” (Mat. 10:8). These so called ministers need to get a job and stop leaching. Jesus was a carpenter; Paul was a tent-maker, Luke a doctor. Sure, the congregations would help them out as they traveled around in their ministries. The congregations would take them into their homes, provide meals, etc… However, there was no salary, no income, only Christian hospitality.
    This system interferes with receiving beneficial instruction. Because they are paid to do what they ought to be doing anyway, many will shy away from telling their parishioners what they really need to hear, and will focus on what their “sheep” WANT to hear, for fear of being fired, or voted out. Paul said “For a time is coming when men will not tolerate wholesome instruction, but, wanting to have their ears tickled, they will find a multitude of teachers to satisfy their own fancies, and will close their ears to the truth and will turn away to fables” (1 Timothy 4:3). How sad is that?
    I was talking to a neighbor the other day who told me their preacher receives $160k a year in salary, housing expenses, and vehicle expenses. He’s got it made. You can bet he won’t risk losing that kind of livelihood. All I could do is shake my head.

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  • MH
    January 29, 2007

    (This was posted on another blog)
    Yes, it is okay for a pastor to get paid for ministering to people. The Bible says in 1 Cor. 9:3-10,
    “My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we not have a right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 6 Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? 8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.”
    Paul is teaching us here that those who work at something have the right to make a living from it. This is a basic and simple principle that is found in the scriptures. In 1 Tim. 5:18, Paul says, “For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
    Clearly those who work in the ministry are allowed to make a living from the ministry. This is especially true when we realize that ministers work more than 40 hours a week and are usually on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For someone to say that they should not be paid from their labors ignores the word of God which says that they can.

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  • Luke
    June 3, 2007

    Does it really matter, what other Churches or Pastors do and not do??
    In todays world,and previous the role of Pastor has never been easy.
    I tire of Christians that worry about what the Church down the Street does.
    Is the Church for the edification of the saints?
    A man is worthy of his wage.
    How about spreading the Gospel instead instead of judgements about what Pastors do or not do with the Church that God has ordained them to lead…
    Many Church Numbers hinder because Christians are too busy judging what others do instead of submitting to God and their ordained authority an sheppard their Pastor.
    I find that many Christians pull down Gods Church by attacking their leaders.
    Would you work for nothing….
    and constantly put up with abuse from so called ‘brothers’ self righteous people that are not ordained as a leader from and by God yet choose to spit in Gods face?

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  • Set Free Indeed
    August 27, 2011

    This idea is just encouraging HIRELINGS to scatter the sheep. Irresponsible and potentially tragic.

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