To Pay or Not To Pay (post #1)

I have 2 posts in my head, both are completely different topics, but interestingly enough they are titled the same “To Pay or Not to Pay”.

Post #1

I have read posts about this in the past, even chapters in books about this, but now it’s my issue, so I share it with you.

I have a deep down discomfort with local church pastors being paid! I know that sounds like some off the shelf crazy man statement but every time I sit and ponder the issues surrounding pastors being paid I struggle with something inside.

Every time we pay for anything we have raised expectation of that person product or experience. If I don’t pay and I don’t get, I shrug and walk away. If I pay and I don’t get I have something to say about it. Or if I get less than what I desired or expected I am disappointed and go ‘pay’ elsewhere to get a better ‘product’.

Now before you bight my head off and quote scripture at me, I am aware of people being paid for ministry services in the bible. Paul often talked about receiving gifts and offerings. Interestingly enough though, Paul never received money from the people he ministered to WHILE he was ministering to them, and Paul was not a paid local church pastor. (not sure I see many of them in the bible!)
Paul was a missionary, a church planter, in the bible sense of church planting, not our modern style of planting pastors and congregations etc. (Not making comments/judgments here, just observation).

So, let me personalize this.
I have had this idea of a community chaplain, run under the auspices of Scripture Union. It’s like a school chaplain but the boundaries are just a bit wider, suburban if you like.
The idea is like a missionary to the suburb, but the job description looks like what any Christ follower could/should do – just on steroids, that is – committing more time and under a more formal set up…rewind the conversation back to the paragraphs above… could not the same be said of a local church pastor? This role is just what any member of the church should/could do depending on gifting etc only a paid church pastor/minister just commits more of his/her time to the role.

So the ideal – we all minister together not needing to pay someone (and getting all those nasty expectation issues listed above!).
In the organised church, we keep it smaller and more personable, easily accountable and lean on one another for the sharing of gifts and resources, natural leaders will gently lead guide, facilitate, gifted carers will care, teachers will teach and so on. No need to PAY someone, no need to PAY rent, mortgage and so on. Just put money where it’s most needed.

In the community, no need to pay chaplains, just make sure there are committed missionary people in the right places. discipled in such a way (little ad there) that they know what it means to live a missional existence in their place of residence. Believing teachers in schools would be the Christ light in those places, no need for chaplains being paid, all because we are missional disciples where we are at, in schools, work places – everywhere. (my brother was a good example of this is his job at Challenge Stadium. No doubt he is still now, but we chatted lots about his role as a kind of chaplain to the staff even though he was the HR guy.

So – All too ideal hey!! Sure I admit it. In fact I am guessing that most people in ministry reading the above would say, “I agree mostly. The picture you painted is the ideal and if that happened it would be great, only it does not happen, so paid workers are needed or nothing would happen”

Maybe the reason it does not happen is BECAUSE of the paid workers. The very people we pay to make disciples, to run the church could be the very reason we never get close to the ideal.

China, and early church are examples in which we have never seen such rapid growth iinthe church and in both examples paid workers were not to be seen, at least not to the scale we see it in the west.

So, with a passion to work a day or 2 a week as a community chaplain or even for some great branch of a group like Scripture Union doing, whatever how do I justify asking people to help me raise money to get paid to do the very things I was people I am working with to do for nothing?
Wont they think, “You do it, why should I? I go to work at the school, I’m not going to reach out to my street, I pay you to do that!”
Or they might think, “Are you standing here having a beer with me, or a BBQ or helping me with my garden because you are paid or because that’s just what we do as community?”

In the mean time I have to get back to my paid ministry job 🙂 Aghh I have to eat.

PS –
I found one persons take on it on You Tube


14 thoughts on “To Pay or Not To Pay (post #1)

  1. So how do you differ from a “church” collectively paying for a pastor and you receiving money from people to do what you want to do.
    I don’t know how you can get over the expectation thing, I still think people will have it because of your experience, education etc.

  2. I confess I’m a no paid-pastor guy too scott.

    I just don’t get why what a pastor does is any different to someone else in the same church leading a small group, playing piano, visiting the sick, opening their home through hospitality, consoling the mourning, sitting with the excluded. If everyone was faithful to their own personality and gifting, the community – instead of looking like a cookie-cutter franchise, would look unique to that particular group of people.

    Agreed, you wouldn’t be able to run a multi-million dollar, multi-service, multi-departmental organisation, but why put the cart before the horse? Start with what you’ve got, and if you can never get that big, who cares? Instead, be satisfied with the knowledge that anyone, any time can step up and experiment with a 100% totally sustainable, reproducible way of life – and no one has to pay anyone a cent to do it for them.

    If the pastor feels called to preach, how is that different from someone who feels called to listen? Why should the pastor get paid for simply doing what we expect everyone else to do for free, ie. be faithful to their own vocation?

    I guess that raises the question whether being a pastor is a legitimate and unique vocation, or simply supposed to be treated with the same respect as all the other members’ giftings within the Body? hmmmmmmmmm that could set the cat amongst the pigeons 😉

    matt (otherendup)

  3. Hi Scott,

    As you might expect, I’m not much into paying pastors or ‘hireling-priests’ as George Fox called them.

    Nevertheless, I can really hear what Gareth is saying. At some point we come up against the fact that often communities want to release people to do specific things.

    So, in some ways, the problem I have is not with paid pastors but with the community this seems to foster.

    At Peace Tree at the moment, we are experimenting with paying someone for 11 hours per week. For those 11 hours, this person does things related to developing cooperative and community structures. It is my hope that we can do more of this.

    I would be very disapointed of we just paid this person more, however. What I see as most beneficial is for all of us to continue to work towards freeing our time for ministry. Some of the better paid amongst us may feel they would like to support certain work amongst us. This is all to the good. I would like to see time freed that become productive and hospitable, not based on external donation but the creation of a household economy.

    The main point I am making is not that Peace Tree is good but that I think that the whole community must be disciples and that any one of us might be freed for ‘ministry on steroids’ as you put it.

    Am I making sense?

    Enough rambling.



  4. Yes, I agree. I think if the community are active and are in partnership with a paid person this works better. I guess the bigger the community the easier it is for people just to come along for the ride and pay their fee and still know that something is happening even though I am too busy to do anything. I think the missionary type role has more biblical justification for payment, but often that becomes a church planting role that then morphs into a pastoral role and I am not sure about this, particularly from a spiritual gifting perspective.

  5. Hey Scott,

    I’m having a few problems with some of this discussion. the essence of it i tend to agree with. there is alot of money spent that could be better spent on more community orriented ministry & mission. my question is, whose going to do this community mission & ministry. if i look at my week (i’m paid 3 days a week as a local church pastor in a largish, multi staffed church with a pretty big budget & a new facility)much of my time is spent helping people in our church community to fulfill the call of God on their lives. eg – I am the Scripture in schools coordinator for our local primary school. i have 9 teachers to coordinate, 470 students hear the gospel every week & the school community is responding & begining to connect to our church community. sure, this could be done by the guy who is the CEO of a local company, but really, will it???
    I know there is more to this argument & i certinally don’t want to sound cynical, but isn’t the main thing to work towards using as much of the resources God gives us as possible for mission while still maintaining relevance to the community around us. like just the other day – 3 weeks into our new facility, a guy & his daughter walked in off the street to listen to the band practice for our sunday night service. he left before the service but last sunday he brought his wife along & they stayed for the service & met a whole bunch of people and are keen to keep comming (oh did i mention that they never go to church). Now that’s got to be good surely.

    I’m actually proud (in a good sense) to be a part of a church that is having a missional impact in our community. i could cite some stats like, 26% of all our giving goes direct to the mission field. well over half of our staff are employed 1-2 days a week to fulfill roles that are totally devoted to Mission & engaging people in our community in mission.

    This being said, i know that there are plenty of churches where not much is going on & the congregation are like a big sponge n the time of the only employed pastor. but please, don’t throw the baby out with bath water. there’s alot of good kingdom seeds being sown through the ministry of local church pastors who love Jesus & love to see & help their people engage in the Mission of God.


  6. this is a hard conversation to have because it really has a lot to do with theory behind practice – something very hard to do if the practice is already in motion (due to theory already being explored and wrestled out).

    We are however in a unique situation – having been on one side of the fence – that of a large, multi-purpose, large, community-minded, mission-focussed church, we now find ourselves on the other – that of very little formalised structure, horizontal consensual voluntary participatory leadership.

    This side of the fence allows us to return to a privileged position of being able to challenge theory and theology and hence, question, deconstruct and reconstruct ideas, traditions and practices – one of those being the common practice of paying clergy.

    Now we find ourselves questioning why and why not; positives and negatives; benefits and harms; ideals and realities and we chew and wrestle and chew and wrestle and chew once again.

    Granted many churches utilize their resources well, and as you say, can mobilise upwards of a quarter of their funds into missions. But, there’s still 75% of money spent on self-sustaining – wages, maintenance, edification, discipleship, entertaining, etc etc.

    We have begun experimenting with a no-paid system of journeying together as a faith community. As a result, our resources are available to be utilised 100% into whatever focus we desire or sense a call towards. Each member is charged with faithfully wrestling with what it means to be authentic to who God has entrusted them to be.

    Each day, each one of us moves into our worlds and seeks to recognise and partner with God in the lives of those around us. This includes our interaction with our children, their friends, their friends’ parents, their teachers, the local shop keepers, our neighbours, our work colleagues, our gym partners, our friends etc etc.

    So i guess the answer to your question, “whose going to do this community mission & ministry”? is simply each person in our faith community.

    Idealistic? maybe. but this is the reality we discover each day amongst those we do life with. So, in this context, why would we pay someone to formalise this into a job description and potentially create a dichotomy between those who are paid to do ministry and those who are not?

    hope this makes sense.
    matt (otherendup)

  7. Wooo, now I’ve done it, I have my bestest buddy in the whole wide world going for it!
    Hi Neale, you don’t often make words on my blog, love to have you along, can’t wait to see you on the weekend!

    Back on topic –
    Remember when we were doing youth ministry together here in Perth, you the big guy in the south me the big guy in the north?
    One of our dreams (and we often talked about it as I remember) was to “do ourselves out of a job”. We even used those very same words.

    What exactly did we mean by that? And how do you see those words being connected to this conversation?

    If you can’t, that’s ok. I will have a shot, but you go first 🙂

  8. Thought you’d be a bit surprised mate, but I couldn’t help myself with this one. So don’t get me wrong I do struggle with lots of stuff that we do as a large mission minded, community impacting ministry in our very middle class eastern suburb of Melbourne community.
    But I’m also energized by the changed lives & countless stories of people being transformed by the awesome love of God.

    So I guess where I’m at is do we have to have an either or situation. Isn’t it more a case of the two models co existing for the benefit & furthering of the Kingdom of God in this world.

    I had a great chat to another mate today, ‘Rik’; he’s a history teacher & majors in Russian Revolution History. We got to talking about this & he made the comment that when you look at Communism in its purest ideological form, take out the bad/evil & cruel stuff, it’s hard to go past it as a theory. It would be awesome if everyone worked their buts off for the common good with no expectation of anything in return other than others would do the same for them. This is the essence of what Communism is all about. But as he said, human nature takes over & we all strive for our little piece of the pie & why should i work so hard or stand up & lead or put myself out when the guy next to me is just going to sit back & let it all come to him, but then the system breaks down. Where am I going with this? Well I guess, I do agree with the idea that you are wrestling with & if I found myself in a context where it felt right to explore this then great. Do I think it’s idealistic, maybe, but it’s worth a shot so you got my support, go for it! We need both.

    The bottom line is I’m not at the moment. I’m 3 days now, because I actually see that this is better for our church community, & frees up funds to put elsewhere, more focused mission oriented. & in response to you question Scotty, do I still believe in doing myself out of a job, I did it in Perth & I’m continuing to do it here as I do what I believe I’m called to do as per Ephesians 4:11 “It was he who gave (gifts to men) some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors & teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service…” you know the rest. So in my context, I give 3 days of my time, my best time/energy/brain time to this, & hopefully if I do it ok, my community is built up, trained up, inspired & released to sow Kingdom seeds. & yes, that for me as well, where, well in the school, at my boys scout group, at my petrol station, with my neighbors & where ever God would lead me. No different to you I guess.

    So the upshot, is it about our context, where we find ourselves, can the two models coexist? I reckon they have to because one shoe doesn’t fit all. I’m looking forward to FORGE too this weekend. I want to be stirred up & challenged to be true to my true calling, because I know that I’m not always & I do get caught up in stuff that is internal & just feeding the animal. I thank God every day that he’s got me in a community that welcomes & doesn’t fear being challenged in this stuff.

    Looking forward to continuing the conversation as we walk the trails of Wilsons Prom next week.

  9. Loving the conversation, keep it up!

    I find myself in a very familiar position…agreeing with both sides of the camp! This is always difficult…

    I am finding it very hard(like I am sure everyone does), even though I am still in paid christian ministry (primary school chaplain) to do what I feel called to at this stage in life (specifically lead teenagers to the Lord). I am coaching a local high school team, in my own time (like most other Christ followers have to do) BUT I will be unable to take them to the very event I am coaching them for and spend an entire week with them because of my job (even though it is paid christian ministry). If I was still in paid youth ministry, I could.

    So I guess what I am trying to say is, I agree with both, I love what you guys are doing and thinking Scott, EVERY person SHOULD be a full-time missionary. And maybe if we didn’t have paid staff more people would. But I also strongly feel that paying a few people opens up opportunities that are just not available otherwise. Like with NealeM’s case, and my old church, whilst a LOT of money does go into maintaining an animal, it TRULY opens up so very many opportunities for discipleship, evangelism and the like, with huge dividends IMO, that just would not be available without paid workers.

    It could be argued that if God ‘wanted’ those opportunities to be available, then he would make them available, even if people aren’t in paid ministry but the counter argument might even be that he has, by getting us to pay people to focus on them!

    At the end of the day my opinion is that both models are great and maybe we need to encourage more unpaid groups like yours to spring up.

    I have a whole heapmore to say but I have just spend 15 minutes trying to work out ‘how’ to say it, and can’t, so will leave it for now. Save it for coffee conversations…I am much more articulate in person than on blogs:D

  10. “EVERY person SHOULD be a full-time missionary. “

    “And maybe if we didn’t have paid staff more people would. “

    “But I also strongly feel that paying a few people opens up opportunities that are just not available otherwise.”

    “that just would not be available without paid workers”

    Good wrestling Middo (welcome to the amazing world of chaplaincy too!!!)

    I find it hard to go anywhere with the both/and conversation because but it seems to use the logic of…

    because there is a problem we need to keep supporting the system (while recognizing that the system being supported may have been foundational in causing the problem in the first place and therefore may only continue to reinforce the problem)

    can you see my tension?

    the fact is, we have instutionalised church structures that survive on the cycle of people coming and tithing and pastors getting paid to do a majority of the work during the week. And unless we consider doing away with the paid clergy system, we need to do the best we can with what we have – that seems to be what both you and Neale are alluding to.

    But my contention is – there is an alternative way, but it means rethinking and restructuring how we do what we currently do – everything is up for grabs including the paid pastoral role, building ownership etc etc. Only then can we truly begin to address the issue of poor discipleship and the repeating cycle of consumeristic religion.

    But like I said – we had to leave paid ministry positions and reimagine how to sustainably and faithfully respond to Christ “in the world” like normal people 😉 before we could get close enough to the problem to do something about it.

    keep the faith,

  11. (I’ll make Scott’s day – both his wife and his mate Neale commenting on one post!!)
    Matt, one of the benefits of a ‘both/and’ way of looking at things is that it can help us to realise that life is not black and white. For example – you say that “we had to leave paid ministry positions and reimagine how to sustainably and faithfully respond to Christ “in the world” like normal people ;-)” and yet you are being paid to be Christ in your chaplaincy role. Sure, you’re not in a traditional church, pastoring people who already know Christ, but it remains that you are being paid and because of that you are seen as a part of the staff at your school and so … “But I also strongly feel that paying a few people opens up opportunities that are just not available otherwise.”..applies to your situation I think.
    AS with many things which are not black and white in our faith journey, I think that this area calls for balance. Balance in exploring all the options for how best to faithfully serve CHrist in our lives, and how to faithfully support others’ service in their lives. On the one hand this may mean trusting God that His children will freely choose to actively love and serve Him through loving and serving people from Sunday through to Saturday without being paid for it. On the other hand it may be an acknowledgement that the task at hand will take enough of someone’s time that they need to have some kind of remuneration because we live in a culture where we ‘need’ more than a pair of sandals and an extra tunic for the journey.
    Scott – you said the other night that you see missions/ outreach positions differently to pastoral roles in terms of being paid. I guess my observation there is that those of us who have never been in paid ministry would not expect to be paid to be Christ in our workplace or Uni or school community – and that is missions/ outreach.
    This is truly a difficult conversation to have – not just for Neale who is in a more traditional church role, but also for you because “people” are your profession and your passion. I know you’ve said that you would find it difficult to work – for example – in a local community youth position because you would be restricted in how you could share Christ with people. Yet it is precisely those restrictions which those of us who are outside of the “paid clergy” have to deal with all the time.

    I have to totally agree with Middo that I have sat here for ages trying to express my thoughts and deleted more typing than I have left in. In the end I think that is because I see validity for both sides of the argument – which brings me back to “both/and”.

    Well, you know how much I LOVE leaving comments on your blog!!!!! Hope Forge is great. Love ya.

    Mrs Vawz

  12. Chris – I guess because I am supported by the school P&C, not the local churches, I feel like my chaplaincy role is as one of the many pastoral care providers within the student services sector of the school, rather than as a church representative from outside the school.

  13. Christine AND Neale M – What have I done 🙂
    I still like hanging on to my ideals, none of this fence sitting (both/and)!!
    I say sack every pastor and send em out to work a real job.
    Can you tell I am tired and need to go back to bed?

  14. Hey Scott. I just posted on this myself without knowing what you were writing. Neale filled me in what you were writing, he even hopped on my blog. I’m flabergasted! Just the fact that Neale is in the blogosphere, I’m still coming to grips with it! Anyway . . . I sacked myself and got a real job and now am self employed and starting a church and pray that my job can support ministry. I just saw too many dollars going in to places where they didn’t need to be spent. This doesn’t mean though that i think the system of an institutional style church is wrong as this is what could happen or seem to look like happening with us. I believe it comes back to the heart of the people and how they use their gifts and finances. I could see a church being self-funded if the people can find their own means of financial support. There’s lots of questions that can come from this though and I’m not sure if I want to go there so I’ll leave it. Good thoughts though and my desire is to see if having a self sustainable church body can work without wages and spending too much on buildings etc Where most of the funds given goes directly back to mission amongst the people.

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