As you might know, all of our ministry staff members receive the same salary. We implemented this policy because we saw the importance of children’s ministry. For an adult ministry to grow, it is essential that the senior pastor have a long tenure. It is rare to see churches grow when they change pastors every 4 or 5 years. Just like adult ministries, children’s ministries also need their pastors to have long tenures in order to thrive. But in most churches, the educational staff’s salaries are tiny compared to those of the senior pastors’, and are not enough to support their families. As a result, many children’s or youth group pastors leave their churches when they graduate from seminary or receive invitations from other churches to become senior pastors.
When I came to Seoul Baptist Church I decided that my associates should be provided enough salary to support their families. I decided to give everyone, including myself, the same salary to strengthen the camaraderie of the staff members. To avoid to putting a financial burden on the church, I froze my salary and started giving my annual increase to my staff members. After seven years, our salaries were finally equal.
I’ve heard that many churches in Houston and other areas have followed our lead and increased the salaries of their English, youth and children’s pastors. I am glad that we played a role in helping educational staff members financially.
Some people think it’s unfair for all pastors to make the same amount when there are obvious differences in their responsibilities and the amount of work they do. But I believe that the salary of a church staff worker is not a “salary” in the strict sense. In the corporate world, one’s salary is a reward for work performed. For pastors, it is not meant to be a reward but a means for pastors to provide financial support for their families so that they can concentrate on their ministries without having to worry about finances.
All pastors have financial needs regardless of their position or responsibilities. Recently married pastors need to buy furniture. Pastors with young children need to buy things for them. Pastors with grown children need to pay for education. I think it’s best to give them all the same amount of money and let them manage their needs themselves. If their needs are great they must learn to manage their family finances efficiently. If they have fewer needs, they may experience the pleasure of giving to mission funds or helping others financially.
I know that some people think our staff salary is too high. But this is unfounded. A survey of 2,800 U.S. churches in 2004-2005 showed that compared to suburban churches with Sunday worship attendance greater than 1,000 (ours is 1,700), our staff salary is $10,000 more than the average for youth or children’s pastors, and $13,000 less than that of the average associate pastor. My salary is $45,000 less than the average for senior pastors.
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