I know I shouldn’t get embarrassed so easily but the simple truth is that I do. Almost every day I’m met by some act of kindness, big or small, some word of encouragement or thanks, some gift of generosity of time, material things or friendship.
Never am I more acutely embarrassed than when I’m talking to other pastors who are telling me the stories of the things they are going through. I blush when they ask how things are with our church. After the stories that get shared I’m often afraid to say how much I enjoy our local church and how much fun I have doing what I do here.
Don’t get me wrong. We have challenges. Finances are one of them. Getting everyone to show up at roughly the same time is one of them. And personal loss or suffering among us is ongoing.
But no one is actively seeking to have me turfed. (as far as I know – and frankly, that’s good enough for me.) No one complains about how high my lawn has grown (yes, I have a friend who woke up one morning to find a board member kneeling on his front lawn with a ruler measuring his grass prior to the night’s board meeting). Not everyone is crazy about me or how I do things but I learned way back in youth ministry that that’s why you have a multitude of leaders – so everyone finds someone to connect with. No one is suggesting that it’s time for a showdown and it’s either me or the choir that goes.
Here’s a number, a stat, that I read this week and verified with 3 different sources.
1,500 pastors quit every month in North America.
Some of those are moral failures but most are not. This is a stat I’ve learned in the last week and between you and me I’m shocked and…well…not shocked.
One thing that’s breaking pastors is their personal finance.
Week to week the financial income and support of their family is entirely based on a group of people choosing to give a portion of their hard earned income on a weekly basis. We don’t sell anything, manufacture anything or process anything. Each week our offering has to cover all our expenses as a church family as well as a salary for the pastor and staff if they have it. If a third of most of those attending a worship service decided they couldn’t afford to give anything next week, very simply, we couldn’t get paid.
I’ve personally been let go by one church because they couldn’t afford to pay me. I will add that I know of many other churches that have laid off staff both in the past and in recent days. And I’ll even mention the first church staff experience I ever had where the pastor, my friend Charlie, would sometimes not get paid or only get paid a portion of what he was supposed to because, as the treasurer reminded him, “we have to pay our bills first.”
The future doesn’t look all that good finance-wise either. An elder at a church where I once worked brought me back a t-shirt from his trip to Florida. It read, “I’m A Pastor. The pay isn’t great but the retirement benefits are out of this world!” Funny. Hrmmmm. Generally, we’ve got no retirement. Nada. Not a penny saved towards that end or so little that it really won’t help. Most pastors in Canada make a salary that is below the national poverty line.
Hard not to break when you’ve got kids and the community you are in expects you to live a certain lifestyle – attend gatherings, invite to dinners, send kids to camps and events – and you make a half or third of what most make.
I’m not cleverly disguising a complaint here about how I’m compensated now. It really isn’t.
I’m not into disguising and frankly I’m not clever.
I’ve got a friend who realized one day, after a long and contentious relationship with the church board he worked with, that he made about one third the salaries of the men on the board. He realized that the lack of respect they displayed for him was entirely germane to their business world. They would never respect someone who came to work at their companies and asked or settled for such a meagre salary. From their perspective, he reasoned, only someone desperate, poorly skilled or lacking educational experience would work for that level of pay.
What do you think? Are you surprised that 1500 pastors quit every month? What are the factors that lead to this?
(to be continued)