25 November 2014

Finances & Ministry: A Delicate Matter.

The more studies we read, the more the topic of finances pops up. While many studies tend to focus on the social and mental health of clergy families, clergy workers and clergy spouses are consistently mentioning the concerns they have with how little ministry actually pays. Now that's not to say that clergy families are demanding more income. In fact, they are often very hesitant to mention it as they are aware that ministry is entered as a God-given calling and asking for a higher salary feels contrary to following that calling.

I was reading a fascinating article last Friday and came across some surprising statistics. "Clergy rank in the top 10% of the population (American) in terms of education but rank 325th out of 432 occupations in terms of salary." (Morris & Blanton, 1994).

 So while they are some of the most educated, it does not also follow that they are better paid because of these qualifications. According to the same study, while many pastors are expected to work an average of 51 hours a week, they are also the most likely professionals to need to work 2 jobs to cover the costs of everyday living!

If you just do the maths, a 51-hour work week (if you work every day) averages out to about 7 hours a day (or 8.5 hours a day if you work 6 days a week). On top of that, Morris and Blanton discovered that as many as 14% of their clergy participants also worked another job and 76% of their spouses also worked to cover the costs of living. That's a whole lot of work!!

The call to ministry is extremely personal and requires not only your attention as a professional but in all areas of your life. As any clergy worker called to ministry will tell you it's a joy and privilege. And none of these important factors are taken away by the need for an income to cover the costs of living. I was speaking to a clergy spouse recently and they mentioned that while they loved opening their home for ministry, they didn't have enough money (or the proper hospitality set up such as an oven or dishwasher) to cover the costs of their own family plus ministry expenses. In the end, they have to choose.

It is such a delicate topic that I believe has little to do with the calling to ministry and more to do with the cost of living within the context of a culture. Clergy families do not wish to be rich, they simply want to be able to follow God's calling for their lives, without having to choose between catering for a ministry meal or buying their children shoes. As a clergy spouse once said: "Even a food voucher would be enough."
In summary, as the Apostle Paul says: "Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?...If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?" (1 Corinthians 9: 4-6; 11-12).

"The Influence of Work-Related Stressors on Clergy Husbands and Their Wives." Michael L Morris and Priscilla W Blanton, 1994. Journal: Family Relations.

~ Rachel

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