Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The pastor, job skills, and supplemental income

Even if the average SBC senior pastor is in the $50k salary range, scads of the ministerial brethren are in considerably more meager territory and some will never progress to larger churches and higher pay.

What can be done?

One thing that is not meager in SBC life is opinions. In spite of being short on compensation, we are always rich in opinions and advice. Classify this blog article as pontificatory...and I apologize for it in advance. It is well worth what it costs you to read it.

Here are some ideas, all of which I have either experienced or have had colleagues who have over the years:

  • Supplementing income. At various times over the years I have supplemented my pastoral income in a number of ways. While this can be problematic in some pastoral situations, I was blessed to be able to do this. Today, selling merchandise on Ebay or books on Amazon are easily done without interference with pastoral duties.
  • The traditional route to extra income is to get invited to preach revivals and the like. Hmmm, invitations are not always easy to come by, so the parson might be proactive and find another route. I have known fellow pastors to do debt collection work, census enumeration, substitute teaching, bus driving and other things. There are opportunities out there.
  • The biggest obstacle is probably the attitude of the pastor who may look at his penury and haughtily conclude that it is God and the church's responsibility to provide him with income; consequently, he sits and awaits checks from others. Do I recall something about Paul working to provide his own income at times?
  •  I have known some of the brethren to have an expectation of entitlement as a result of their being in the Christian ministry. This leads to unattractive discount fishing expeditions and subtle begging. Tsk, tsk, not very becoming and people recognize this and one's reputation suffers.
  • Some of the old ministerial codgers advise younger dudes to have a skill and not take the Bible school undergrad, seminary grad route. Get a business degree, teaching degree, HVAC certification, whatever, but have some job skills. I know of colleagues who have taken time out from pastoring to retrain.
  • The Methodists guarantee a church for every minister. Baptist do not. We guarantee a place in the seminary classroom where we will take your tuition money and help you get a sheepskin but beyond that only smiles, recommendations, and back slaps but not a church and certainly not a good paying church.
  • God will provide but it is not unspiritual for the minister to prepare and work until God provides that better paying church.
I believe that most state conventions, the seminaries, and LifeWay have resources in place to provide career and other counseling. Associational Missionaries may be sympathetic in this regard but not terribly helpful, but my experience is limited. Sometimes it is beneficial for the isolated pastor to have a third-party involved in looking at his situations.

Did you know that Starbucks is having a special day where if you bring in this blog article and ten bucks or so you can get a cup of some fancy-named coffee.

I am curious to know if many others supplement their pastoral income? How?


John Wylie said...


I have and still do supplement my income from time to time. I have a daughter in college and two daughters who are driving and so you can see where I need a little extra every now and then.

I've done a lot of different things in the last twenty years of ministry. I have a commercial drivers license and have driven both trucks and buses. I have been a fire suppression system installer, a water treatment operator, currently I am the man who mixes dough at a local pie shop. Thank God I have a kind church that allows me to do such things.

Anonymous said...

I'll give it a whirl. I left retail management (hardly conducive to bi-vocational ministry) to go "into full-time ministry." The advice of my pastor at that time was that I never enter full-time ministry. He had served faithfully for over 40 years and now I see his wisdom.

I am in a church which went "full-time" a few years ago, prior to my arrival, to "grow" the church. There is now a very real prospect that the church will need to return to part-time in the future. With this in mind, I have been considering some options that I may have.

I'll give you a few things I've tried to see how things worked out.

Secondary ticket broker: Long explanation but requires a lot of capital, hours of pouring over info, and wasn't conducive to ministry.

Odd jobs - mowing grass, busing tables, hauling junk, etc. I now have a child in high school, middle school, elementary school, and daycare, and my time is scattered.

I'm praying and looking. I've considered returning to school to become accredited as a teacher (but I fear the restrictive hours), or _______, or _________. Right now I really just don't know.

As you mentioned, my pay looks fairly good now but in five years when I have two in college it will not be very appealing. I'm open for suggestions.

John Wylie said...


I know you are concerned about the restrictive hours of school teachers but if you look at the actual hours they work it is actually the ideal job for a parent or pastor. You would be working at the same time that your children are in school. You would have most of the Summer off with them as well.

Unknown said...

I like the idea of scrap salvage as a supplemental job for the pastor. Seems a good fit.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a pastor, but I do have a question.

I've lived extremely rural most of my life, where churches were long distances apart. I so appreciate the men willing to serve tiny fields.

When I was younger, not many of them had been to college, let alone seminary, but had studied under an older pastor and might still be doing so.

Today the word from the state convention is that all bivos need seminary.

Would alternative education in substitution for seminary make more sense for some far flung pastors?

No student loans maybe?

Anonymous said...

Biased toward a seminary (i.e., advanced) degree for ministers, but given the state of the church under the leadership of said people, perhaps an undergraduate degree in religion or a religion-based field is sufficient as an entry-level degree for professional ministry. I hardly think it would make things worse, might even solve a few problems, but I do think that more uneducated (i.e., lacking a degree from higher education) ministers is not a route to encourage.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of bi-vocational for the reason it puts the pastor where the people are Monday - Friday.

I don't like the idea of bi-vocational because I like to have my pastor available if and when the church needs his presence.

No matter which is chosen or available, the church has some expectations which I think are valid. There is a role for the pastor/leader which needs to be present to help a church be healthy.

Then again, I could be selfish.


Unknown said...

An educated clergy is a beneficial thing for all of us, but that education may not need to be a resident, graduate work of three years. I think there are sufficient alternatives already available.

I am rather wary of ministerial students acquiring loans. Such is a losing proposition.

Moses Model said...

Currently I am tent making. During my last paid pastoral position, I also worked two other jobs.

My experience makes me a little more sympathetic to those in the Clergy Project. They provide job training for atheist clergy who have little other job skills other than pastoring.

John Wylie said...

Anon 1:41,

I guess I would disagree with your comments about education. I do not equate being educated to having a degree. And I'm sorry but even regarding an undergrad degree as a requirement for entry level ministry is really a little perplexing.

A person needs to be educated, but that education can be either formal or informal. There is more help than ever for pastors today to get training. There are internet resources, free courses, preaching and ministry seminars and more available to anyone who wishes to be educated. But I personally think mounting up student loan debt just so you can get a sheepskin that you don't really need is not advisable.

Anonymous said...

I think we all can provide examples of people with degrees that cause us to scratch our heads and for some without to cause us to sit up and take positive notice. I would also suggest that these tend to be the exceptions that we sometimes use to deny a more typical reality. Caring, compassion, interpersonal competence, many of the things that we often first think about when recalling ministers are not contingent on education, but said affective attributes are not the only important considerations of professional ministry, even if most ministers, like most executives, fail for inadequately displaying these attributes.

I share your concern about modes of education and the costing of such, but even considering some of the political behavior behind bodies that attest to educational quality (think of the AMA and its power to deny the credentialing of foreign physicians and the positive influence that such has on physician compensation and to a lesser extent the baptist conventions that do not help non-degreed clergy find employment), formal systems of education on average will prepare one more adequately for professional ministry than informal systems. This is not to suggest there is no value in the latter, there is value, but its value is best understood as being adjunctive to the former.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the responses concerning alternative modes of education.

Never meant to imply we need uneducated clergy, just asking if a different route might not be better for someone serving in remote areas.

Unknown said...

Though I am currently blessed by the congregation to serve full-time, I have also had to go bi-vocational before, and am not naive as to think it won't ever be required again.

However, I have often thought an interesting bi-vocational route would be to earn a barber's license. Barbers can form partnerships to share hours. They often meet the same customers through the years, and it is one of the few places left in this country where men feel free to wage conversations on all types of subjects, regardless of who is in the room. A pastor can learn a lot about his community working at a barber shop. The money isn't always great, but it could meet needs and simultaneously build roots for ministry in a given community.

It can also help in retirement, too.

Kevin said...

I do blogging/affiliate marketing to supplement what I get in donations.

The advantages are completely flexible schedule and work hours, which has been very good for ministry.

The disadvantage is the instability of the income (you can't predict how many sales you will make, how much traffic your website/blog will get, etc.).

I plan to keep doing this even after I move to the States and even if I'm able to get a full-time ministry position.