How the Preacher Is Paid
Guest Author: Anonymous I recently saw that a friend and fellow preacher may be facing a large debt of medical bills due to health insurance costs related to their child’s having a medical condition. Then, in the comments below, preachers and preacher’s wives stated how they faced similar predicaments. I too, as a preacher, am paying off a deductible from this year on a plan that is being phased out by the end of the year. We preachers may sound like a bunch of whiners when it comes to finances, but we don’t mean to be. If you find yourself ever thinking that your preacher makes good money and seems to always lament how broke he is, sometimes it could be that he is a poor manager of money. However, there are also some differences between his pay and yours that you might consider.
Before I became a preacher, I worked in secular fields. Therefore, I know what it’s like to be an employee of a large corporation and receive the benefits that go along with employment such as a group discount on health insurance, 401K matching, and various other perks that I took for granted but now wished I had. Here’s the reality of a preacher’s paycheck.
Some often tout how well their congregation pays the preachers, and I wouldn't dispute that we are fairly compensated. I know of some preachers who just aren’t. However, what others may be unaware of is that the number on the budget sheet may look good, but the expenses/taxes associated with being a preacher is another thing. When I'm paid, I have to pay my own FICA whereas those working for an employer pay only half of their FICA while their employer pays the other half. For me, at least, that's a little over 5K per year. Imagine if your boss gave you a $5,000 raise or took that much from you—it's nearly an extra $100.00 per week. I'm taxed this way as if I'm self-employed, but I'm an employee of the church in other ways.
On top of this, only I contribute towards my retirement whereas companies may have a matching program or a pension—there's some money we’re missing out on. I also pay for my health insurance which isn't at a group-rated discount. For me to afford the monthly premiums on health insurance, I had to take a policy with a 10K deductible. Since a significant health need arose within my family, I have to pay that 10K. My wife and I don't want to be in the poor house when we're old and gray. In the meantime, we'd been saving some money in a health savings account, but the surgery ruined what savings we had. Therefore, we've incurred an additional monthly expense until we pay off that balance.
What about preachers who live in the church’s home? The church home is excellent, but whenever we decide to move, we don't get any of the equity it's accrued. Because my salary is what it is, and the taxes/costs of being a preacher are what they are, we cannot afford a house and are losing money if you look at it that way. Moreover, we have to pay taxes on the rentable income that the church’s home could be rented for while not getting any equity. So, whenever brethren talk about how great we're paid, again, they’re not entirely inaccurate. However, they aren’t totally accurate either.
I surrendered my goals of earning six figures by the time I was thirty when I went into ministry. I knew that I wouldn't get rich being a preacher. I also was and am still also okay with living comfortably rather than extravagantly. My family and I want for nothing, praise God! All our needs are met, and many of our wants are too. I knew what I was signing up for, so I accept it as long as I'm useful to God's kingdom. I'm not complaining about my salary, but I'll speak honestly about it. Given the years I've been a minister, and the education that I've taken on as personal expense (a good deal of which is debt), the experiences and knowledge I have, I'd argue, have contributed to making me the preacher I am. If you were to compare how I do my job in the church with the free market, the question churches have to answer is if their preachers are being paid what they’re worth and not just what's allotted in the budget.
It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. Simply because I signed up for the work of ministry, and I have no regrets. However, I point these things out because sometimes brethren make comments like, “We pay you more than enough,” or “You make plenty of money.” One brother told me that one particular congregation told preachers that no preacher deserves to make over 80K a year. For me, at least, I could have stayed in the secular workforce in my own field and would be making more than I am now. However, I counted the cost and took up my cross. The sky isn’t falling, but many preachers are only one major catastrophe away from the poor house. I hope that this gets you to at least think about your preacher’s pay. I’m sure most folks are unaware of a minister’s taxes and expenses to the degree of how they differ from an employee. I’ll close by saying that all the churches I’ve ever worked for have been more than willing to pay me what is fair. I thank God for His providence.
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