My seminary students occasionally ask me about whether a "pay package" a church offers them is adequate. I can't always answer that question easily because I don't know the church's financial state.
What I do know is what I believe a church ought to provide for its pastors. Your church may not be in a position to offer all these benefits, but perhaps you could work toward providing them:
1. Housing allowance. In my judgment, the pastor's salary and housing allowance should be considered the pastor's "base package." The salary, of course, is assumed, and a housing allowance is a designated portion of the pastor's salary that allows for tax benefits. Make sure your pastor is aware of this opportunity.
2. Self-employment tax offset. If your pastor pays self-employment taxes, your church should consider providing additional funds that cover the portion they would have to pay if the pastor were classified as an employee. Tax rules still require your pastor to count the dollars as income, but the additional funds toward those costs will be helpful.
3. Health, disability, and life insurance coverage. I encourage churches to provide full family coverage for health insurance, but do cover at least the pastor's premiums. Likewise, the pastor may want more disability and life insurance coverage than the church offers, but do offer at least some level of insurance.
4. Mileage reimbursement. Many pastors travel a lot by car. They should not be forced to pay out of their own pockets for business-related travel.
5. Retirement funds. Even if your pastors are young, help them think about the future by contributing to a retirement fund for them. Even a few dollars per month can pay off in the long run.
6. Book and resource allowance. If you want your pastors to continue to study and grow, provide resources for them to do so. They might exceed whatever allowance you provide, but help cover some of these costs.
7. Travel allowance. Your pastors may want to attend training conferences or denominational meetings that take place out of town. Make that possible by providing a travel budget.
8. Continuing education funds. I trust you want your pastors to be the best-equipped leaders. If so, offering funds toward further training (whether via attending conferences or working toward an accredited degree) will encourage them to get that training.
9. Entertainment and fellowship funds. If pastors take only one family per month to dinner, the costs still add up if they are paying out of their own funds. The church should cover the cost of entertainment and fellowship that intentionally promote the church's ministry.
10. Phone coverage. Many pastors use their cell phones recurrently during the week to do church "business." Consider providing at least a portion of these costs.
11. Time off. Give your pastors a weekly day off and significant time for vacation (e.g., 3-4 weeks per year). Hold them accountable to get the rest and relaxation they deserve and need.
12. Sabbatical time. At least every 6-7 years, give your pastor a one-month paid sabbatical. I've written elsewhere about the benefits of a pastoral sabbatical, but I re-state my summary here: hard-working pastors can use the sabbatical to prepare for many more years of effective ministry.
What would you add or omit from this list?
Be sure to check out Dr. Lawless' daily blog posts at www.chucklawless.com. Chuck Lawless serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.
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