WHAT’S IT WORTH?

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a doctor’s office just waiting. We have already spent more than an hour in the waiting room flipping through outdated magazines looking at photos of people that we will never look like. A nurse calls us into the back where she weighs us and takes other vital signs. Then she leads us into another room with the butcher-paper covered table. There we wait some more while looking at different, older magazines than those in the waiting room.

We wait and wait, an hour past our appointed time. Our blood pressure begins to rise, not because we are ill, but because we are irritated. We begin to think, “My time is more valuable than this. Who does that doctor think he is?” Finally, he comes in, asks a few questions, runs through the ritual, then he writes a prescription and lets us out. He tells us to see the receptionist on the way out. We become irate because he charged an outrageous amount for the little time spent diagnosing us. Then we try to figure out how much that visit made the doctor for an hour of time. We calculate that the doctor is making an inordinate amount of money per hour. We leave the office cursing the health-care system, and we begin to wonder about a more equitable way to pay the doctor.

Derek Halpern uses the illustration of a locksmith to distinguish between paying for time and paying for value. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VhCUHNdijo at 1:50) A locksmith went around helping people open their stuck locks. At first, it took him two and a half hours to open the locks. He charged his clients $250, and they happily paid. As he improved his skills, he shortened the time to an hour, then to half an hour, and finally down to ten minutes. The clients began to get angry because he was charging the same amount of money for the same job. So, they began to gripe because that was making more than $1000 an hour.

The difference was that they were thinking about how much they were paying for his time rather than how much they were paying for his value. The same with the doctor. You do not pay for how much time the doctor actually spends with you. You are paying for the value due to his or her training and years of experience. Value not time.

Now think about your pastor. Should a pastor be paid for his or her services? Many think not, that he or she should just “live by faith,” whatever that means. The Bible says, “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (First Corinthians 9:14). Jesus also said, “The worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7). Pastors and ministers are to be paid. The question is how much? I often hear “jokingly,” “You only work two days a week, and only half days at that.”

When you pay a minister, what are you paying for? Time, or value? A recent article on http://www.theatlantic.com talked about the decline in the numbers of full time jobs for ministers. It has come to the point that some are having difficult times trying to pay back their student loans. (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/higher-calling-lower-wages-the-collapse-of-the-middle-class-clergy/374786/) Many ministers have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet, myself included. Often the spouse has to work as well. When a church calls a minister, they should ask themselves, “What are we willing to do to support our minister?”

So, the question remains, “What is it worth to have a full time, seminary-trained pastor? Are you going to treat him or her as an hourly employee, paying by the hour? Or are you going to pay by their worth? If we were to be honest with ourselves, many church budgets do not reflect that they truly value the minister. Some members spend more on fancy coffee on the way to church than they put in the plate at church on Sundays.

Ministers do not punch a time clock. Much of ministry takes place outside of “office hours,” and much of it takes place outside of the office itself. I have had church members over the years tell me, “We want to find you in your office!” Doing what, I wonder. How much time can be spent studying the Bible for sermon preparation?

When I began pastoring almost thirty years ago, personal computers were a rarity and cell phones only for the elite. Now a pastor is not tied to a desk waiting for the phone to ring when a member calls and needs to talk. Over the years I have served, however, the majority of the calls came from salespeople rather than members.

So what is it worth to you to have a full time, seminary-trained pastor? Is it valuable enough to your church to make sacrifices in other areas to compensate your minister adequately? Another way to look at it would be to ask yourself, would you work for this salary?

Ministers’ families have the same needs as yours. He or she may have student loans to pay off as well. Seminary is not cheap as it is not subsidized like public universities. Money does not just fall out of the sky and into ministers’ bank accounts any more than it does into yours. That is not what living by faith means.

What does your church budget say about how much you value your minister? Jesus said that the worker deserves his wages. That means value, not time.