Finance Fridays: Church Planter Salaries

As I spend time helping church planters get their churches up and running our conversations always end up including a conversation about salaries.  This can be a rather contentious subject since most times church planters are raising their own salaries, and fundraising is hard work.  What makes it even more complicated is the fact that there really is no standard salary for church planters.  With the cost of living of each context being slightly different, it is hard to say for certain what is the perfect amount.  That said, when I have this conversation with planters, I encourage them to spend a great deal of time soaking and praying, while wrestling through four guidelines that should inform their thought.  A church planters salary needs to enable them to:

  • Model Generosity.  Generous churches are led by generous pastors.  You are the one who will be setting the tone for the church’s culture of generosity, which means having the ability to sacrificially give.  A salary that does not enable you to tithe, support missionaries, give to those in need, or make other one time gifts is a salary that will limit your ability to truly establish a generous culture within your church.
  • Minimize Stress.  As a church planter, the stress that your family endures will be intense.  You will experience pressure from all sides, and there will be days that you consider checking to see if Home Depot is hiring.  Constantly worrying about making the rent payment or having to decide between buying groceries or a coat for your daughter is an added stress that you want to avoid if at all possible.  Setting a salary that frees you from living paycheck to paycheck is not only good for your stress levels, it allows you to better minister to your congregation.
  • Model Responsibility.  As a pastor you are constantly modeling behaviors for your congregation.  As our current economic climate has proven, many of those that we are ministering to are living out of balance economically.  Modeling financial responsibility for our people is incredibly important as we move forward.  In order to do this, you need to have the ability to not only pay your bills, but to save money, prepare for retirement, prepare for your kid’s education, and give.  Model this well, and you will significantly impact generations to come.
  • Enable Connections.  Every neighborhood has a specific culture.  In order to minister to your neighborhood, you need to be able to engage the neighborhood in the manner in which it does life.  In some neighborhoods this means developing relationships through children’s sporting events, others revolve around local community associations, for some it is a country club.  Whatever the cultural distinctives of the neighborhood you are ministering to, you need to ensure that your salary enables you to fully engage the neighborhood in the way that they choose to be engaged with.

Occasionally I will have a church planter say something along the lines of “I’ll just get a side job to help finance the church… that way I won’t have to raise as much support.”  While that sounds noble, let me say that I believe bi-vocational ministry is a calling… and a calling that not everyone has.  If this is not your calling, “taking a job” instead of fundraising is not noble… it is lazy, and will ultimately hurt your church’s ability to fully minister to the community that you are called to.

How do YOU set a church planter’s salary?


About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.

  • Erik

    As a churchplanter in The Netherlands we choose to start organic/simple churches. I have served as a full-time pastor but must admit I prefer working bi-vocational. I think it is the best of both worlds: serving people in church, praying, teaching and living. On the other hand working and feeling the same stress of others in earning a living. Because I am a reverend I also have good and indepth contact with other people in business. It probably is not the way for most people but I think it is easily dismissed as a possibility by most. BTW: I work as an entrepreneur byuing and selling goods and product development.

    • Matt Steen

      Thanks for sharing that, Erik!  It sounds like your current situation is working out quite well for you.  I have a great deal of respect for the bi-vocational planters, regardless of where you guys are planting… while I am certain it is a good fit… I am also certain it is a great deal of work… thank you for undertaking it.

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  • J R

    It still doesn’t answer the question. It in summary says to be generous and consider the community the church is in. Numbers? Percent? What is the standard?