The minimum salary for a full time pastor in our Presbytery is $42,764 cash annually, which is not a lot for someone with a Masters Degree who works 50+ hours a week living in an urban area.
Quite a few of our pastors make the minimum salary, no matter how much experience they have or how hard they work or how gifted they are.
This has a lot to do with the size of the active congregation. If a church has 50 active members, each and every member would have to donate $1,152.52 a year just to have a FT pastor, covering the cash salary and required benefits. A church with 30 members would require each member to give $1,919.20 to have a FT pastor. Needless to say, these congregations generally do not have FT pastors.
And this is what would be needed just for the pastor’s salary – not all the other necessities like building upkeep, utilities, property and liability insurance, other staff salaries (music minister? secretary? custodian?), and – oh, right – resources to serve the neighbors. Churches also need to purchase things like postage, curriculum, office supplies, etc.
So what will happen to all the little churches?
We know the usual answers:
- Many will be gone in 5-10 years after spending their last resources.
- Some will merge with other congregations and survive a bit longer.
- Some will be brave enough to close before all their resources are gone and they will resurrect by using those resources to plant a new church.
I have another idea, but it involves a serious paradigm shift: from “this is my church and about pleasing me/my needs” to “this is God’s church and about making disciples of all nations.”
What if large churches called an associate pastor whose primary job is to plant a new church in an under-served neighborhood? That associate pastor would have the resources and staff support of a large, established congregation but would equip the saints in a new neighborhood, with new people.
Or a large church could call an associate pastor whose primary job is to redevelop a struggling church in need of fresh leadership and vision. The smaller congregation would become a satellite of the larger congregation.
We Presbyterians call ourselves “a connectional church” but we are not as connected as we could be. It’s not about sharing common rules and regulations. It’s about sharing a common mission to show our neighbors what love looks like in the name of Jesus. I can imagine a network made up of many small congregations, connected by anchor churches with the vision to exist for the transformation of our city and beyond.
So who’s up for a paradigm shift?