talking about church salary

March 29, 2007

Daniel So met up with YS President Mark Oestreicher to further dialogue about race, reconciliation, and church. Daniel is blogging on his initial reflections on Mark’s review of the L2‘s Asian American Youth Ministry book. He breaches the topic of poor salaries for Asian American youth workers :

I have often received advice from first-generation people that pastors should not talk too much about money, lest they appear greedy. Some have even gone so far as to say that we shouldn’t even ask about our pay — just find out when you get your first paycheck. In my last church, they actually lied about how much I would be paid — stating one amount over the phone but actually paying a significantly lower amount. I do not believe we must follow the corporate model of formal negotiations and including every minute detail in a written contract, but churches must begin taking better care of their youth workers.

The Scriptures in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 clearly states fair wages are due for those who shepherd the church as pastors, and by inference, youth pastors and youth directors too:

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

How does this passage get read in an Asian cultural context? What would it take to bring things to light as a church, since we are children of the light, so that honest conversations can happen about how we manage church finances and salaries?

[update] Daniel So has added more of his reflections in Part 2 on abdicating youth ministry to paid professionals and Part 3 on integrating youth into church life.

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Comments:4 Responses

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March 29th, 2007

Ministry salaries are always a touchy subject in Chinese churches. Correct me if i’m wrong but from some of my interactions with my Korean counterparts this issue seems to be less traumatic and even suprising with regards to “double honor.” Korean pastors appear to be better taken care of.

There are different models out there and many of those models have flaws. I think in the Chinese church, youth workers definitely do not get a fair treatment monetarily or otherwise. Part of the reason has to do with a proper view of youth ministry and perhaps the others may have to do with titles and hierarchal positioning rather than being founded on biblical principles. Youth ministers tend not to be ordained and are oftentimes young in age. Therefore, they must earn their right to be a real “pastor.”

Just how often does biblical and theological questions get raised about these matters and others (missions, church-ecclesiology)? Would first generation senior pastors or founding members be the ones? Of course, no one church is the same. There are various leadership structures.

I think many leaders acknowledge academic and published work. At least, it’s the beginning to a conversation. Is there anything out there that’s well acknowledged in our context and faith communities?

Thanks DJ for being a catalyst for these conversations.

April 2nd, 2007

LT, appreciate your thoughts on this topic. Having to established one’s credibility as a leader is not all that unusual, I think that’s part of the process of becoming a leader in most contexts. What may be stifling in some Asian context is the inability to earn that credibility even after 2-3 years of faithful service.

I haven’t had much luck using academic and published work as a means to persuade 1st generation leaders about biblical and theological questions pertaining to generational diversity or monetary matters in the church. It’s my experience that the written word in an Asian context has comparatively little impact; it really takes having an authoritative person being present in person to begin to effect change.

Savvy Steward
April 20th, 2007

I guess it depends from church to church, but I too definitely see money and salary as being a touchy subject in multi-generational churches.

The Chinese church I go to is rare in that the finances are separated among the Chinese congregation and English congregation. The English congregation has freedom to run its own finances and manage it without the consent of others. So if we wanted to hire a full-time youth pastor and pay him for it, we would have liberty to do so. The caveat is that this salary would probably need to be less than the head pastor of the Chinese congregation to save face.

Issues like this often arise because there is a clash in the mindset and opinions of 1st generation and 2nd generation church members. Fortunately we have God’s grace to cover over our shortcomings.

February 28th, 2008

Thanks for the post. i’m currently serving as at a korean church doing youth and em ministries. i am ordained and official title would be assist. pastor. Having said that, in some ways it is true (from what i understand of chinese churches) that generally korean church pastors are better paid and taken care of… but i think that is generally the case for korean church senior pastors. in position, i am called and spoken to as rev, but when it comes to compensation my salary is less than 1/3 of that of our senior pastor.

echoing a previous post, there really needs to be someone from the 1st generation congregation that takes a step in speaking on behalf of younger generational ministers.

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