Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pay for what is good

On Sunday, our congregation held our annual meeting where the Session and Committees report on the stuff they've gotten done this year and the congregation votes on the pastor's salary.

The Session had decided to give him a 1% raise, and increase his educational funding for his doctorate by $1600, seeing as he's got 2 years left in his course of study for his PhD. I won't say exactly how much he is compensated. The breakdown on paper makes sense. His base salary is very low, but then he gets a bunch of other perks, like the vacation, a housing and travel allowance. It adds up.

There were arguments in the congregation about the amount of vacation time he gets (4 weeks vacation, 2 weeks study leave) and the amount of money he earns. One woman who is on Social Security said "I didn't get a raise this year. I got a one dollar a month increase in my Social Security benefits! Why should we give him a raise?!"

I wanted to say "I have no job, and my unemployment benefits are 50% LESS than what I was earning in March of 2010. Should I blame our pastor for that and punish him?"

Someone else pointed out that our pastor is the fourth highest paid pastor in our presbytery and the first in vacation/time off.

I wanted to say "So what? Our presbytery has to compete with Boston, NY and Pennsylvania to hold on to a decent pastor. He could go anywhere else in the country. With his resume, and the 6 years he has put in here, he can easily walk and find another congregation. Pay for what is good." It isn't like we were voting to give him a 30 million dollar bonus. He does good works for us. He's not perfect... but he is probably the nicest, least egoistical, kindest and most generous pastor I've ever met. Ever.

Pay for what is good.

He is also exceptionally generous with his money. He gives BACK to the congregation/church a lot of money. A heck of a lot more than Doug and I do (he has to make this public -- full transparency for the record). I don't know if there is some sort of standard percentage that most pastors tithe, but he really does give out a lot of his own money, not just move money from one account to another inside the church coffers. Between the non-monetary giving that he does for the community and congregation, and the monetary, he's doing a great job as far as I can see.

Pay for what is good.

We voted and the yeas had it, and two people got up and left angrily (of the 3 who voted nay) as if we were taking $1000 out of their pockets personally. It shocked and bothered me. I know times are hard, they're hard all over. Heck, readers here know that we're kind of in hell financially. But I would not ever begrudge this man his salary. It is reasonable compared to the pay I'm sure most of the people in his town get (I'm sure he has neighbors who make 7 figures, easily). He's not competing with others, he's existing. And we pay for him to exist, and keep him comfortable and healthy to do good works for people. I'm sure if we told him what a problem we were having he'd HAND US MONEY. He's just that kind of guy. I wouldn't ask him though -- because I know there are others who are in worse situations.

And I've got a suggestion -- If you don't like what the pastor is earning, find another congregation with a different pastor who earns less. If he is 100 times more awesome than our pastor, and getting paid a lot less, you've made out well.

I've been to a lot of churches. I've met pastors who are JERKS. Flat out, downright JERKS. Some of you may not believe that, others know right what from whence I speak. I've met pompous, selfish, rude, egomaniacs, men and women both. I don't know how much they are compensated financially, but who cares... I don't go to their churches for a reason.

We picked this one because the pastor is one that speaks to us, makes sense to us, cares about our kids without being a creeper or a parental usurper, and is the nicest guy in a robe that I've ever met. He could do this for free or for a million dollars a year. He's doing it right, and that's why I'm there.

I just think that it isn't fair to freak out and want to withhold from a man who isn't getting rich off his job by any means just because Social Security isn't paying you more.

My guess is that people who are ON Social Security never stop to think for ONE SECOND that they maybe paid $100,000 into the system, and in a few short years they've taken that amount out, and are now taking MORE than they "put in." And if they live for 10, 15, 20 years past their retirement age, they're taking a LOT more than I think they deserve. Stop and think about that for a second and then realize why you're not getting a "raise."

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