Does Getting Paid Make a Difference in How You Lead Your Church?

If you were financially independent and had no need of a salary from your church, would you pastor differently?

So far, everyone I have asked that question has told me, “yes.” Each pastor has admitted, after some careful thought, that the pressure to provide financially for his family affects the way he leads.

Whenever I ask the question, I get responses like:

  • “If I didn’t rely on the church for my income, I would try this… or that… or this…”
  • Or: “Sometimes, I’d rather be bi-vocational.”
  • Or: “I’d like to be an intentional interim somewhere. Get in there. Do what needs to be done. Walk away.”

Perhaps an actual research study would reveal different conclusion. But I have a hunch that many – if not most – pastors and staff members make decisions that are affected in some measure by job security.

I’m wondering: is this situation healthy or unhealthy?

In a best-case scenario, a congregation that controls the purse strings may be able to keep a pastor from leading in a reckless way. The opportunity for authority to be abused long-term is diminished.

In a worst-case scenario, a congregation uses the salary to chain the pastor to the status quo, keeping him from making good changes that might initially rock the boat. It’s no wonder we then see mediocre attempts at discipleship and mission.

What do you think? Does salary make a difference in how you lead? Should it? How does the gospel influence the way we think about this issue?