Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Salary Cap for Pastors?

I have been finding it more and more interesting being a pastor and talking to people literally from all over the world on what their take is about church life. This is the time of year when churches, denominations, sects, etc. have their annual business meetings. More times than not, people at these meetings are trying to figure out just how much the pastor makes. I have a few thoughts on this and thought I would share since I am akin to not being afraid to share my opinions. Ah the joy of having a blog.

I know there are many people out there reading this and thinking, “pastors shouldn’t get paid for what they do…it is a church!” Well, I guess I could throw some scripture out to defend that stance but I could also throw out scripture to defend why they should. I am of the mindset that pastors/staff should be compensated for what they do. That is neither here nor there, what worries me are the pastors that are getting OVER paid for what they are doing and knowingly or knowingly beating up the church to make sure that amount stands. In most cases the Pastor is the chairman (or lady) of the board and they can sway at times when it is time for a raise. However, what bothers me are the pastors from larger churches that make large six or seven figure incomes. I have talked with people who were dead set against this kind of thing and vowed to make a difference. These were people of great stature within their denomination but ultimately got voted in for the position they were vowing to lower the salary on and now does nothing about it. I honestly don’t care how big a church/ministry is, it is my opinion that a pastor does not need to make a massive amount of money doing ministry. I think it is great that they are compensated well because we do deal with a lot of stuff in a week but sadly their salary sometimes will dwarf what an average middle class family in their church will make. Salaries should not be based on "well, pastor is the only one that works and does have a wife and 4 kids working their way to be like the Duggars so we should pay them more." NO...raises in the business world/real world are performance based not guilt trip based. People do have the mindset that the bigger the church is the more the senior pastor has to do. This is true and false. If a large church is managed well, the Pastor (executive pastor) will have a large enough staff to do things for him/her that he/she once had to do on their own. In other words they now oversee a group of pastors that do the work they once had to do. Personally, this would drive me nuts and might cause a lot of boredom for me. If I was relegated to just sermon prep and counseling each week I would be a zombie.

Why am I on a rant about this? From building programs that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a simple sidewalk to massive salaries in a church….I see this all as funds that should go towards ministry. When I say ministry I am not talking about the pastor playing golf with somebody and throwing the label “ministry” on it. I am not talking about throwing extravagant banquets we invite our friends to. I am not even talking about the pastor taking a friend on a "missions trip" with them. When I am talking ministry I am referring to benevolence. To put a new roof on someones house from church that is struggling to make it. Perhaps it means helping a couple in your church from foreclosure because their job situation dried up. It might even mean supporting more missionaries or beginning new ministries. Perhaps it means taking over car payments for someone now afflicted with a terminal disease and cannot return to work. But to take all of these funds each and every Sunday and lay a guilt trip on a congregation because the operating budget per week is $10K, $20k, $30k, etc (and that's just the senior pastors salary...some sarcasm there) seems a bit backwards.

So what is my solution to this problem? I don’t have one…how about that? I can only tell you what I do at our small church. I have told the church and board that I will refuse any and all raises until our two staff people are brought up to full time like I am. What does it mean for your church? Perhaps putting a cap on the salaries. Perhaps a church of 1,000 means at the most you will only make this much. What seems so crazy about this? There are non-profits all over that do this…they are called hospitals. Nurses can only make so much in their career field. Sure they will get a living expense raise as times change and inflation happens, but to have a massive salary…it will never happen. I think a whole lot more can be done with money that is sunk in grossly massive salaries that if the pastor would not like that and threaten to leave...it would be okay. I guarantee you there would be another pastor that would “get it” and move into that position happy with a smaller salary while doing more ministry.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Youth Ministries

This past weekend I was visited by two kids (now adults and married) from the youth group I was happily the pastor of for 8 wonderful years. Those days youth pastoring were great days and often challenged me to stay on the forefront of all things culture/relevancy. The importance of this was so that I could understand what they were into. I ultimately found myself loving that pop-culture so much which I ended up using in my favor to reach teens. I believe to be a youth pastor today requires a person to really be open minded about who you are reaching. If you are a youth pastor that just wants the kids from your church or ones that act like the ones from your church…well, you can stop reading now. Nothing is more boring as a former youth pastor than to have a youth group of only church kids. In fact, I will hear from people in youth groups from all over that tell me about the rules in place of some of these youth groups. I am going to expound on what ministry is.

It was the year 2000 and I remember as the youth group I was pastoring continued to grow in a more racially diverse neighborhood in the south side of Milwaukee…I had to call some women from the church to help. The reason for this was to run the nursery for youth group kids that had babies. We were reaching young girls that were either in the church or out of the church that were looking for a great time to be with other teens. The only thing was that they had babies themselves.

Another time I remember was when teenagers would use swear words when around me both accidentally and on purpose. There were plenty of times as well when we had the doors of the old church building open and you could smell wafts of cigarette smoke coming into the church. This was either from teens hiding a cigarette (because it is illegal) or college age coming to our college group. I remember telling my youth leaders, “That is the sound and smell of ministry right there.”

You know…it gets me so irritated when youth pastors will kick teens or “BAN” them from youth group because some swear. It gets to me when a youth pastor will not provide a nursery ministry for young women in their group that may have found themselves now pregnant. Rather they are focused on "saving" them rather than loving them. Those youth pastors that bust teens for smoking and turn them in to their parents instead of showing some grace in order to build up some respect with that kid really ought to re-examine the word “ministry”. It gets mighty boring having the same church kids at youth group over and over and over week after week.

If you are going to label something “__________________ ministries” than in my opinion…ministry needs to happen. Go reach those teens who are not in the group. Realize there will be plenty of those coming in trying to prove something and test the waters……love them anyways. You respect them…they will respect you and God will do some great things.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 269: I am Done....FULL STEAM AHEAD

In just 17 days this blog will have been going for one year. Over that period of one year the amount of readers to this blog has grown to 5,000 per month and a ministry was birthed out of it “That’s Not My God” which averages 35,000+ hits a month. The ideal was to have 365 blogs given the amount of days in a year but that was not attained. However, many have thanked me for posting and being brutally transparent which I am very glad to do. I think transparency is the best policy in life as a whole. I am pretty sure the Apostle Paul thinks so as well. Many people appreciate it more then the ones who are just not ready for it. Today I got a message from a person that said this…

“The Lord had granted you pardon, but you abandoned your post. He sent you his servant from his love for you, but you turned him away out of your pride. Now there is a rift in the kingdom of God which he will mend, by cutting the weakness from his midst. For love is what holds the fabric of the kingdom of God together not pride. You will be given a tongue of confusion for a season so that your speech can no longer injure your testimony. Your eyes will be darkened so that no light can pass into your understanding. You will be given a recollection of the light that you once walked in. Pray that the Lord spares you from his judgment this very night, for he is sending you his messenger to do his bidding and to minister unto your heart.”

You know…it is this kind of outright biblical ignorance that drives me nuts. To use the bible to justify your twisted upbringing or knowledge of scripture really aggravates me.

I am done with the daily blogs as of today. There will no longer be the ideal of having one blog a day but I will certainly post at least one a week. Before I talked about life as a pastor and all we have to deal with. The topics ranged struck everyone from people who love you to those who are neither here nor there to people who are complete tools (someone who does not make decisions or statements for themselves. Rather, they parrot a party line and act more on what others may think of them than on what is right.).

What will I talk about from now on with this blog? Pretty much all things related to life. From music to books to movies to thoughts on scripture and doctrine to exposing hypocrisy within the church today. Pretty much nothing is off the table with this blog. What is a blog? According to the dictionary it is “A personal website on which an individual records OPINIONS, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis.”

If you are ready for even more transparent thoughts and discussion then I invite you to stick around and see what is going on. If you have a mindset of what a pastor ought to be or say then you will either be pleasantly surprised or surprisingly offended. Judging from the growing amount of readers and the mad amount of positive comments…we are all in for a treat. From the two or three who insist on bashing me…in Jesus name get a life and move on. You won’t change me. If that needs to happen…that will come from loving friends and the Holy Spirit.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 268: Bullhorn Worship Leaders

What I find interesting about church life is that more and more people are tired of the “bullhorn preachers.” Perhaps this term was made popular by, Rob Bell’s Nooma DVD “Bullhorn” but I think many people overall don’t care for them. They are loud, disrespectful, arrogant and what I have found to be true…the louder they are the more uneducated they are. You just don’t see many with doctorates raising their voices to a yelling level both on the street corner or behind a pulpit.

Now some pastors have been accused of being "Bullhorn preachers" so as a pastor I am going to tell you another position in the church I cannot stand when they become “bullhorn-ish” (I think that is the Greek word for obnoxious). That position would be worship leaders. What drives me nuts (always has since my youth group days) are the “bullhorn worship leaders.” Let me explain.

Have you ever been in a church or conference where the worship leader is singing "passionately" and because he/she has one understanding of worship…everyone should share that same view? So you get someone who is waving their arms, turning on and off the water works, falling to their knees, repeating a chorus 10 times because THEY are worshiping and THAT is what it looks like. Perhaps in the middle of the song or at the end they begin to get downright ugly with the church because some may not be worshiping like him/her, therefore you are not worshiping. At this point you are encouraged to examine your heart, leave your troubles at the door, come lay them down at the altar or repent of hidden sin so that, YOU can worship just like him/her. If I was a part of a church like that…I would walk.

This is what I have come to discover in my own life. You place me at the hardest of metal shows (and wow have I been to some) or place me in a mellow orchestra setting….guess what? I respond the same. Perhaps my head will bob a bit but that is about it. If I am at a Hillsongs concert or listening to an acoustic worship set at a home gathering…I am probably worshiping the same. There is no scripture that tells us specifically how we ought look when we worship. Sure denominations dictate perhaps unknowingly on how we ought to look when we worship. If you are charismatic you raise your hands, if you are part of that you do it this way….on and on it goes. Sure we see, David in the bible dancing out of his clothes but that is one example. What about others who don't like to raise a hand? What about those who don’t want to stand? Does this make a person any less spiritual? For me personally I enjoy the singing, clapping, raising my hands but at the same time….sometimes I don’t want to sing during a song but rather reflect on the words the worship leader is singing. I would rather ponder those words with my eyes closed.

We all have our own way of worship. When a bullhorn worship leader comes along and begins to tell people how to worship in a disrespectful way “because they only care for our souls” it ought to be a red flag.

John 4:24(NIV) "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." How that manifests itself in an outward form is up to you. There are no set of rules.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 267: Keeping Tight Lipped

Some thoughts…

Proverbs 18:16-18(The Message) Answering before listening is both stupid and rude

Proverbs 18:17(The Message)The first speech in a court case is always convincing—until the cross-examination starts!

After reading these, all you can say is…COULD YOU BE A LITTLE MORE BOLD (please note sarcasm)? I believe these verses hold the key too many people acting in a less then flattering way. Basically making a fool of themselves.

There have been two times when people “Christians” have displayed this kind of attitude toward me and family in the past 7 years. One big lesson I have learned in life the past few years is this, no matter who you know and what you go through…you must keep an objective attitude because there is always two sides to every story.

Here is the problem I have discovered however. When something happens to people, church, business, etc. we tend to hear one side of the story right away usually from the party who thinks they have something to prove. Usually, the first story can be very convincing and therefore we go for it. What we need to realize is that the mature party of a scenario will not usually give up there end of the story to just anyone…why? Because I believe even though people may not get along, the one that is truly the mature person or party will not divulge information that would jeopardize the other parties’ character. I have been on the side of not giving up information, and though I lost friends in the process…I knew it was the right thing to do. In fact, we get the attitude of, “I want answers” when in fact, you really don’t if you knew the whole story. And, why would a mature Christian degrade another Christian’s character by divulging information? I think it is okay to vent to CLOSE friends but not beyond that.

I would think that someone who is sitting on the fence, wondering why something happened would objectively say…”hmmm…I guess I have only heard one side of the story…perhaps from the one who thinks they have something to prove. Maybe I have not heard the other story, and maybe I won’t because the other party is taking the high road and will not degrade someone else’s character.” You know, I think if more people did this, there would be fewer problems with Christians, and the attitudes they have toward each other. As Proverbs 18:17 say…what would happen if the cross-examination started?

But, I guess this is the world we live in, Christians living one life at church and ready to rip another Christian a new one when they are not at church. Here is a story I giggle at which prompted this blog… I was at a grocery store today here in Waupaca. I was walking to my car when a former friend that I have forgiven for past hurts told me something rude and quite loud about a problem we went through 6 YEARS AGO! Christ-like? I don’t think so. Causing more harm then good…I think so.

I believe when we forgive someone, it does not mean we have to hang out with people who have hurt us. In fact, the people who have hurt me in the past, I have had no problem in forgiving them. Would I want to hang out with them again? Probably not. I am in fact okay if I go through life not dealing with them again. But, I do know this. We as Christians have an obligation to live in a respectful, loving manner. If you don’t like someone, avoid them…don’t make yourself out to be a “stupid…and rude” person by making ignorant comments.

Just some thoughts that I try to live out in my life as I am sure many people do.