Having heard this week about the passing of a friend I had the privilege of pastoring many years ago, I'm remembering my early years as a pastor. At this stage of my career, I'm especially grateful for the people who helped me in those days with my financial responsibilities.
Based on my own experiences, here are some ways to help a young pastor:
- Learn issues related to pastoral compensation. These issues can get complicated, and church leaders will serve their pastor better if they have some understanding of them. To start, it's good to know: (a) the difference between the pastor's salary and his benefits and overall package and (b) the complexities of housing allowance and Social Security. As I have in the past, I recommend reading Art Rainer's concise book, The Minister's Salary.
- Get him guidance in tax laws for pastors. Many of us regrettably learned the hard way that pastors do indeed pay taxes. I finally got the guidance I needed, but only after paying significant back taxes and penalties as a 21-year-old preacher.
- Help him get started in retirement contributions. The sooner he starts saving and investing for the future, the more likely it is that he'll have funds for retirement. He's probably not yet thinking about that reality, however—so help him.
- Don't be afraid to ask him if the financial package is sufficient. In fact, I'd encourage you to ask that question annually. Your church may not always have available funds to make up any difference, but it's still right to ask the question. Many young pastors won't volunteer that information.
- Push him if his answer to the question in No. 4 above is always, "We're doing fine." That was my answer for a number of years because I didn't want to over-burden the church, but I'm not sure I led my wife well when I wasn't always honest about our needs.
- Set aside for him some funds for resources and education. Even if you can't provide much, every dollar can be helpful. Most young pastors I know long for funds for books and further training.
- Encourage the church to sponsor a financial training program like "Financial Peace," and help defray the costs for your pastor to participate. Provide the training without expecting your pastor to take the lead in the program. Free him up to learn and grow himself as he leads his home.
Pastors, in what other ways did churches help you when you were young?
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the original article, visit chucklawless.com.
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