Tuesday, September 30, 2008

for the record....I didn't take a vow of poverty!

Just for the record, I never took a vow of poverty when I responded to God's call to enter the full-time ordained ministry. At the same time I didn't enter ministry to get rich either. My only expectation and hope was to serve Christ's church on a full-time basis and make enough income to support my family.

Yes, for the most part I have been able to feed my family and keep a roof over our head. Yet, there have only been three of the past twenty years of ministry that my wife and I made enough money to pay our bills and save just a bit of money for emergencies. During the three years we did well financially we worked in two separate churches. We found that serving two separate churches made it nearly impossible to be a family. We made choices that allowed us to raise our children.

My wife and I are what is known as a pastor couple. We met in seminary, got married and both hoped to serve the church in full-time positions. What we have discovered is that the church doesn't know what to do with people like us which is why for seventeen years of our ministry we've basically worked full-time for the price of one pastor.

This has been a really good deal for the church, but for our family it has meant that we have had to live from one pay check to the next.

As I shared in the last post, my wife is leaving the ordained ministry. Her reasons are far deeper than financial however the non-relenting anxiety of living from one pay check to the next has been a motivating factor for her to pursue work outside the church.

For the record I want to make clear that my wife is highly gifted and has served the church with honesty, energy, imagination, and with passion. She is a good person. She is a fantastic preacher and teacher. She has what most churches want; intelligence and humor. For the record I want to make clear that the church is losing a brilliant, and compassionate minister.

I am left to wonder if the church had figured out how to deal with pastor couple salaries if my wife would have stayed in the ministry?

For the record, I beg the church not to use our experience as a precedence. It is and will never be right to pay two people the equivalent of one salary. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and other denominations that acknowledge the ordination of women need to better serve pastor couples.

For the record, the denomination has failed my family and during a time when we need quality ministers more than ever our denomination is losing one of the best.


praying postmodern said...

As a son and a nephew of two clergy couples, I can tell you that the United Methodist Church is doing no better at it than the Presbyterians.

It is not much easier being the spouse of a highly successful business woman. Tammy is smart, gifted, and makes my salary look like poverty wages. We could live on her salary; we could not do the same on mine.

Good luck. And more importantly, God bless, you my friend.

shawn said...

gee, for once the United Church of Canada would seem to be ahead of the game on this one ...

Unless the couple agree to share a full time position, the Church pays BOTH members of the couple a FULL salary and a FULL housing allowance - one is taxable however, but still - it means you get paid what you're worth ...

I'm happy for your wife and her career move ... sad for the church ... but the Spirit remains in control ... let go of the wheel and trust in God brother !!!


Caroline said...

That is outrageous! I am sorry you have not been fairly recompensed for your work, a (wo)man is worthy of his hire - it isn't about getting rich as you say - it's about equity. I wish you both well and I am sorry the church has lost out because of this attitude

Stushie said...
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Stushie said...
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Revdad said...

I'm sorry to hear of your situation too. My wife and I are a clergy couple and it has taken us 6 years to get to the place where we both may serving full time in one congregation.

We served in separate churches for 5 years and with a growing family knew we couldn't do it. with 3 kids now and living on one and a half salaries...I fully understand your situation. It does seem that our denomination is behind the eight ball on clergy couples, ironic, though because we seem to be leading the way compared to other denominations!

You're in my thoughts and prayers...

Amy said...

I'm sad that Laurie is leaving. I'm sad that its been so hard for you both. I'm sad that there's maybe a little less laughter in you right now.

Remember my kid loves your pretty shoes :)

Thanks for the tip on La Fogata.

S'onnie said...

I think many churches around the world struggle with this issue. For some churches it is a belieft that they shouldn't have to pay both and for other churches its much more about the fact that they simply don't get the money from their members to pay for two pastors at once.

Either way I do beleive that couple pastors both deserved to be recognised for the work they do indivudually.

The same as I believe that many youth pastors who are paid "part time" deserve to be paid for the work they do which in reality is far more then full time.

Many church members in my opinion need to look at their giving and see if they give enough.

Its a sad day when a good minister leaves the church. Perhaps the church you serve will recognise fully the work your wife has done once she is no long employed or works for them