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Money and Ministry: Making a Living

Would you expect a building contractor to put an addition onto your house free of charge? Do you go to the doctor for medical treatment without paying for his services? Would you go to the store to get food without bringing money to pay for it?

Of course not. We understand in our society that work has value — whether someone is providing you a good that you need to survive or a service that will make your life easier, that person deserves to be paid. We pay people to show them our appreciation for the time and effort that they have put into serving us, and to enable them to provide well for their own needs. This understanding is so deeply rooted in our culture that we would never think to take advantage of someone’s work without offering to pay them. Why, then, do some people bristle at the thought of a servant of God making money in ministry?

Money and ministry can have a tempestuous relationship. It takes money to run a ministry, but many great organizations are limited in their effectiveness by poor financial management. Following God’s Master Plan for your money can help with ministry finances. But it’s also important to clear up the foolish idea that ministry and money don’t go together. Because the Bible is clear that they do.

Simply put, if you work in ministry full-time, that work should provide you with a full, livable wage that will support you and your family. Even if you work part-time in ministry, it’s not inappropriate to have some sort of financial compensation commensurate with the amount of time and effort that you put into the work.

For some authority on this issue, let’s turn to scripture. Jesus addresses this issue in Luke 10:5-7, when He gives His disciples instructions on how they should handle the practical aspects of traveling ministry assignments:

When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

Later on, in I Timothy 5:17-18, Paul gives similar advice to his protege Timothy, who is also working in full-time ministry:

17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

Both of these passages make the same point: People who work hard in ministry deserve to be compensated. Even though they are doing God’s work, instead of the work of a doctor, grocer or construction worker, they are still entitled to be paid fairly for their time and effort. And besides, Christians working in ‘normal’ jobs are really working for God too (but that’s another topic for another article).

Jesus understood that “the worker deserves his wages,” and He instructed His disciples to receive physical support from the people that they ministered to. Paul took this instruction — as well as the Old Testament prohibition against forcing an ox to labor without feeding him — to convince Timothy that the people who work in the church are worthy of both honor and financial reward. After all, if an ox deserves to be rewarded after doing physical work, how much more do the servants of God deserve to be well cared for?

This teaching has real ramifications in ministry as well. Some people in the world become uncomfortable when they arrive at the intersection of money and ministry. There are those who believe that ministers shouldn’t be making money, or that they certainly shouldn’t be wealthy. Entire generations of Catholics were misled by the idea that true service to God requires a life of austerity, leading thousands of monks and nuns to make unnecessary poverty vows. But these ideas are unsupported in scripture. Looking at the teachings of Jesus and Paul, it’s safe to say that God intends for His full-time workers to make money and to enjoy a life of financial contentment.

What does this all mean for you? Well, if you run a ministry or are involved in other faith-based non-profit work, you need to make sure that you’re being paid for your work. It can be tempting to forego a salary, especially if money is tight for your organization. But you can’t live that way for long — it’s simply not sustainable. You need to have an income and personal money that is not intermingled with your ministry’s cash. Unless you’re independently wealthy, working in ministry without an income will eventually lead to stress, worry, discontentment and burnout. It may sound noble to work for free, but ultimately foregoing a paycheck does more harm to your organization than good. And if we follow Paul’s line of thought to its logical conclusion, we see that failure to pay workers brings dishonor on a ministry. If you want God to honor your work, you must honor His workers by paying them appropriately — even if that means paying yourself.

If you work in the secular world, these principles have real implications for you too. The work of the Kingdom must be funded, and God expects those of us with incomes to give generously to fund that work. Our tithes provide the funding that makes church happen, and our generous giving is what allows missionaries to take the gospel to all corners of the earth. If we fail to do our part to help pay our worthy workers for their labor, we are guilty of dishonor. Just as you wouldn’t expect a doctor, contractor or grocer to work for free, you shouldn’t expect your ministers to work for nothing either.

——

Photo by Marissa Bowers. Used under Creative Commons License.

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Comments

  1. you may want to read the ‘other’ verses about ministry and charging for it as if it’s just another job. the ministry is not a profession or vocation. it is service… freely you have received, freely give… many others you are overlooking including this beauty…
    1Co 9:18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

    when the church becomes a compensated business and it’s ministers consider themselves mere ‘contractors’ (i would say hirelings), acting as CEO’s and Bosses (you could read that as … Lords) over God’s Heritage, then we truly have lost the Servant, no charge for the Gospel heart of Jesus.

    get out of the ‘ministry’ if this is your point of view and ‘vocational’ life choice.
    -mike

    • victoryrising says:

      AMEN! The ONLY place I have found in the Bible, where Jesus became angry was in the Temple, when merchants were dealing with money in the Lord’s house. I don’t get upset that a minister gets a fair wage, but many pay themselves upwards of 6 figures while fatherless children and widows go hungry..I do have issue with that…Since budget cuts to food assistance programs, every needy family is expected to get one weeks worth of food a month, from a local church or other organization yet there are not many programs out there. I personally couldn’t drive a vehicle worth tens of thousands of dollars and enjoy 6 dollar coffee, while looking into the eyes of the starving children in the congregation, BUT pastors do that everyday, and just say “we don’t have the resources.” If overpaying yourself to do God’s work turns people away from the Lord, then consider the scriptures that speak about turning EVEN one away that would have listened. Or the ones that say that the body of Christ should be generous on EVERY occasion to bring glory to God, or the ones about taking special care for the fatherless and the widow, THEN speak to me about getting paid so well to preach and pray.

      • Hi Victory. I understand where you’re coming from. Let me share a few “insider” points about church compensation that you may not have considered:

        1) At any church that is operating with financial integrity, a pastor will not set his own salary. Instead it will be set by a board, committee or some other governing body made up of church members. In some cases, pastors’ compensation is determined by a group of leaders from outside that church.

        2) Many high-profile pastors, including most of the ones that have become “household names,” actually take little or no salary from their churches and instead live on the income from outside projects such as book sales or media appearances. Sometimes this ends up being quite a lot of money, but it does not equate to funds diverted from missions or outreach.

        3) Like any other profession, there is a talent market in ministry, and churches looking for top-tier leaders understand that they have to offer compensation that is not only competitive with other churches but is also enough to keep talented candidates from leaving to make more in the private sector. A senior pastor often leads a staff of dozens; manages a multimillion-dollar budget; oversees a large physical campus (or campuses); acts as the public face of the organization; pioneers new ministries and outreaches; and spearheads fundraising campaigns — all this in addition to preaching. Candidates who can perform at this level are in high demand, and that demand drives prices up. And even though the salary might seem high, a pastor who can effectively grow a church’s attendance and giving base may actually be generating MORE funds for ministry and benevolence. It’s all a matter of perspective.

      • victoryrising says:

        Dear Sir; I appreciate your input on the financial benefits, and taxing demands of being a pastor. On your post, I noticed that the only people who responded favorably were other people either in, or attempting to get into paid ministry. I thought you might want an honest answer to your question, “Why then do some people bristle at the thought of a servant of God making money in ministry?” So I attempted to answer it, from the eyes of someone who actually pays the wages of church leaders with tithes, and on behalf of those who have a just point in refusing to do so. (BTW just to be clear , a “servant” by definition, receives no wage.) Moving on, I personally do not question God. I pay my tithes & offerings, then allow church government to do whatever they like with the funds, as scripture is clear about “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?”
        Many people however have chosen to NOT accept any wage at all, even when their position in church leadership pays well, they re-distribute all or most of the money back into some facet of God’s Kingdom..however for those who WANT to live very comfortably while preforming a duty that claims to care nothing for things of this world, there will be critics. Jesus Christ lived with no earthly possessions, giving everything to us, yet in contrast the pharisees lived in luxury, conveying a very “us and them” mentality that is common still today, and then they showed sadistic cruelty to our Savior in calling for His crucifixion. Movies are depicting these historical facts to people across the world, so don’t expect that even those who have never read the Holy Bible, to be able to make that comparison. I am not here to judge, as God has blessed me to not carry that burden, however it has been my experience that there are countless hearts that could never be won, unless the person reaching out to them, is doing so WITHOUT pay. Then they have no choice but to ask, “why else would this person reach out to me, help me, pray with me?” and THAT my friend brings glory to God. Have a pleasant weekend, and IF you should want any further insider information on the body of Christ, then don’t hesitate to ask 😉

  2. Hi Mike,
    You seem pretty worked up about this. I think you may have misread what I’m saying here. I never expressed anything about ministers “charging” for the gospel or anything like that. And if you check out some of our other articles, you’ll see that I’ve addressed the idea of people seeking to get rich from ministry pretty directly (https://godmoneyme.com/2012/11/08/loving-money-threatens-your-faith/ and https://godmoneyme.com/2012/07/12/the-gospel-is-more-than-money/).

    The passages that you mention do emphasize the importance of a servant heart and a generous spirit toward the gospel, and I’m not arguing against any of those things. But Jesus and Paul also made it clear that we need to financially support those who work full-time in ministry. It’s a principle that actually goes all the way back to the law of Moses, when God required the rest of Israel to help support the Levites that served as priests.

    In other words, I don’t think that this article is contradictory to anything you’re saying about generosity and servant hearts. People that serve full time in the work of the kingdom should be compensated so that they can provide for their families and continue to do good work. The whole point of this site is the help people sort out the wrong attitudes about money that have tied their hearts in knots. For a minister whose heart is submitted to God and who has a kingdom mindset about finances, drawing a salary from the work he does shouldn’t diminish his servant heart at all.

  3. why would you start your repyto my comment by portraying the motivation behind it as that i must be ‘pretty worked up’ about it? i’m not sure that’s a fair assessment at all. is that comment supposed to ‘conextualize’ my opinion as simply an ’emotional’ response? then what of your reply to my comment… if you judged it according to the same standard (which i do not by the way) wouldn’t you also say that you were ‘pretty worked up’ in your response?

    rather than worrying about whether i’m ‘pretty worked up’, please focus primarily on what i’m saying instead of trying to minimize and cheap shot it from the start. that would be polite and respectful christian conversation.

    thanks again for the opportunity to offer my opinion.
    mike

  4. Mike, the reason that I said you seemed pretty worked up is that you started your original comment by questioning my understanding of scripture, and then ended it by suggesting that I and people with my point of view should “get out of ministry.” Neither of those comments strike me as “polite and respectful Christian conversation.” Rather than assume that you are an impolite or disrespectful person, however, I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt. That’s how I came to the conclusion that you were worked up. I’m sorry if I was wrong about that.

    I don’t think I was “worked up” at all in my response to you — I tried to see where you were coming from, acknowledged the merits of your point of view, and then presented my further thoughts on the subject in a manner that was respectful and well reasoned. There were certainly no “cheap shots” involved.

    At any rate, I think I’ve evaluated your original comments on their merits and addressed them where appropriate. I’m not sure what else there is to add to what I’ve already said. If there’s something more about the content of this subject that you’d like to discuss, I’m all ears. Otherwise, I don’t see a lot of benefit in going around in circles about who was mean to whom in the comments section of this article.

    Blessings,
    Brian

  5. i’m sorry for my attitude on the previous post, brother. in retrospect, i can see where i was out of line. i was being touchy and i apologize.
    -mike

  6. Thanks for using my photo Brian, it works perfectly. Glad to see my work illustrating a great viewpoint.

  7. Reblogged this on EQUIP MINISTRIES FORUM.

  8. Thanks for the post. When God called me to pastor I struggled with it at first. But after spending much time in my knees I came to realize that it was what I was created for. I am now a bi-vocational pastor, meaning that I work a full time job which is my income. I do not get paid to be a pastor. Scripture imakes it clear that pastors can get paid and can get paid well. I however know that it would change the motive in my heart. God knows that I wish to pastor without pay. My dilemma is that all I want go do is pastor. This poses problems with providing for my family. I know God will work it out, I just don’t know how. But that’s why he’s God. Your prayers are welcome.

    • Antonio, your servant heart and faith are inspiring. I’m sure you know that you’re in good company: Paul did the same thing, working as a tent maker to support himself while he ministered. I’m confident that as long as you’re pursuing God, He’s going to take you exactly where He wants you… Which is the very best place you could end up.

      Thanks for reading!

  9. Hi Guys! Thank you for this article. It’s clear and direct, doesn’t beat around the bush.
    This was the answer to my prayer, For the last 17 years I’ve avoided going into ministry because of this very topic – how was I going to provide for my family? You seem like the only people out there doing this, please keep going.

  10. Brian,
    This is a very real struggle for me currently. I am a manager at a contracting company by day and try to follow my calling to teach from the bible during the evenings and weekends (Saturdays and after church on Sundays) on http://www.bibleverse411.com/. Many times in my younger years (I am 41 now), I felt the call of God on my life. And was once a month away from becoming a licensed minister, but now feel like God’s calling on my life is more along the lines of teaching, so I have started the website mentioned above.

    I keep going back and forth with should I or should I not monetize the content that I am offering on the website.

    My wife and I were talking just last night about it. You see sometimes I spend the evenings and weekends creating the resources for http://www.bibleverse411.com/ and sacrifice that time with her and the kids. And they feel shortchanged or neglected in the process which is understandable because they need me to be pouring into their lives too so that our relationships with each other remain strong also. Because I believe that “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household…” (1 Timothy 5:8) can also apply to the time, emotional, and spiritual needs of your family as well as their materials needs.

    There are times when I catch the vision of what God could do through bibleverse411, but I realize that it would require “more” time and resources. Which would either mean more time away from my family or not working a “day” job anymore.

    So my thought process sometimes goes like this. Should I choose to remain in the marketplace and be “salt and light” there, continuing to pay my tithes/offerings to my local church (which I love by the way), and be all I can to my family (teaching them by my life the love and principles of God) or do I follow God’s calling on my heart to build a website/ministry/publishing resource of biblical teachings and media that will help others in their walk with the Lord (which will at some point by God’s providing hand replace our current income so that we can put even more time and resources into it)?

    Your thoughts?

    • Thanks for your question, Jason. This can be a really difficult dilemma. And while I can’t tell you exactly what you should do, I can add a little bit of insight.

      First off, monetizing a website is not as easy as some people make it out to be (I’ve been involved in this site for years, for example, and make essentially nothing off of it). Even if you threw yourself into your project full-time, the chances of it replacing the income that you have currently are exceedingly slim.

      Secondly, there may be more than two options here. Plenty of people do some amount of ministry on the side of their regular marketplace jobs. I do that. And yes, you have to balance the time you commit to ministry endeavors with the time you give to your family, and that balance requires some flexibility. But the idea that your website will only be successful if you quit working and focus on it full-time is probably not accurate. Your ministry’s success shouldn’t be measured by your site traffic or your potential monetization — rather, you should measure it by how faithful you have been to God’s call on your life. And that call is in the context of the other things that He has called you to. In other words, if God has called you to be first a husband and father; secondly an employee; and thirdly a teacher, your success as a teacher must be measured in the context of your success as a family man and an employee. If your website flourishes at the expense of those other things, can you ultimately call that success?

      Let me offer one other idea that might be helpful — many people that have successful Bible study websites do it as a part of a larger ministry — i.e. pastors who maintain blogs in addition to their regular ministry duties. If you’re feeling called to a life of ministry, perhaps you could look for opportunities to become involved in ministry full-time, thus giving you some income, and then continue to sow into the website as a part of that larger ministry. That way you’re not depending on web monetization to survive and not stealing time from your family to build your website, while at the same time satisfying your calling.

      I hope that helps, and I’d love to hear what you decide to do.

      • Brian,

        Thanks for the response. Well put and thorough in addressing all points of my comment. After reading your response, God has given me a sense of peace that I don’t have to try and force anything to happen right now. I will trust in His plan for each area of my life. Loving my family along the way, utilizing the talents and experience that God has given me in the marketplace, studying the scriptures and remaining sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, continuing to write and post teachings and resources on the website to help as many people as I can in their walk with God along the way.

        God knows His plans for all things and where each of us fits into the story. There is always a bigger picture.

        “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…”
        Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)

        “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”
        1 John 4:18 (NKJV)

        Thanks again, Jason

  11. sudhakar rao says:

    I want to ask one question that,
    right now I am working as full time in ministry but the payment that the denomination gives me is not sufficient even to pay my house rent, and last 3 to 4 months I am in stress that what should I do.

    Should I do job for surviving my family or fully depend on God that God will provide?

    • Wow, that’s a difficult situation. Would it be possible for you to raise support to supplement what the denomination pays you?

      If not, I think you need to cut back on the hours you spend in ministry and pick up a second job that will help pay what you need to support your family.

  12. Chris Avenant says:

    Right, me again, 2 years later. My wife and I (along with the “help” of our 5 year old son) are now heading a youth group. I can tell you from experience, the harvest is indeed Plentiful, and sadly, the laborers are few. There is just so much work to be done out there. Our youth in broad spectrum, is in a state of emergency. With that said, I can also tell you from experience that heading a ministry, be it youth or full church, while having a full time job, can put heavy strain on family life. It is certainly not ideal to have a full time job while being in virtually full time ministry as well. We’ll be going into paid ministry soon and we have total peace about it. It is most certainly not just about the “money”, it is about keeping our own families healthy and intact. (The kids at youth is crazy about our son, he gets to grow up in this ministry)

Trackbacks

  1. […] stakeholders informed about your financial status. You also have to make sure that your ministry is providing a personal income for you and your full-time […]

  2. […] for the church at Thessaloniki. Although they had rights, as ministers of the gospel, to receive financial support for their full-time ministry, they ignored that right and “worked day and night” to provide for themselves. They did […]

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All of the contents of this site and its posts are copyright of Brian and Laura Jewell. Any redistribution or duplication of this material, without the consent of the authors, is strictly prohibited. Instead, please feel free to link to us. Thanks!

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