Pastors in the Marketplace

"Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. But I have not used any of these rights. . ." 1 Corinthians 9:13-15a.

The Apostle Paul served as pastor in several of the churches he started. In order to further his ministry, he often supported himself as a tentmaker. Today, many pastors continue this tradition of working in the marketplace to “never [be] a burden” to their local churches (2 Cor. 12:13).

In theory, it takes ten tithing families in order for a local church to have the average income of its community. Of course, that income has to support all the expenses of a local congregation, including meeting space, maintenance, and any costs associated with community programs. That does not leave much to provide an average income for the church pastor.

This is one reason that many smaller churches are pastored by dual career (bivocational) men and women or at least by men and women who have outside financial resources.

Beyond economic necessity, another 10% of pastors have chosen to work outside the church, ranging from 4% to 12% of most size churches. Such pastors often mention the opportunity to expand their ministry. Sometimes the job itself is seen as a ministry, such as teaching, automotive or home repair, chaplaincy, or other service fields. Other times, the job gives the pastor visibility and contacts in the broader community, enlarging opportunities for ministry.

This article also shows that one-third of pastors in our smallest churches are not dual career. How is this possible in churches with such a limited economic base?

Some churches are providing non-cash support as well. Parsonages are not as common as they once were, but many congregations can still provide a place for the pastor and family to live. Non-monetary gifts are also still common, especially in global areas where goods and services are not based on monetary exchange.

“Sacrificial service” is probably the most common answer. Many of our pastors deliberately choose to get by with much less than those around them, relying upon God to make up the difference. This is an admirable quality, and churches blessed with such leaders must take extra care to be sure their leaders are not taken advantage of. As Paul said, “Those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.”

Dale E. Jones is Research Director, Church of the Nazarene Global Ministry Center. 

Holiness Today, May/June 2018 

Please note: This article was originally published in 2018. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.