My first 3 church internships were essentially volunteer. I was home from college for the summers and the church took an offering for all of us at the end of the summer. It wasn't much. I loved it. I wasn't there for the money anyway.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
September of 1993 I applied for a job as a youth pastor in Fremont after speaking at a water ski trip for their high school group, Powerhouse. I got that job in February of 1994 and started work in April, just 2 weeks after graduation from UC Davis. I stayed there for 11 years.
I then moved to San Diego and started my job here. As of yesterday, I've been here for 6 years. So if you're doing the math, I've been in full time paid ministry on a church staff in 2 churches for a total of 17 years.
When I first took the job, I thought, "Oh man, this is gonna be awesome. I can't believe I'm gonna be paid to do ministry." After I worked in the church for a while and after I'd heard enough people look at me and say, "No, I can't do that, that's what we pay you for," I started to wish I could go back to volunteering. I actually think the best job in the world would be to have an income outside of the church- like some big inheritance or side business that I own that has employees that run it or something... then I could volunteer at church full time and wouldn't need anything to support myself.
I really hate this piece of working at the church. I hate that the offering pays my bills. I hate that people think I'm "paid to do this".
So at some point, this boils down to, "What is a pastor paid to do anyway?"
Here's my take. 3 things I AM NOT paid to do and 3 things I AM.
I AM NOT PAID TO FOLLOW JESUS. I am paid in part, because I follow Jesus. But no one is giving me a salary to do that. I have given my life to inviting others to give their life to Jesus. Yet I call students and adults alike to do that just the same- regardless of where they do or do not get their paycheck. I'm not paid to love God or read my Bible or pray or help the hurting or any number of things every Jesus follower is called to do.
I AM NOT PAID TO DO EVERYTHING. Church is not the show of paid people. I'm sorry that some have made it out to be that. I'm sure some pastors have fueled this idea. I've probably been guilty of that from time to time. I however now know 2 things for certain. #1. I can't do this alone- church is way bigger than me! #2. This is not my church anyway.
I AM NOT PAID TO DO WHAT NO ONE ELSE CAN DO. We have lots of volunteers who do lots of stuff way better than I do. I tell my small group leaders, "you are pastoring students", and I mean it. But we also don't pay them. I have students that can out play me in guitar with one of their hands in a cast and blindfolded. I suck at essentially everything musical. Yet having music in our weekend falls under my "job responsibilities". But I'm not paid because I can outdo everyone in everything. I'm not paid because I'm some superhero Christian.
I AM PAID TO BUILD A TEAM. I believe first and foremost, my church pays me to help build a team around a shared and owned vision. This will NEVER BE primarily a paid team. I'm paid to primarily help the "not paid people" understand what it is we're called to do, why it is we're doing it, and how they can get involved. I'm not paid to do all the work, but I am paid to make sure the work is getting done by those who call this local church their "church home".
I AM PAID TO EMPOWER OTHERS. I'm also paid to get out of the way. Truth is, if my job is doable by me alone, then I'm doing a task, not being a pastor. Pastors should not be the most important people in a church. Pastors should be like an orchestra director. Sure, maybe you need them so the music sounds awesome and people work together, but in the end, very little of the actual concert was done by them. They just encouraged and empower others to use their abilities to collectively make a more beautiful noise than they could as individuals. That's what a pastor is paid to do.
I AM PAID NOT TO DO ANOTHER JOB. Huh? Just keep reading... Yes, I'm paid to do some stuff. Yes, I think I bust my butt and earn a wage. But for me, I think I'm paid to work for the church so that I don't go work somewhere else. Nothing wrong with working in an office building or on a tractor. But in the end, my church is essentially saying to me, "Please don't do that other job, we want you full time here instead." I'm not paid to do my job, I'm paid so I don't have to have a second job.