Should anyone be paid to work for the church full time?

Having led a group discussion about the book with some people from a pretty straight charismatic/evangelical church, one of the big points of debate we got into was whether or not people ought to be paid to be in full time ministry.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have done, but one contribution took me a little by surprise:

“The trouble is that we are all busy professional people, and so to solve the problem of all this stuff that needs doing in the church we say, ‘hey, why don’t we pay you to go full time’. Then the person we pay starts working and is surprised to find that nobody is volunteering for stuff, while we all turn up on Sunday and want something delivered by them without any hassle.”

Again it seems that the hectic blind alley of the city can lead to situations that don’t really suit anyone, but everyone struggles to change. Then again, I know of situations where people are working as ordained ministers part time, but basically being exploited for their good will and finding things tough.

In a consumer society based on specialisation of labour, does employing leaders full time brings with it an immediate danger of everyone defaulting to them… And with that the vision and momentum of the group ending up becoming ‘top-down’? I know many CofE churches have actually found the most fruitful times have been in an interegnum where they actually have to get their hands dirty and get involved.

I don’t think this precludes some full time administration support, but wouldn’t think a better norm be a team of leaders who work part time in other jobs too? Is too much money wasted on salaries which could be better spent on actually doing the stuff?


7 responses to “Should anyone be paid to work for the church full time?”

  1. Hey cool, I’m struggling with thoose kind of issues right now, because I have to decide wheter or not I want to go to full time ministry. It seems to me that going full time is not the cool thing right now. But I think it’s still perfectly valid to have people who invested time to study things that other people don’t have time to study.
    The notion of a leader who is responsible and in control of a single oragnization/congregation is outdated. But I think there is a place for (a group of) regional leaders who are paid for building a network of already existing congregations or start new projects here and there. I don’t think of leaders controlling a region but leader who build community in a region.
    It’s a mistake when we focus only on the single church instead we need to focus on a whole region or a city (or at least a district). We can affect our community so much better when build many small churchES from the outset. And it would be an advantage to have a person who is paid to do this. (of course: maybe I’m still thinking to much “top down”…)

  2. I appreciate your comments on whether anyone should be paid full time to work at church. I know this is a pervasive debate.
    As a pastor’s wife… I say yes. LOL. Let me explain. I personally worked full time in the software industry for several years as a manager (ie more than 40 hours a week) and also continued working with my youth pastor husband, led worship for church services, spearheaded prayer meetings and served as President of American Christian Fiction Writers.
    It was exhausting. I really had no quality time to set aside and sit before the One I loved. I had to fight for personal prayer and Bible time. Never mind home and family duties.
    If a man is to lead a congregation, even with a strong team of elders there has to be a central leader, he must have time to minister to the Lord, seek His face in prayer and the Word.
    It’s as the Apostle’s said in Acts 6, they wanted to be undistracted so they could be devoted to the Word. We have pastors so busy today they are preaching other men’s messages, picking up the latest “how to” book.
    A laborer is worthy of their hire. Why is it that in the Christian community we feel everything should be “free” or volunteer?
    A full time pastor also has family concerns. Add that to delving into the Word, training leaders, spending time in prayer and contemplation, fasting. How is he supposed work outside the church and not have his heart divided.
    Work outside the church for a season, yes? But for 10, 15 years. He will lose heart and become weary.
    I suppose if the 80-20 were broken; twenty percent of the people doing eight percent of the work, perhaps a church could get by with a part time pastor.

  3. Joseph

    In my mind, this issue is only a real problem if we view the body of Christ not as a body (an organism), but as a business (an organization). Is “pastor” a job description, or a gifting / calling of the Spirit?
    And can any of us be part-time members of Christ’s body? Are we not ALL full-time?

  4. “I suppose if the 80-20 were broken; twenty percent of the people doing eight percent of the work, perhaps a church could get by with a part time pastor.”
    Precisely. I’m not sure if you’ve read the book or not, but this 80-20 problem is certainly one of my concerns, and I’m really keen to see much more devolved leaderships, using a wider and more dispersed set of people and skills.
    I do speak/write from some experience: my dad is a workaholic. Was a minister in parishes for 20+ years, and while he was clearly brilliant, a) he left no time for his family and b) his style was so undevolved that the churches he moved on from fell apart.
    This sort of cycle of family stress and churches depending so heavily on one leader has to be broken… And I’m becoming more convinced that the professionalisation of the clergy just doesn’t help one bit.
    Yes leaders need to be ‘seeking his face’ etc., but shouldn’t everyone in the church be doing that? I think it’s problematic when we start getting into the situation where we are almost paying leaders to do that on our behalf.

  5. Well, my Church Leaders all quit to go run buisinesses or look after their kids. Just as well we all wanted to disband and just meet each other whenever/whatever/whoever. I have actually been able to meet my arty mates, and had time to sit in peoples shops and talk to them (while my kids damage their worldly wares)and play online in different time zones. Should some Churches have paid leaders? Well my mates dad is a Dean with a nice castle – if it suits, go for it. If not, don’t.
    Do pass the volauvents your worship.

  6. I suppose our Church just threw it all out, so at present we have no anything, apart from friends… somy question is not “do we need full-time paid leaders” but ” do we need full-time leaders” or, even, “do we need leaders”??? What with us all being priests. But I suppose the point may be that naturally leaders emerge and fulfill different roles; do we have a fluid enough environment for leadership to alter and wane as required, so that no one person or group is always ‘leading’, but at the same time all feel accountable and able to find a suitable person to learn from. Bottoms up to the bottom-up, while it all goes tits up for a while.

  7. I think full time may be the key phrase here.
    It is almost inevitable that sooner or later the needs of overseeing a community will become too muich for someone in full time work.
    My hope is that we will always keep a rein on this with part time workers.