Dear Addie,

I’ve been working on staff at a church for a few years and have come to realize that I am underpaid. I am sure some people might think, “Aren’t we all underpaid!” But I’ve discovered that I really am significantly underpaid and am gearing up for the appropriate conversations to try to remedy the situation. How might I call this information to my church’s attention without sounding whiny or complaining? I want to be professional but also convincing of the need for a salary increase.

Trying to Make Ends Meet


William Willimon, in his book Calling and Character, writes, “Ministry is not merely a profession, not only because one cannot pay pastors to do many of the things they routinely do, but also because ministry is a vocation.” Yes, I would agree that many ministers are underpaid, but Willimon’s words remind us that we are not in the ministry for the money. We do what we do in answering the call of God upon our lives to proclaim and live the Word in and among the people. However, days are wearied when ministers wrestle with the thought of having to abandon their present calling and place of service because there is not sufficient money to sustain their present needs. But those days happen.

Serving the church is a partnership with the people of God, and it helps to be open and honest about your financial needs with your congregation’s leadership. Most of the time, they are unaware of the shortcomings and are unaware of how ministers salary packages are really divided out. I would encourage you first to do your homework. There are resources you can consult, including The 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff and Guide to Negotiating Pastor Compensation from Ministers and Missionaries Benefits Board.

I would then encourage you to sit down with your leadership and carefully explain your financial needs to see if the church is able to rise to the occasion. If not, you will have to wrestle with whether God wants you to remain or move on. Although it might sound religiously trite, God will provide one way or another. For those who are answering calls to serve in the church, before you say yes, do some homework. Know how much it is going to financially cost you to live and serve in the community.

Take courage! Ministry is a partnership with the people of God. Just as you have a calling from God to care for the people in the church who are God’s children, the people have a calling from God to care for you as their minister.

Blessings to you and your church family!