To Keep or Not to Keep the Minister’s Salary Public?

There are certainly divided opinions about this issue. Stated simply, should the minister’s salary be kept public before all church members on a regular basis? For example, some churches distribute the monthly budget receipts and expenses of the church. In that monthly report you often see, to the dollar, exactly how much each minister makes.

Other churches provide only a total of all personnel costs or salaries. An individual minister’s salary is not visible in the total.

Some churches have policies or denominational guidelines about how this matter should be handled. But most don’t. So, for the vast majority of churches that have no guidelines or guiding principles on this issue, what is the best direction to take?

First, it is not a moral issue of right or wrong as long as there are no deceptive practices taking place. Second, most people, not just ministers, are uncomfortable having their salaries displayed before the public on a regular basis. Some positions in the secular world require such disclosure as with politicians and executives in publicly traded companies. But most people do not have to deal with the prying eyes of personal finances.

It is not a moral issue of right or wrong as long as there are no deceptive practices taking place.

Is there a way then to provide the best of both worlds? Allow the minister a modicum of privacy while maintaining a culture of openness in the church? In many churches, the minister’s individual salary is not made available for general public consumption. Any member, however, has the right to come to the church office to see the salaries if he or she desires. Most members really don’t worry or think about such matters. But, for those who do, the information is readily available.

Every church will have its own personality and thus have its own way of approaching this tension between transparency and privacy. Some ministers have no problem with their salaries being visible to all; others will struggle. For the latter group, the suggestion above may have merit.

Should I opt out of Social Security? How much housing allowance do I take? Do I have enough for retirement? Should I ask for a raise? Why should I even care about my financial picture? The Minister’s Salary was written to shed light on some of the issues that seem to most burden ministers. With simplicity and clarity, it provides a holistic look at key financial issues. The Minister’s Salary is an excellent, concise resource for anyone seeking answers to some of the most common financial questions asked by ministers. Now available!

What about you? What suggestions do you have relating to this issue? Please place your comments in the section below.

5 Best Practices for Handling Other Ministry Income

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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11 thoughts on “To Keep or Not to Keep the Minister’s Salary Public?

  1. Displaying the salary publicly while keeping the ministers giving anonymous will many times yield the wrong impression. He may receive a handsome salary, but many pastors give back a large percentage of their income to the church and missions work. For this reason, I believe both should be undisclosed except to the duly selected board and those that count the offerings.

    • It is true that many pastors do give a substantial portion back to the church. Thank you for your sharing this suggestion, Fred.

  2. Posting staff salaries can cause jealous or discontent among staff who will, by very human nature, compare to one another. It is unnecessary and potentially hazardous.

  3. I wouldn’t be opposed to it if congregants allowed me to post their giving records. I’m being a little funny here but a pastors salary has no business being everybody’s business. The board yes, the general public no. The last church I was at knew the lump sum of all salaries combined. I’m fine with that approach

    • Keeping the salary secret creates suspicions that the pastor(s) is paid an unreasonably high amount (a suspicion that might be true). If there is nothing to be ashamed of make it public.

      My salary is public (state employee) as is my pastor’s. No issue on my part with my giving record being made public either.

  4. I always struggle with this as a pastor. Our church lumps all staff salaries in one line item on the annual budget at conference reports (as mentioned above), except for mine. They post mine on a separate line for all to see. I’ve hinted I didn’t like it but the CFO never changes it and no one ever challenges him.
    I personally think they should all be lumped together and as someone commented, anyone can ask the church leadership team if they just MUST know.
    My problem with it is that it does create some jealousy, it also causes blue collar workers to feel that he makes too much and if you ever accidentally fail in even the smallest of your responsibilities (inadvertently), they exclaim, “we pay him “X” and he didn’t come to my niece’s boyfriend’s funeral visitation!
    In conclusion, it causes more harm than good – at least that’s been my experience.

  5. I tell anyone I will share my salary with them, and walk them through it so they can see I have to pay all social security and have no bebefits. Usually they say I am underpaid after seeing the “net” figure.

  6. I think it comes down to how your church views membership. If you put a high value on membership and enlist members properly on the way in with membership classes and interviews making sure you have a mature membership, then I see no problem letting members know the pastor’s salary. However, if your church is like many that lets anyone become members, then you probably have a whole lot of immature people that don’t understand what the pastor’s role is. If that’s the case, then the real issue is not about the pastor’s salary at all.

  7. I ‘ve been a member of my baptist church for 25 years. Newly married. My husband has only been a member for almost 2 years. He recently saw our proposed 2019 budget as presented to our church and he is upset that our church lumps salaries and benefits (and other items) into one total without providing a little more detail. He’s so upset that he talked about going to a church that provide full transparency. What reasons would a church not share this info to their members?