How do you divide the work of the ministry between paid and unpaid pastors/elders?

It is a great joy to serve along side fellow pastors/elders for the care of our people’s souls.  Yet, as a result of the kinds of questions I receive through this blog, it seems the typical tension between these godly men who lead our churches comes as a result of this dynamic between those compensated by the church and those who are not.  I am not referring to certain pastor’s jealously or bitterness over not being paid or paid enough (different issue), but how our labors are spread out among each other and how “in the loop” each pastor feels.

Acknowledging that it is a good and healthy thing to have both paid and unpaid pastors in your local church (1 Tim. 5:17-18), here are a few thoughts with hopes that more unity and inclusion would be fostered among all your pastors:

Paid pastors should take on most of the day to day grind.  That is what we are paid for, so that we can spend our days doing the day to day operations of the church and shepherding of souls.  Our part time paid staff have less responsibility than I do in this daily grind, but carry more of the load than our pastors who are not paid at all and less available because their secular job keeps them occupied.  Additionally, do not get hung up on whether someone is paid or not for pastor’s meetings.  By the time most pastors/elders meetings take place, both paid and unpaid pastors have worked more hours at their job (church or secular) than they are officially compensated for and should not be seen as, “some are paid to be at a pastor’s meeting and the others are not.”

Paid pastors must work hard to keep the unpaid pastors informed.  The greatest challenge seems to be because the unpaid pastors are not as involved in the day to day grind, they naturally feel less informed.  This means the paid pastors who are most involved in the daily operations must be deliberate to keep the unpaid pastors up to date.  I find this best happens through emails I can send to them as updates, which I take responsibility to send since I am the only full-time pastor at our church.  If you are not consistent and diliberate to keep the unpaid pastors informed, they will by default feel out of the loop.

Paid and unpaid pastors must sit at the table as equals.  Financial compensation should not communicate value when it comes to the pastors sitting at a round table discussing the struggles of your people and how to best care for their souls.  As the Senior Pastor and the only full-time paid pastor in our church, I am seen as the first among equals, but nonetheless…equals.  Each pastor’s input should be seen as valuable as the others.  Each pastor’s preaching should be received as the others. Each pastor’s concerns should be considered as much as the others.

There are five of us who serve as pastors in our church.  One is fully compensated (me).  Two pastors are on staff part-time.  The other two pastors are not paid a dime by the church.  Each of these men are a gift in the unique value they bring to the table.  This suggestions are simply some principles to which we strive that keep all of us in the loop  and united in task and calling.

Remember, the burden of keeping all pastors/elders in the loop and involved in the issues of the church lay heavily upon those who are full-time at the church and deal with the daily grind the most.  Regardless how you divide up the work of the ministry in your local church, support one another and do all you can to keep the less involved in the loop.


Posted in Oversight of Souls, The Pastor's Soul
15 comments on “How do you divide the work of the ministry between paid and unpaid pastors/elders?
  1. Christy says:

    how was it decided to not pay a pastor? what is the defining line between unpaid and paid?

    • briancroft says:

      I have found whether a pastor is paid or not is determined on the ability of the church to pay them and the resources they have. If our church had the money to do so, I would hire our other 4 pastors in a second and would be able to keep them busy. I think this is the case for most churches.

  2. Rod Santiago says:

    In general, at what point would you say a church should consider taking on a part-time pastor in addition to a full-time pastor? I’ve been told that when a church reaches 150 people they should consider taking on another part/full-time pastor.

  3. Steve says:

    Great post, Brian. If I may ask a follow-up: How would you counsel the unpaid pastor on the priority of reading / responding to the updates and information from paid pastor(s)? That is, what responsibility does the unpaid pastor himself have on remaining informed?

    I suppose another way to get at this is at what point does “I didn’t have time to _______ [read the update; make the call; etc.]” mean “I don’t have time to be a pastor / elder”?

    Thank you, brother, for this website!

    • briancroft says:

      Good question. We have an agreement that all pastors need to try and respond to all emails sent out within a 24 hour period. There will be exceptions and the responses my be really brief, but at least a response. That has been very important to make decision on things.

  4. Justin says:

    Thanks for the helpful and timely post. We’re working through some of these issues now. On a side note, how often do your elders meet together and for how long?

    • briancroft says:

      We shoot for once a month on a Sunday afternoon for about 4 hours.

      • Doug Wolter says:

        Brian, what does this time look like when you meet with your elders once a month, understanding that each meeting has it’s specific items? Maybe you’ve written about that in a previous post?

        • briancroft says:

          First hour to hour and a half is focused on our own souls and praying for the congregation, which we pray for every member by name. Then, the remaining time is spent on more detailed souls care with people in the church and different line items that we need to discuss. The agenda is sent out several days before with memos to read that will update them on different situations so they can be already thinking through them, which saves time.

  5. Brad says:

    Thanks for taking up what can be a very taboo subject. Allow me to push for more specifics: you say that “by the time most pastors/elders meetings take place, both paid and unpaid pastors have worked more hours at their job (church or secular) than they are officially compensated for.”

    Can you confirm that you are essentially saying that pastors should be working in excess of a 40 hr work week? I think the tension surfaces when the pastor, seeking to “guard and protect” his time and his family, never works more than 40 hrs and yet expects his elders to do so. Perhaps pastoral expectations should be working 40 hrs/week but ‘volunteering’ in a capacity similar to the elders for (let’s say) 10 hrs/week?

    This is certainly not to impose a legalistic structure on already guilt-prone pastors. But I think clarity of expectations could go a long way to helping diffuse possible tensions, and also allow the pastor to model to his fellow elders how to manage one’s time and family when busy.

    Thanks and looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    • Mike says:

      Brad, Are you advocating that staff pastors time should equal non-staff pastors time when factoring in their work week? I.E.

      Non-staff – 10 hours volunteer + 40 hours normal job = 50 hours.
      Paid Pastors – Matching time of 50 hours.

      • Brad says:

        Hey Mike. Not entirely sure I am ‘advocating’ it, but it does seem logical to me. However I am more than open to the opinions of those with more experience than me. I am a relatively new elder in my church and admit I struggle with the idea of a pastor who refuses to work more than the bare minimum 40 hour work week when his fellow elders are all doing so. But perhaps this is my selfishness speaking?

        What do others think?

        • MIke says:

          I agree it does seem logical, but I am not 100% sure how I would divide it. Speaking as a non-staff, I can give you a breakdown from personal experience on a “normal” week…

          Normal job – 40 hours
          Wednesday night/small group… – 2 hours
          Sunday – 4 hours
          Bi-weekly elder meetings – 4 hours / per week 2 hours
          Preparing for teaching / counseling etc. – 5 hour
          E-mails – minimum 1 hour

          Average – 54 hours per week (as long as nothing crazy occurs)

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