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providing for your pastor

providing for your pastor

Give Your Pastor More Than Money and Faithful Attendance

by Ray Lewis



Find out more about the Free Will Baptist Board of Retirement by calling (877) 767-7738.



FREE WILL BAPTISTS ARE A DIVERSE GROUP. When you enter some of our churches it is almost as if a holy hush has descended on the congregation. Everyone sits quietly, meditating, preparing hearts for worship. Just down the road however, it is like a family reunion every Sunday as people greet each other and catch up on the news of the week.

When the music starts, some churches rely on a Stamps-Baxter hymnbook or the Rejoice hymnal, while others read words projected on a screen. When some preachers proclaim the Word, they communicate in soft voices that require the congregation to listen intently in order catch every word. Others have booming voices that “shake the rafters.”

Yes, we are a diverse group with varying styles of worship. But we all have one thing in common; we love the one who stands before us each Sunday proclaiming God’s Word. The pastor is there when we are saved, when we marry, when we suffer, and when we lose loved ones. We love him, and want to provide for him and his family.

Recently the Board of Retirement conducted a survey of all the pastors in the Free Will Baptist Yearbook. We received 622 responses. Our goal was to determine how Free Will Baptists are providing for their pastors
Providing for the pastor is a biblical principle. Paul said, “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach of the gospel should live of the gospel”(I Cor. 9:14). Jesus told the seventy, “And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7a).

When we think of providing for the pastor’s needs, we think of his salary package. Our goal should be to provide a pay package large enough to take care of our pastor and his family. In our survey, 89 pastors reported incomes less than $10,000 while two received over $100,000. The median package was $30,000–$39,999. Of those receiving this amount, one was part-time, eight were bi-vocational, and the rest were full time. There were 15 high school graduates, three Bible Institute graduates, 19 with some college, 34 college graduates, nine with a master’s degree, and two with doctoral degrees.

The minister’s housing allowance is the most important tax benefit available to ministers. For the purposes of this survey, we did not separate housing from the total pay package so we have no statistics to share. Voting to designate part of the pastor’s wages as housing is a great way to help him reduce his tax liability. The pastor pays no federal tax on housing, so this amount is excluded from his W-2. He does pay SECA tax on it however.


providing for your pastor image


Providing retirement benefits is a way for the church to show the pastor that we care about his future needs as well as the present ones. Here at the Board of Retirement we believe every church should participate—at least the entry level of$10 per month. Currently, 247 pastors receive employer (church) contributions into their account. They are composed of 32 bi-vocational, one interim, eight part-time, and 208 full-time pastors.

With the cost of health insurance shooting up, many of our ministers do not carry adequate insurance coverage. Churches should strive to help provide at least minimal coverage. In our survey, 212 reported that their church provides some level of insurance coverage. This group was made up of five part-time, six bi-vocational and 201 full-time pastors.

Pastors need a break just like the lay members. The church should allow vacation time, with pay. The pastor should not be required to start as a new employee in accumulating vacation time when going to a new church. Of those 619 pastors who responded to this question, 105 do not receive a paid vacation, 51 receive one week, 304 receive two weeks, 96 receive three weeks, 44 receive four weeks, and 19 receive five or more weeks.

An occasional day off is not always enough. A sabbatical can provide relief from “burn-out.” Only 15 ministers surveyed receive an occasional sabbatical, 51 were not sure, 544 said no, and one replied, “if needed.” Some of the comments that accompanied this answer were: “Had to resign to get one;” “They think the pastor doesn’t need one;” “I have no desire for one;” “I wish;” and “one in 22 years.”

In the eyes of the IRS, ministers have a dual tax status. They are employees for tax purposes, and they should receive a W-2 Form from the church. However, pastors are self-employed for Social Security purposes. Most churches do not think about the fact that the pastor is responsible for the entire 15.3% SECA (same as FICA for employees) instead of just the 7.65% that non-ministerial employees pay. Churches should provide at least the same amount for the pastor as they do for other employees. One hundred seventy-two of the pastors who responded to the survey receive this Social Security Offset.

In addition, the survey revealed that 205 pastors receive either a church-provided vehicle or auto allowance expense, 76 receive a book/study helps allowance, 126 receive an allowance for ministry related meals, 226 receive reimbursement for travel, and 332 have their expenses paid to national, state, and local association meetings.

How well does your church provide for your pastor? I hope your pastor does not feel like one who sent the following note with his survey. “Pastors are like a pair of shoes, walked on until worn out, then thrown away.” Let’s do our best to provide for our pastor. Not all churches can provide all of the above, but every effort should be made to meet our pastor's needs in a fair and equitable way.


ABOUT THE WRITER: Ray Lewis is the director of the Board of Retirement. He and his wife Ida live in Antioch, TN. For more information about retirement and financial planning, contact the Board of Retiremtne at (877) 767-7738 or visit them online at



©2008 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists