Wednesday, October 01, 2014

We Are That Family

I'm writing this post today because I don't personally need more income.

Don't get me wrong, I could always find uses for money. But my point is, our family income is just fine.

But at one time, it wasn't.

And only someone who is making a decent salary can write this kind of post, otherwise it's taken as  begging for money.

Photo Credit: ccstbp, Flickr

Many years ago a woman in the church  where we were pastors at the time came to me with a box of things and said, "Pastor Deanna, I want to donate this to a family in need at the church, and I know you'll know exactly who needs it and who to give it to..."

I thanked her. Once she left the room I peeked inside the box and said to myself: "We are that family."

I took the box home and our family utilized the contents. At the time we may have been the most financially disadvantaged family in the congregation. We qualified for food stamps. Our kids qualified for free school lunches. Our income was below the poverty level for our community. Our children got used to hearing that we had to wait to buy sneakers another month, although their shoes had holes in them. My mother in law was buying their school supplies because we couldn't.

I didn't feel guilty taking the box for ourselves. We were one of the most needy families in the church, and that's who the woman said to bless -- a family in need.

I simply did as she asked me to do.

What Message Are You Sending?

A friend of mine who is also a lead pastor's wife went through a situation where her family was one of, if not the most financially disadvantaged families in their church. Every week was a struggle. The board told  her husband there was nothing available for a raise and they didn't feel it was appropriate to let the need to help their pastor be known to the church.

Imagine her shock when one Sunday there were guest missionary speakers, Sam and Sally Smyth*, who asked for the church to partner with them in getting them back to their mission field. In that one service alone, the church rallied and raised $11,000 and gave them a check that morning. My friend left the sanctuary, with hot tears rolling down her cheeks. She tried to get out of the room as inconspicuously as possible before she emotionally burst. Once she got to her husband's office she broke down sobbing, wondering how the church had come to see the Smyth's ministry as worthy of rallying behind while her own children wore hand-me-downs with holes and she struggled to buy groceries.

My husband and I went through a similar situation at the church aforementioned, when we were told there was nothing substantial available for a raise. Yet in the same month, the church mobilized to do a construction project in Ecuador and took money out of a surplus in the general fund, to send over for whatever was needed on the missionfield.

It sent us a very clear message: "We don't care about our pastors."


Why Am I Writing This Post?

Today is the beginning of "Pastor Appreciation Month." I wanted to start the month off by speaking out about this. Because I have the nerve to say these things. You're welcome.

Many of my friends in ministry read my blog, and so do a lot of friends of mine who are not vocational ministers but are church members at different places throughout the world.

Larry and I are at a place where we are well cared for. I can write this post without anyone in our church thinking, "she's writing about us," because I'm not. 

I write this on behalf of my minister friends who ARE that family. They are perhaps the most needy family in the church where they serve. And maybe you are part of their congregation.

Perhaps you currently have no idea what the situation is with your pastor's income. Only the board members of your church may know how the pastor and his or her family are being treated, financially.

Have you thought about asking questions to those who do know, to make sure your pastor's family is taken care of?

Why? Because it's the right thing to do. God's Word says it.
  
 "Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!” 
 I Timothy 5:17-18


No, you do not have permission to refer to your pastor as an ox.


Yes, I'm Gonna Say It...


What does it speak to your community when a church doesn't properly financially care for it's pastor?

The way a pastor is treated is actually a witness in the community and to the pastor's children. And let me assure you...pastors' kids remember how a church treated their family! One of our  children went to the altar at PenFlorida District Youth Camp years ago, to receive healing from hurts incurred at the church I refer to in this post. Thankfully, the Lord has touched and healed those wounds. But my heart is that no PK will ever have to face those kind of things.

Set Your Pastor Free to Lead

Here is another thing you might not know about your pastor.  When he or she is properly cared for financially, it sets them free to pray about the mission and vision of the church, and plan and dream. When they are not consumed with simply praying for their family's survival, they and the church can thrive.

You May Wonder...

Why didn't Larry and I serve bi-vocationally, taking another job in addition, when living on the poverty level? Great question.

When we interviewed, the board made it clear that the position was not bi-vocational. They wanted a full time pastor and promised if we would take a step of faith, this was just a start -- the salary would increase over time in proportion to the church being blessed.   Despite the church greatly prospering, the salary didn't increase in proportion to the blessings.

There were many, many times we regretted making that agreement that we not go bi-vocational, and longed to have a second job, to relieve the struggle.

I'm glad I can speak up now, on behalf of friends who are in need.

Do the right thing. Perhaps it will bring a new beginning in the same location -- for your pastor, and for the church. Not to mention, doing the right thing brings glory to God.

*Not their real names

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