Preachers and Professional Athletes


For years I’ve marveled at the stunning salaries of some professional athletes. A Google search produced a list ( of the ten highest paid. From bottom to top, their annual salary and endorsement income range from a paltry $46 million for an English auto racer to a much more respectable $93 million for a Portuguese soccer player.

To say the least, those numbers are far from salaries of professional church workers, both preachers and teachers. In a former life of oversight of congregations in Texas, I always encouraged church leaders to be generous in the area of compensation, particularly when calling a new pastor and reviewing their current pastor. A laborer is worthy of his hire.

In that regard it’s an understatement to say the preaching profession is not known for commanding outlandish salaries. I’m happy to say that has improved somewhat in recent years. By the way, the only overpaid pastors I ever knew were those simply not doing their job!

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I stumbled upon an internet announcement last week that a North Carolina pastor had signed a contract to become one of the pastors of a well-known church in Houston. The contract was reportedly $110 million over six years.

According to my math, that would be approximately $18.3 million per year or about $1.5 million per month. My dear Terry’s comment is that that pastor’s wife would most likely not have to worry any more about clipping coupons!

Upon further investigation I found a video from the pastor himself, declaring the announcement untrue, bogus, a falsehood. He says he’ll be remaining at his church in North Carolina and not moving to the church in Houston. Don’t you wonder who started that rumor? I surely do!

Here are my four perspectives on this topic:

  1. Don’t always believe everything you read on the internet, even if it looks legitimate.
  2. There is a point at which compensation becomes way out of proportion to a person’s intrinsic value. That truism is not restricted to professional athletics.
  3. Everyone who follows his or her vocational calling is worthy of reasonable, fair, even generous compensation, in proportion to his or her value to his or her employer.
  4. To whom much is given, of him or her much is required! Luke 12:48

God bless your day!


How About a Few More Rules for Teachers?

Teacher 1Last week I wrote about Rules for Women Teachers in 1915, which many of you forwarded to friends and family. By the way, that’s perfectly OK to do. In addition, if they want to be on the list of regular Perspectives recipients, encourage them to sign up simply by clicking “Subscribe” at the top of the article or just let me know their email address and I’ll add them to the list.

Before leaving the topic of rules for teachers from the past, it seemed appropriate to mention one more set. Here we go, with permission again from Zion Lutheran Church in Wayside, Wis.

Rules for Teachers—1872

  1. Teachers each day will fill lamps and clean chimneys.
  2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and scuttle of coal for the day’s session.
  3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
  4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
  5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
  6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
  7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden to society.
  8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will have given reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and  honesty.
  9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

Folks, I’m not making up this stuff! This is real! A few of these rules particularly caught my eye and I suspect you noticed them also. Unseemly conduct is not an everyday household term. And I suppose any male teacher who was romantically interested in a young lady would be motivated, properly or improperly, to be in church on a regular basis, “regular” being a term not defined in the rules, but probably meaning every week, without fail. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me!

But the two rules most poignantly on my mind right now are #7 and #9. Both have to do with teachers’ compensation, current and future. This is a topic of importance still today.

Since I’m out of the ecclesiastical supervision and church/school personnel business, I don’t hear nearly as much about this matter these days as in the past. However, I suspect the issue of compensation for church workers, perhaps particularly educators and other commissioned ministers of the Gospel, is still a matter of concern.

Worries about resources during declining years have lessened significantly as a result of Concordia Plan Services, which includes the LCMS retirement plan. Social Security, for those who have participated, also helps significantly.

But I believe the fact remains that educators and other commissioned workers are far too often compensated below the intrinsic value of the ministry to which they commit their time, heart and soul. As a result, many church workers face retirement without sufficient financial resources for comfortable living, with luxuries simply remaining out of the question.

“The laborer deserves his wages” or words quite similar are mentioned many times in Holy Scripture. If you’d like to take a look, here’s a partial list of references: 1 Tim. 5:18; 1 Cor. 9:9; Deut. 25:4; Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:15; 1 Cor. 9:4, 7-14.

With that motivation, my encouragement is for church leaders at every level to inquire into the compensation of all those who serve in congregational ministry, including educational, musical, custodial and pastoral staff. Compensation levels should be more than just adequate. Pay scales provided by regional judicatories are almost always designed to be minimum recommendations.

If adjustments need to be made, have the courage to urge that the right thing be done as quickly as possible. That may very well include an honest look at your own level of personal financial stewardship and an encouragement for fellow congregational members to do the same.

Remember that we have been blessed to be a blessing and to honor God in all we do, with all we are and with all we have! We are called to do so in a 21st century context, which we all know is radically different from the way things were and the way things were viewed in 1872!