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Business Church For Ministry Leaders Opinion

Church, Nonprofit and Ministry Salaries – It’s Time We Start Paying For Better Leadership

OPINION–Let me get a bit controversial and talk about why we should consider paying church, ministry, and nonprofit leaders more money. In my opinion, we need to evolve from the idea that the mission is all that matters, and people who are called are there because of bigger purposes than a mere salary.

Yes – some of that is true. Obviously a pastor, ministry or nonprofit leader is primarily there because of the mission, but when is that an excuse not to pay them what they’re worth?

Somehow we’ve become enamored with the idea of keeping these salaries as low as possible – almost as if it were a loyalty test to see just how committed they really are to the cause. And we’ve spread that word to the congregation and donors – some of whom I’ve seen donate to whatever nonprofit or ministry organization they could find with the lowest overhead or salary scale.

And don’t get me wrong, during a start up phase, or with a small church, ministry, or nonprofit I understand that budgets are tight. But if the plan is to grow that organization, then we need a team at the helm who aren’t just called, but also have the right gifts and talent to lead that growth.

Over the years I’ve advised some ministry and nonprofit organizations with enormous potential, but were crippled because of poor leaders. And most often, the reason is they simply won’t pay enough to recruit someone better. And in church situations, one of the dominant reasons pastors leave the ministry is the same cause – they just can’t afford to continue.

Let’s change the paradigm. Let’s start looking for the best leaders instead of the least expensive leaders. Let’s focus on the organization’s purpose more than focus on the percentage of overhead. Let’s focus on outcomes. And if donors (or anyone else) question the salary, let’s have the confidence to defend that decision.

Because in the end, will we be more pleased about a church, ministry, or nonprofit’s impact – or with how low we kept everyone’s salary?

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Phil Cooke

Phil Cooke writes often about media and leadership issues. His book “One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do” helps you find the great purpose and calling for your life – and was named by the Washington Post as one of the Top Five Business Books for 2012. His book, “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media” is changing the way churches, ministries, and nonprofits engage today’s culture with their story. Co-written with Jonathan Bock, “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Win it Back” takes a hard look at why today—particularly in the media—Christians are dismissed as irrelevant.