Sunday, March 09, 2008

Who is YOUR Sovereign?

Yes, that was the theme of the sermon today. From Daniel, Chapter 4. King Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the giant tree and Daniel's interpretation and admonition. Who do you serve?

And here was the real time counterpoint: A couple weeks ago the plea was made that everyone increase their tithing by 2.4 percent (not 2.3, not 2.5, but 2.4). Why? Why because of the continuing shortfall on the operating expenses. Now many staff have been fired. OOOOPS, I'm sorry, politically incorrect word: their careers have been re-purposed!! And the staff has all pitched in and taken on more tasks so the salaries portion of the budget can be downsized. And still and yet, there is a continuing shortfall. Thus a request for more ponying up to cover the monthly nut. All well and good and fine, you say? Well yes. Thus far, I would agree.

And then******This morning******..... A congregational meeting!! After the service. Voting in new elders. Motion carried. Adopting the Treasurer's report. Motion carried. No discussions. Until *dramatic pause* *sound of cymbals starting low and building high* the motion to change the terms of the pastors' calls. In other words: Asking the congregation to approve raises for the pastors.

Here are the givens: (and before you fine pastors who read here get your hackles up, please keep reading.....)
FIR: They have not had any raises for two whole years!!!! And they have taken on so many other jobs now.
AGIN: The church can't pay it's bills now? and you are asking to raise the pastors' salaries, retroactive to January 1st? AND, our pastors, before the raise, are the highest paid pastors in the entire Presbytery.
FIR: We have faith that the church will find a way. And while it's true they are far above in salary in the Presbytery, they are paid less than "comparable churches in the demographic". (funny, no one provided any kind of study on this)
ME: So THIS is why they can't afford a part time person to do their dramatic arts/filmed worship program. Aha!
AGIN: The full time salaries, BEFORE the raise, are six figures. Except for the part time pastor, who's just a quarter shy of six figures.

The spread sheet showing the salaries was not provided in the booklet that was handed out. It was shown on the video screen in numbers so small you had to squint and squirm to see them. The vote was called. There were "NO'S" in the vote. And an angry elder at the podium shot eye darts out as she said "Motion carried!

So I guess that the "sovereign" mentioned in the sermon was this one:

Here's more about sovereigns from the land o' plenty!!


Janie said...

Dang. That's a lot of sovereigns!!!

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

OMG!!!! OMG!!! OMG!!! augh...

you still worship at this church because????

Presbyterian Gal said...

Yup, Janie. And mine is not the ONLY household at this church where the income has been reduced over the past few years.

HCL: You got me. I have tried to take my son and I to other churches and in one case, never got a single call after filling out three welcome cards, and in the other, just no connections made. And we still feel called there because of the children's choir.

Barbara B. said...

"their careers have been re-purposed" -- I LOVE that!!!

and the video is HILARIOUS!

Steve Hayes said...

Six figures? Monthly, annually? And what country?

Quotidian Grace said...

This is EXACTLY the same issue that sent us packing a couple of years ago. It sounds all too familiar. Don't get me started.

dust bunny said...

Hmmmmm....wonder how I can get hired as a senior pastor at your church?

Presbyterian Gal said...

Steve: That would be six figures annually, right here in the U.S. of Sovereigns!

QG: I remember that. Wow, didn't know it was this same issue.

Dust Bunny: Know what you mean. The heck with law school or medical school! Wonderboy's gonna go to seminary now!

Mary Beth said...

E Freaking Gads.

zorra said...

Oh, man...we've been through the same thing here. Speechless.

Diane said...

six figures???? both of them???? ok, I'm a little jealous. I've just finished --ahem -- balancing my checkbook.

it's bad that you went other places and they didn't do any follow up. ouch.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Diane, that's six figures: THREE of them!! And one part timer, close to it.

Diane said...

I still think most of us live modestly and have modest incomes...

Presbyterian Gal said...

Diane: I think so too.

Anonymous said...

PG - Yikes.
This stirs up so much:

- re: "having faith" that the church will come up with the dough.
I definitely believe that people will financially support what they are on fire to support especially when they are inspired and called. So, I believe that, indeed, the $ will come if people are behind the ministry.

- re: overpaid pastors. I'm told that, at Solomon's Porch (an emerging church in MN), their pastor Doug Pagitt takes an increasingly lower salary as the congregation gets larger and laypeople take on more ministry responsibilities. He also earns money through tentmaking to support his family. This is admirable, and perhaps the way things will go in the future for other congregations.

re: big bucks.
I don't begrudge pastors making a salary that is comparable to the salaries of others in that community (i.e. it's important, IMHO, to live in the community where the church meets and sometimes that requires a larger salary.) But I do have a problem with Heads of Staffs, for example, making dramatically more than other staff members. The educator, choir director, etc. should be living in the community too.

Good post. So frustrating when it feels like it's not about God.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Jan: That hits the nail on the head. The focus of this church has been to shift as much responsibility for ministry and programs onto unpaid volunteers in what they call a "bubble up" ministry. Which means the old ivy league school of management (which Michael Eisner was very fond of): whereby as the manager you do as little work as possible for the most salary possible. And that is NOT about serving God IMO.

Also, doing this when monthly operating funds have been running short for over a year adds salt to the sore.

Sue said...

A question: does your denomination have a required annual increase? Our General Council usually approves a 1 or 2% increase that is mandated and added on to the minimum salary for each of six increments.

Six figures? In my dreams maybe...won't be happening in my lifetime (at least not in these parts).

Presbyterian Gal said...

Sue, that's a good question. I don't know the answer for Presbyterians.

I would think that COL raises would be required for those paid at minimum scale. But these pastors were way way above any kind of minimums for more than two years.

You know, I wouldn't object to their salary levels if the church was able to pay its bills, repaid the 3 plus million dollar capital loan, cancelled the 11 million dollar credit line for the second capital project coming up, rehired the fired staff, restructured the jobs to realistic expectations, and was able to pay the entire staff comparable to themselves. But that would likely push the annual budget from 2.5 million to 8 or 9 million.

Songbird said...

Is it really the case that the pastor does less work because ministry is being done by the members? Or is it different work and therefore less visible? Empowering the laity to do ministry is also ministry.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Songbird: Yes, I'd say that empowering the laity is what ministry is all about. In our church, the two full time Associate Pastors have taken over an additional full time position each. Both of them are trying like the dickens to get volunteer staff in to fill the other positions where staff was let go. When it comes to empowering the laity in our case, it seems currently to be getting people to work the formerly paid staff jobs for free.

The senior pastor spends a lot of time off campus. And that's all anyone can say about that.

The objections to the raises have mostly to do with the fact that the operating expenses are not being met. Consistently. And that there is a 3 million plus construction loan to service, as well as a new 11 million line of credit on the second capital campaign that will start this spring.

Presbyterian Gal said...

And PS,

It comes to a moment, every Sunday, to being all about money and how the congregation is just not giving enough to support all of this.

Janie said...

Back to my original comment. I have a hard time reconciling high salaries when I bet I could come in there and identify poor, sick, and hurting...on the brink of bankruptcy, both real and spiritual.

When I came to the Lord, about a month after, the leaders of the church where I attended all quit taking salaries. Period. And I totally got what they were doing. And supported them. Now that is REAL.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Janie, Wow. That is more than real. That's jumping without a net faith. Not everyone can do that, with families to feed and put through school and such. I don't think I could do that if I was a pastor.

But still. That's got me thinkin' now.

Lorna said...

Songbird asks:Is it really the case that the pastor does less work because ministry is being done by the members? Or is it different work and therefore less visible? Empowering the laity to do ministry is also ministry

My thought is that empowering laity to do ministry is of course work too - and where a church depends on volunteer work there is often a feeling that they do the work for free, while the pastors (in this case) seem to be paid an awful lot of money - where people have been laid off because of a fall in income then it does seem extremely immoral.

I take it that a pastor could refuse to take the raise and plough it all back into the ministry. Perhaps that should be encouraged?

I'm with PG on this though 2-3% of a lot = a lot - and together it could come close to hiring someone part time to do something else.

I'd also like to see tithing of time (from pastors and lay) but that's my own soap box. :)

Presbyterian Gal said...

Thanks. You bring up another sore point with pastors' getting raises when members have been laid off or income"downsized" (as in my case). I find it immoral as well.

And tithing of time is considered tithing at my church. But it crosses a line for me when members are solicited to "volunteer" for full time work at formerly paid staff positions.