Lately, I have been asking myself, “How big does a church need to be in order to merit a full time pastor?” I have heard a couple of different things, but I finally found something in writing. This is from Bishop Willimon of the North Alabama Conference, who sites Lovett Weems:
The total minimum financial obligation for having a full-time pastoral position filled by an Elder/Deacon or a Probationary Elder/Deacon is $70,000 including salary and benefits [in other words, $70k is total package, that is not what pastors take home]. Lovett Weems of Wesley Theological Seminary has shown us that a church must average 125 adults in worship to sustain the ability to fund a full-time pastor’s salary, an adequate program for growth, an appropriate mission program, maintaining its facility, and to participate fully in connectional giving. We are sure that more churches will move from full-time to part-time. We anticipate many more of our churches to be placed on multiple congregation circuits in order to meet the challenges of funding trained, ordained clergy.
These numbers seem right on. As for me and my church, we are about 40 people short, and we are feeling it! I know several peers in ministry who are feeling the budget crunch, too (especially in the Alabama-West Florida Conference as we switch to direct billing for insurance). These numbers only help us to understand our budget problem. They do not help us find a solution. My church committees are working on that right now. I know these conversations are being had by many other churches as well.
Someone noted that I have stopped taking pens to meetings… I have switched to pencils. I did not even realize I did it, but when dealing with such difficult math problems, I prefer working in pencil. So, tonight, I lift up a prayer for pastors of small membership churches and their congregations as we try to figure out this math problem so that we may continue to do God’s work.