That’s Why They Pay Me the Big Bucks

I was recently introduced to an article about the salaries of various mega-church pastors. There was really nothing surprising. Big name preachers make big bucks. There were some startling revelations as well.DollarSign

The article didn’t take sides or even editorialize. It simply presented some facts (and I’m assuming for the sake of this blog, the facts were correct). The name of the article was Mega-Church Mega-Business. It listed some interesting statistics and a few quotes. Check it out. It’s even easier reading than this blog.

One of the sections that really jumped out at me concerned Rick Warren (pastor at Saddleback Church in California). According to the article, “He made millions off his books, but in 2005, he returned 25 years worth of salary and stopped accepting new paychecks. He gives 91% of his royalties to charity, drives a 12-year-old Ford and lives in the same house he did 22 years ago.”

There was one other line included in the Warren section of the article. He is quoted as saying, “The opulent lifestyles of televangelists make me sick.” A lot of people would agree with him on that one. I have to say, however, that really fits into the category of “low hanging fruit.”

I don’t care how much money they make.

Frankly, I don’t really care how much money any of these guys (they’re all men as far as I can tell) takes in. I’ll leave that up to the IRS (although I’m not real enamored with that outfit either).

The article defines a mega-church as one which averages at least 2000 people in attendance each week (our congregation only has 1985 to go, but we’re working on it). The top ten MC’s (mega-churches) in the US average 27,250 people per week per church. Their average annual budget is $41.1 million. Not too shabby. Maybe these guys actually earn their dough.

Money aside, however, there are a few related statistics that are far more important to me than the salaries of these all-star pastors. Check these out:

  • There are currently 807 MC’s in the US.
  • They account for 10.7% of all Protestant weekly attendance.
  • The number of MC’s is growing at a rate of 8% per year.
  • Other churches are shutting down at a rate of 1% per year.
  • Six percent of all MC congregants had never attended anywhere before.

A high percentage of MC attendees merely move their loyalties from a small church to an MC (which would help to account for the 1% of others that are closing down). That is tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs.

But the fact that six percent of all MC Preacherattendees had never gone anywhere else before is pretty impressive. Most of us would love to have an increase like that every year. We don’t, however. We’re heading the other direction.

One final note… The average MC senior pastor makes $147,000. The average protestant pastor makes $40,000. I guess I’ve spent the past 35 years driving down the numbers. Who knew?

2 thoughts on “That’s Why They Pay Me the Big Bucks”

  1. Hi Pastor Dave,

    Well, I’ll tell ya what: you know my family used to attend our small church, and I think you also realize that I have been involved with megachurches. I’ve since also been involved in I guess a medium-sized church (100 regular attenders, upwards of about 180-200 total), as well as a house church (total of about 12 people).

    My conclusion in it all is that different churches have different strengths, and that the trick is focusing on those strengths as areas of ministry.

    I respect megachurch pastors who actually live simply, and church congregations that are faithful to take care of the poor.

    I personally do not respect pastor / minister types of large churches and Christian organizations that make a ton of money, because I have found that often, some members of those fellowships will at the same time go with unmet needs — often even after approaching the church / ministry for help. The type of help needed will often be benevolence funding, such as for paying for medical needs; acts of service, such as asking members to help replace a leaking roof; and job training, so that the member in need could become self-sufficient later on. And so, the pastors of these groups will often be able to make ends meet, while congregants paying their salaries through being faithful in tithing may be evicted for not being able to make rent. I have heard of things along these lines really happening, and it makes me sick. This is why we have groups like Church Folk Revolution calling out these pastor / minister types who appear to be taking advantage of the flock, contrary to passages like Ezekiel 34.

    Now obviously, I’m not referring to you. I have known you to be a brother of integrity, practicing what you preach, and I respect you for that. Unfortunately, some others have not demonstrated as faithful a witness for the Lord. But, I digress.

    Megachurches can do a lot. This is true. They can have all kinds of specialized ministries and evangelize more, due to the sheer number of people involved. These are good things, and are among the reasons why I’ve spent some time in megachurches.

    BUT, there are amazing and very needed strengths to small churches, too. What I have observed regarding small churches, such as Smith Chapel: we come to know one another better. People are less apt to get lost in the shuffle, and through personal relationships, we can more easily work out differences, should conflicts arise. I want you to know that while that may not be the popular trend in churchgoing these days, that is HUGE. Why? Because both “megachurches” I have been involved in — while wonderful churches in some regards — had so many people involved in the churches, that some wolves in sheep’s clothing infiltrated both folds. One was found out after a short while: a sexual predator youth pastor. That congregation now has a counseling ministry that came about to help the girls in my youth group heal from the abuse. Dave, this happened in the youth group I was involved in in high school, while my family attended Smith. I was fortunate, in that I was away in college when that happened. (We had different youth pastors when I was involved — ones with greater integrity. Thank You, Jesus!) Otherwise, I might’ve been one of those affected. As for my college church — a church with attendance around 3,000 these days: they are strong in evangelism, charismatic gifts, and have a great sense of community, despite the church’s size. And yet, the church has had a hierarchical leadership structure and has traditionally had several young, arrogant, controlling, sometimes abusive lower-level leaders overseeing home groups and mentoring young people like me, while I was in college. The “lordship over others” / heavy shepherding abuse was so common, that we have an underground dissident community emerging out of that church and her church-planting movement, just so that people can start to heal. Some have encountered some things so hurtful, that they are no longer following Christ. In my case, involvement in the church led to hospitalization while I was in college. Honestly, had I known at the time from the Scriptures how to stand up to the Shepherding Movement-style abuses I was encountering, I would probably have a stronger relationship with the Lord and be a more contributing, productive member of society today. Thankfully, though, the Lord has been helping me heal, and I trust that He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun in me.

    My point in saying all this?

    Numbers aren’t what it’s about. It’s about Jesus, and about being a faithful witness for Him.

    Small churches like Smith go against current trends. I get that. But, they give people like me hope that we can heal, after we end up on the receiving end of the problems that can plague mega-churches — when the leadership doesn’t pay attention, or, due to sheer size of the congregation, doesn’t have the ability to shepherd their fold well. With a church closer to the size of Smith, you all are in a better position to shepherd your congregation well, because all of you know each other in your fold.

    This is not a small matter — and don’t you ever forget that. ; )

    I wish you, Denise and the family well. Blessings to your family, and to our brothers and sisters at Smith! = )

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