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The days of people waking up to their morning coffee and opening up the morning paper are gone. I needed no further proof than when my dad recently cancelled his newspaper subscription, which was a sign to me that you can start writing the obituary for the printed newspaper (but I’m not sure where the obituary will end up when printed newspapers are gone). It’s been looming on the horizon for a long time, but the soaring popularity of Craigslist, cheaper more effective advertising with Google, and the recession that’s been going on over the past few years the death of the print industry has been significantly accelerated.

A recent blog post by Sam Rainer somehow made me see a connection between the print industry and the church. Sam’s post was discussing how some churches run on a much smaller percentage of their budget devoted to staffing than what is average in American churches. I’m not sure the two are related, but it kind of feels like there might be something going on in churches similar to what the newspaper and print industry has experienced over the past decade. Newspapers are dying quickly in our country as they’ve struggled to figure out how to maintain profitability when their traditional revenue sources (classified, ads, subscribers) disappear.

The church doesn’t live on advertising dollars, but it does need to re-think many things in light of how communication has changed. There are many ways for churches to cut back on traditional costs, but they would require a shift in thinking. For example, almost every church has physical offices somewhere on their property. This is what churches have always done, so it seems like it’s needed, right?

Well, in today’s broadband powered Internet age, I’m not convinced that it is. Church telephone numbers can be pointed to cell phones or services like Phonebooth or RingCentral that eliminate the need for a centralized system. Staff meetings can happen completely online through video chat services like Skype or TokBox. Starbucks can be a comfortable place for pastors to meet with church members throughout the week. There are many other ways churches could cut back on their overhead devoted to staffing, too.

The reason I see a connection between the print industry and the church is that in both instances things have become more and more decentralized and information has become more and more readily available. Pastors are no longer the only ones who have access to biblical research tools that previously only usuable by seminary graduates. Videos of sermons from outstanding preachers throughout the world are just a click away. And with the increase in the number of “internet campuses” that churches offer more and more people will be attending church in their pajamas in bed.

There’s a desperate need for churches to continue to refocus and reshape who they are and how they manage their resources. We have the most important message the world needs to hear, so we need to do whatever we can to ensure that we offer that message in as effective and efficient way possible.

Image by just.Luc

This past week WFAA Channel 8 ran a story that painted Ed Young, Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church, in a very negative light. The gist of the report was that Ed’s salary ($1 mil) and various perks (private jet, $200k+ parsonage allowance) are intentionally kept hidden from his congregation and he’s profiting from his non-profit church behind their backs.

While I think the story had some holes in it and didn’t paint a complete picture (no interviews from people defending Ed), it did raise a few questions that I think are worth asking of every church and pastor. In particular, how much money should a pastor be paid for his work?

I know there are quite a few opinions on how to determine the answer, but here are just a few examples:

  • Pastors should not be paid for their work. While this opinion is rare in the United States today, it can be found. Some people think that all pastors should be bi-vocational (work one job to earn a living while serving the church).
  • Pastors’ salaries should be less than the average salary of their congregations. The idea here is that pastors are servants. If someone is making less money than another then by default they will feel like more of a servant.
  • Pastors’ salaries should be comprable to the average salary of their congregations. There’s an expectation for pastors to live in the area in which they serve and be able to relate to their congregants every day lives, so they’d have to make about the same amount of money to do that.
  • Pastors should make more money than is average in their area. Ministry is a stressful profession. In addition, many pastors are highly trained, well educated people. When you compare the work of many pastors to jobs in other lines of work you’ll see that salaries are pretty high in those other jobs.

The actual dollar amount will of course be different from one town to the next, but these are some ideas that I’ve seen used to determine a pastors salary.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image courtesy of flickr user borman818.