First Raise in Fifteen Years of Interim Ministry

Interim Ministry Workshop, Tuesday-Thursday March 14–16, 2023, Heritage Christian University, Florence, Alabama

When I started interim ministry in May 2007, I set some guidelines on how to best serve. What compensation would be fair to small and larger congregations alike? I settled on the guideline — pay me what you paid your last preacher. That has worked well. It is fair to all sizes of churches. The Lord has blessed us abundantly to receive that and to buy groceries, clothes, and much more. That’s what He promised. Matthew 6:25-33

The time was six-eighteen months. Two congregations wanted to undergo an elder selection process before starting the preacher search. We extended the outer limit to twenty-four months. We stayed twenty-two and twenty-three months at those congregations.

We wrote agreements into each contract to record our decisions.

I never thought of getting a raise. I wouldn’t be there long enough. Since it wasn’t in the agreements, I’ve never received a raise in interim ministry — until this past Sunday!

We went into our monthly men’s meeting (we don’t have elders). The second item on the agenda was Jerrie’s raise for 2023. I have been here for fourteen months with four months to go. When we proceeded to that item, I stood up and excused myself from the meeting. I didn’t want to embarrass myself and the ones that voted to reject the proposal. In my early years of preaching, I wouldn’t discuss money issues. My First Raise and Why I Turned it Down…how wise and kind shepherds helped a scared young preacher

All insisted I stay. They had the amount worked out and proposed a generous raise for the rest of our work here. I was overwhelmed. I had not thought about that. We’re at a congregation for a short time. I wouldn’t have been hurt or thought about it had it never been discussed. But they not only voted on and approved the raise but also told me how much they appreciated the work Gail and I have done and how hard we’ve worked.

This is not the first time we’ve received a kind gesture like this at this church. Here’s what I’d say: if you’re a preacher who wants to work with good hard-working Christians who value your work, contact Pacific Church of Christ, Pacific, Missouri. There is information on their website.

Website: https://pacificcoc.com

Preacher posting: https://s3.amazonaws.com/pacific.mo.church.of.christ/wp-content/uploads/2022-Church-Minister-Job-Advertisement.pdf

Email: pacificcocminister@gmail.com

What happened yesterday has led me to reconsider including increases in my interim contract. Gail and I can buy groceries. But I think it would be helpful for elderships who have never done this (or who do it yearly) to have the practice of going through the process with an old preacher who won’t be upset with what they do, to discuss these matters in a short-term, non-threatening atmosphere.

Proposed adjustments to my interim agreement (from my Berry’s Chapel contract and job description)

  • The elders and preacher agree to be able to disagree as well as agree and to deal with each other honestly, openly, responsibly, and with respect. This will include regular evaluation of our relationship, giving both strong points and weak points that need improvement. Anytime will be appropriate to discuss issues, but on the anniversary of the beginning our work together, we do a detailed evaluation of our relationship.
  • A cost of living adjustment will be made.
  • A merit raise will be considered and discussed why it is being given or not given.

The generosity and kindness of the men here Sunday prompted me to recall conversations I’ve had with two young preachers in the last six months. I spent hours on the phone with one and less time with the other. Both seemed excited about their work and glad to be a preacher. Both have enough children to more than satisfy the minimum requirement of an elder in 1 Timothy 3 — whether you think he can serve with one or more than one.

Neither of these preachers had talked to their leaders or expressed any plans to do so.

Inflation has shrunk our buying power during the term of those two brethren:

2017 2.7%
2018 1.9%
2019 2.3%
2020 1.4%
2021 7.0%
2022 7.1%

That means each preacher has received a cut in their buying power of 22.4% since they came to work with the congregations.

My observations:

  • The church doesn’t receive tremendous value in overlooking this.
  • The wife often goes to work to supplement their shortfall.
  • The preacher takes on a side job to pay the bills.
  • When a child is sick, the preacher says home with the children because the wife has to go to work.

What we have now is a part-time preacher. In another six years, we’ll have a half-time preacher, and we’ll wonder why he doesn’t work like he did when he first came.

Please read my post about a young preacher who was scared to talk about money and how he was helped by loving shepherds.  My First Raise and Why I Turned it Down…how wise and kind shepherds helped a scared young preacher

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:18, ESV

Whether you give a raise or don’t give a raise, you are communicating something. Unless you tell the preacher what it means, he won’t know.

If it means he is 7% less effective than a year after you selected him, tell him. Tell him how he can improve and how you will help him.

If that happens three years in a row that he’s declining and is less effective, you don’t have a preacher problem; you have a selection problem. My guess is you didn’t check references. The preacher didn’t change his attitude, work ethic, or eagerness to learn and grow when he drove across your state line. Apologize to him for your lack of due diligence and give him grace to transition to where he needs to be next.

If your preacher is more effective a year after he started working with you, give him a cost-of-living adjustment. Then add something for merit. Talk with him about how he has improved with specific examples and how grateful you are to work with him.

The talk will be as valuable as the money.

Interim Ministry Workshop, TuesdayThursday March 14–16, 2023, Heritage Christian University, Florence, Alabama

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

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